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Eagles have the edge over Hornets

Written By: Robert Halter

In the second of the F.A. Cup semi finals near the end of April, Crystal Palace and Watford squared up to each other at Wembley stadium, with Manchester United waiting in the wings for the winner in the final. But it was the Eagles that caught out the Hornets on six minutes, when from a Yohan Cabaye corner, the ball was knocked on by Damien Delaney, and at the back stick, Yannick Bolasie, headed in the opening goal into the bottom right corner. After a foul on Odion Ighalo by Scott Dann, a free kick by Ben Watson, was headed on by the Golden Boys captain, Troy Deeney but the ball was caught on the line by the Palace keeper, Wayne Hennessy, as Watford looked for a quick reply. In the sixteenth minute, after a ball across from Ighalo, a speculative strike from Deeney, sailed over the upright. But two minutes later, the ball was nearly steered into his own net by Joel Ward, from a right wing delivery by Allan Nyom, before Watson’s corner was put behind by Dann, as the Eagles absorbed more threats from the Hornets. But on twenty four minutes, Costel Pantilimon was forced to dive at full stretch to his left from a curling strike at the left corner of the box by Yohan Cabaye, as Palace pressed forward. After colliding into Bolasie, and then collapsing into a heap on two occasions, Etienne Capoue was taken off for Mario Suarez. In the forty eighth minute, from a cross on the right by Nyom, the ball spun off Deeney’s head but over the upright. But two minutes later, Bolasie was close to a second as he latched onto Connor Wickham’s pass and beat Miguel Britos to the chase, before his shot was blocked by the legs of Pantilimon. After a foul by Dann on Ighalo, an assist by Almen Abdi from a direct free kick found Watson, whose right footed shot from outside the box went wide to the left, in the fifty fourth minute. But the Hornets were back in the game a minute later, when from a corner by Jose Manuel Jurado, a flick on by Watson was met with a bullet header by Deeney, that crashed into the net. Watford then switched Abdi with Adlene Guedioura. On the hour mark following a corner by Cabaye, the ball fell into the path of Papa Souare, who struck his shot high and wide, but Souare made amends a minute later as his delivery on the left was met with a well timed header from Wickham that swept past Pantilimon, into the bottom left corner to restore the lead of Crystal Palace. Dann then escaped another booking for a miss timed challenge on Ighalo. Later the Eagles took off Bolasie for James McArthur. After Pantilimon made a save from a Cabaye right footed shot outside the box through a Jason Puncheon assist in the seventy seventh minute, the Eagles pressed again as Wickham’s left footed shot from the centre of the box was stopped by Pantilimon. Bakary Sakho then took up the Palace cause for Puncheon. After Ighalo blazed over on the right from a headed pass by Denney, time was running out for Watford as Ikechi Anya took over from Nyom. From the play of Anya, a low drive by Jurado, was safely collected by the Eagles keeper, Hennessy before Palace made a change with Emmanuel Adebayor appearing for Wickham, and after appearing on the pitch, Adebayor set up Wilfried Saha, who sent the ball crashing into the outside right netting on the eighty seventh minute. When Eagles captain, Mile Jedinak and then Damien Delaney, mistakenly put the ball out to Guedioura, he was unable to capitalise by missing the target which ended the hopes of Watford and set up a repeat of the 1990 F.A. Cup final between Crystal Palace and Manchester United.