Palace edge past Watford to make FA Cup final

Date published: Sunday 24th April 2016 5:55

Connor Wickham: Scored Crystal Palace's winning goal against Watford

Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham scored as Crystal Palace beat Watford 2-1 at Wembley to set up an FA Cup final against Manchester United.

Bolasie headed Palace in front inside six minutes as Alan Pardew’s side started well – and things got worse for Watford when Etienne Capoue was stretchered off with a knee injury after initially trying to continue.

Palace appealed for penalties to add to their lead either side of half-time, first when Nathan Ake handled a cross and then when Wickham appeared to be brought down by Miguel Britos, but referee Craig Pawson was unmoved on both occasions.

It looked as though those decisions could prove crucial when Troy Deeney glanced in a header to draw Watford level in the 54th minute, but Wickham put Palace back in front just seven minutes later with another header to give Pardew a third shot at lifting the trophy after defeat in the final as a Palace player in 1990 and then as manager of West Ham in 2006.

Pardew, of course, had memorably nodded the Eagles into the final with their dramatic extra-time winner against Liverpool.

And 26 years later he was celebrating with a clenched fist and a knowing grin as his current side created a carbon copy for Bolasie’s opener.

This time it was Yohan Cabaye, rather than Andy Gray, who swung in a corner towards the near post.

Damien Delaney reprised the Andy Thorn flick-on and Bolasie applied the Pardew finish, squeezing his header between the far post and Hornets goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

Yannick Bolasie Crystal Palace celebration

Watford attempted to hit back but were limited to Deeney’s curler over the crossbar and Allan Nyom’s deep cross, which caused momentary concern in the Palace area before Joel Ward turned the ball behind.

The Hornets suffered a major blow after half an hour when Capoue, an influential figure all season, collapsed in agony after a seemingly innocuous off-the-ball collision with Bolasie.

The France international departed on a stretcher with a knee injury and with him went any Watford momentum for the remainder of the first half.

Indeed, they could count themselves fortunate not to be two down at the interval after Wilfried Zaha’s cross clearly hit the hand of Ake in the area – but Pawson waved away Palace’s appeals for a penalty.

After the break Bolasie twisted and turned his way into the Watford box and forced Pantilimon to saved a fierce angled drive with his feet.

A Hornets revival still appeared unlikely, until they forced a corner following Ben Watson’s deflected free-kick 10 minutes into the second half.

Jose Jurado’s delivery was perfect for Deeney, who got in front of his marker Scott Dann to plant a firm header past Wayne Hennessey.

Troy Deeney Watford celebration

However, Watford were level for just six minutes before Pape Souare sent an inviting high cross towards Wickham, who rose above Ake and guided a towering header across Pantilimon and into the far corner.

Again Watford tried to muster a response, but Odion Ighalo, a peripheral figure all afternoon, blazed over the crossbar and sub Adlene Guedioura fired wide in stoppage time.

So the Hornets’ cup run came to an end while Pardew, who has long felt this competition may just owe him one, gets another tilt at United and glory for Palace.

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