FA CUP SEMI-FINAL MATCH REPORT
CRYSTAL PALACE will meet Manchester United in the FA Cup Final after they beat the Hornets 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.
Yannick Bolasie gave the Eagles the opening goal, heading past Costel Pantilimon at the back-post in the sixth minute.
Watford responded after the interval, and they had their warranted equalising goal as Troy Deeney flicked past Wayne Hennessey.
However, Palace reacted quickly, and went back ahead through Connor Wickham, with that goal in the end winning the game.
Pantilimon started, as he has done in the last three rounds, while Allan Nyom, Miguel Britos, Craig Cathcart and Nathan Ake were chosen in the back-four.
Almen Abdi stared on the right of midfield, with Jose Manuel Jurado on the opposite flank, and Ben Watson partnered Etienne Capoue in the middle.
Captain Deeney led the line alongside strike partner Odion Ighalo.
Palace started the better of the sides, and they got themselves ahead inside the first six mintues courtesy of Bolasie.
Yohan Cabaye’s corner was flicked on at the near-post by Damien Delaney, and Bolasie was there at the far-post to head home past Pantilimon and Deeney.
After the early breakthrough, the Hornets grew into the encounter and enjoyed large phases of possession, but without really testing keeper Wayne Hennessey.
Flores was forced into a change before the half-hour mark, as Capoue failed to shrug off an earlier knock he received, Spaniard Mario Suárez replacing him.
The Hornets struggled to create much going forward as the interval approached. Joel Ward diverted a cross from the right behind for a corner, but it could’ve been worse for the defender, as he narrowly missed his own net.
No changes were made at the break from either side, but we did see a reaction from the Golden Boys. Deeney rose highest in the box to meet Nyom’s cross, but it sailed harmlessly over the target.
Up the other end, the Hornets had to be thankful to Pantilimon as he stood strong to thwart Bolasie, after the Eagles’ winger had beaten Britos to a ball on the left-hand touchline.
Watford continued to push, Watson had an effort blocked and put behind for corner, and that led to the equalising goal.
Jurado whipped in an inviting corner, and on-hand was the skipper Deeney, to flick on past Hennessey and into the net.
Palace’s reaction was swift, and they managed to regain their one-goal advantage with a header of their own. Pape Souaré’s first-time cross from the left was met by Wickham, who headed perfectly into the corner of Pantilimon’s goal.
The Golden Boys, roared on by 30,000 supporters, continued to come forward in search of a second equalising goal, with the striking duo at the heart of the chances.
Deeney went close with a header at the far-post, and then Ighalo found space to let fly, but the volley was high of the target.
Five minutes were added on at the end of normal time, and substitute Adlène Guedioura came close to a late leveler, but his volley from eight yards was miscued, and wide of Hennessey’s goal.
That was the last real sight of goal though, and it would be Crystal Palace who would claim victory, ensuring a return to Wembley for the FA Cup Final in May.
HORNETS: Pantilimon (GK); Nyom (Anya, 82), Britos, Cathcart, Ake; Abdi (Guedioura, 56), Capoue (Suárez, 29), Watson, Jurado; Deeney (c), Ighalo.
Subs: Gomes (GK), Prödl, Behrami, Berghuis.
Booked: Suárez, Deeney, Jurado
EAGLES: Hennessey (GK); Delaney, Ward, Dann, Souare; Puncheon (Sako, 81), Cabaye, Jedinak (c), Zaha; Bolasie (McArthur, 74); Wickham (Adebayor, 85).
Subs: Speroni (GK), Gayle, Ledley, Kelly.
Goals: Bolasie, Wickham
Referee: Craig Pawson