Javi Gracia told Watford to come back stronger after Manchester City cup final defeat, says Andre Gray
Watford’s best chance of over-turning the odds came early on when City keeper Ederson saved at the feel of Roberto Pereyra and they were furious when referee Kevin Friend waved away penalty claims after Vincent Kompany blocked Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot.
Watford then had a strong call for a penalty turned down by Kevin Friend as Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot hit the arm of Vincent Kompany. Though the hand was by his side, we have recently seen penalties given by VAR for similar incidents, particularly in Europe, though the VAR controversially opted against a spot kick this time.
In the process it was also a demonstration of the gulf that now exists between a team that has just won back-to-back Premier League titles and one that finished 10 places further back, 48 points worse off, playing in only their second final.
Might it have been different if Pereyra had taken Watford’s best chance on 14 minutes? Gracia said something about it in passing later although it felt a little wishful. The Watford coach’s point was that you really have to take your chances in those moments to have any hope at all. Abdoulaye Doucoure sprung the trap on 14 minutes and Pereyra had just Ederson to beat. But the man who is arguably the Premier League’s best goalkeeper came out at speed and seized the initiative from the Watford attacker whose shot hit Ederson’s legs.
Except that at 5-0, something remarkable happens. We’ve been loud, in general, and in defiance of the scoreline. Louder than a month ago, louder than City, the grim memory of the Palace play off now surely dismissed. Because at 5-0 the songs start to thunder and the flags start to wave and suddenly the away end is a torrent of yellow and red as flags get frantically waved. I destroy two, the second of which floats down to the posh seats below as it detaches from its pole. It’s breathtaking and emotional.
City’s fifth came as a low cross from Silva was converted by Sterling. At this point something remarkable happened, the flags started waving in the Watford end. First a few and then the stand was a sea of red and yellow, all around us getting to their feet to wave the flags and sing our hearts out for the lads.
Watford’s road to the FA Cup final: Gerard Deulofeu comes off the bench to sink Wolverhampton Wanderers
John Barnes: ‘Winning the FA Cup would be so special for Watford… you remember honours, not whether you’ve stayed in the league for eight or nine years’
Troy Deeney: ‘Vincent Kompany is the league’s best centre-back since Rio Ferdinand, but if I’m on form he’ll have a tough day’
What if we win? Yes, we’re underdogs. But at least we’re that. Any club in the country would love to be that right now, certainly Wolves who, whatever your attitude after three eventful games will be watching on nervously, telling themselves that this is something they can’t affect, because they can’t affect it, but worrying anyway.
Vicarage Road, Friday 12th April
Rickmansworth High Street, Tuesday 14th May
Watford, Friday 17th May
The final table looked like this.