Crystal Palace will play Manchester United in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final after beating Watford 2-1 in Sunday’s semi-final at Wembley. Yannick Bolasie headed Palace into an early lead but Troy Deeney levelled the match on 55 minutes. But with the game on a knife edge, Connor Wickham popped up with the winning goal on 61 minutes to send Palace to their first FA Cup showpiece since losing out to United in a replay following a memorable 3-3 draw.
Watford scored from one of only two shots on target during the game and, after a sequence of just three wins from 17 league matches, this was a display that will do little for manager Quique Sanchez Flores’s chances of keeping his job.
Yet, for all that Adlène Guedioura smeared a stoppage-time volley just wide and Joel Ward almost inadvertently converted Allan Nyom’s dangerous centre, Flores’s team were rather disjointed throughout and handicapped further by a knee injury sustained by Étienne Capoue which could yet prove serious.
Sometimes these reports are enjoyable to write. Winning helps, of course, but it’s not a perfect correlation… there are interesting defeats too, defeats that don’t quite feel like being slapped in the face. This isn’t one of those times. This is the sort of occasion when you kinda suspect that everyone wants to forget it as much as you do.
One of the most important football matches of your entire life is about to end. You spend its last ten minutes trying to work out how best to get back to civilisation. You wish it away and it meekly obeys.
Generally I try to take positives from games, but it is hard on an afternoon like this. I can take a defeat if we have given our all and were beaten by a better team, but I came away from Wembley thinking that, given the talent in our squad, we should have done better. If you had told me in August that we would retain our status in the Premier League and reach the FA Cup semi-final, I would have been thrilled. But that defeat will hurt for some time.
I’m not angry, I’m not sad. I’ve spent the last 24 hours following our defeat feeling morose, listening to Einaudi in the hope the tears will eventually come and I’ll feel alright. What I do feel however is let down. Which is not something I ever want to say. If we gave our all, if we left everything out on that pitch and still lost, then fine, we can leave with our heads held high. But we didn’t, we were slow and unadventurous.