Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United AET: Eagles suffer FA Cup final heartbreak despite Puncheon's opener

Crystal Palace couldn't lift their first ever major honour under the arch of Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening as they fell to defeat at the hands of 10-man Manchester United after extra-time in the FA Cup final, Jesse Lingard firing the winner in the 110th minute.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United AET: Eagles suffer FA Cup final heartbreak despite Puncheon's opener
(Picture: Getty Images)
Crystal Palace
1 2
Manchester United
Crystal Palace: (4-5-1) Hennessey; Ward, Dann (Mariappa, min. 90+3), Delaney, Souare; Zaha, Cabaye (Puncheon, min 72), McArthur, Jedinak, Bolasie; Wickham (Gayle, min. 84).
Manchester United: (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Rojo (Darmian, min. 66); Carrick, Rooney; Mata (Lingard, min. 90), Fellaini, Martial; Rashford (Young, min. 72).
SCORE: 1-0, min. 78, Puncheon. 1-1, min. 80, Mata. 1-2, min. 110, Lingard.
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (ENG). Yellow cards: Smalling (min. 16), Rojo (min. 39), Mata (min. 44), Dann (min. 46), Delaney (min. 61), Rooney (min. 86), Fellaini (min. 100), Smalling (min. 105), McArthur (min. 109), Lingard (min. 110). Red cards: Smalling - second yellow card - (min. 105).
INCIDENTS: 2016 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium. 90,000 spectators.

Crystal Palace's agonising wait for a first-ever major honour goes on as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to 10-man Manchester United after extra time in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening.

A hard-fought first-half saw United enjoy the lion's share of possession but neither side could create any opportunities of note despite promising glimpses and both Wayne Hennessey and David De Gea being called into action.

The 135th final of the competition saw much goalmouth action after half-time as Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial struck both posts before the hour mark with United threatening more regularly.

After being left out from the start, Jason Puncheon came off the bench to thrash a powerful strike beyond De Gea and send the Palace supporters into euphoria with just 12 minutes remaining.

But their lead was cancelled out inside just two minutes, Juan Mata volleying in from Wayne Rooney's cross as United reacted perfectly to going behind to force an additional 30 minutes of play.

After Chris Smalling was handed a second yellow card on 105 minutes, becoming the fourth man ever to be sent off in a final for hauling down Yannick Bolasie on the counter, Palace were expected to seize the momentum.

But after Dwight Gayle wasted a good chance to put them back ahead, Palace were punished by another substitute - Jesse Lingard fired a sensationally-struck volley to put a dagger into Palace hearts and earn United their first success in the competition since 2004.

Puncheon on the bench as Zaha returns to XI

Jason Puncheon was the obvious absenteee from an otherwise unsurprising starting eleven for Palace, dropped in favour of a different system.

Former United winger Wilfried Zaha returned for Alan Pardew's men, shaking off the hamstring injury which kept him out of the last three games to start on the right side, but Pardew opted for three central midfielders to combat United's attacking threat - Mile Jedinak, Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur comprising a strong centre minus the injured Joe Ledley.

In a more reserved 4-5-1 formation, Zaha and Yannick Bolasie formed the threats down either flank, with Connor Wickham recovering from a knock to take up his role as a lone striker.

In the opposite dugout, Louis van Gaal made two changes to the side that beat Bournemouth in the league on Tuesday night - Marcos Rojo replacing Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at left-back and Fellaini coming in for Jesse Lingard behind the striker.

Elsewhere, Memphis Depay missed out on the matchday 18 as United went in search of a record-extending 12th success in the competition, with young forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial their clear danger men.

United dominate the ball from the off

Much of the build-up centered around this fixture being a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final, which saw Manchester United emerge victorious in the replay after an initial 3-3 draw at Wembley. 

But that previous final meeting was instantly forgotten as the starting whistle, albeit five minutes later than planned, was blown by Mark Clattenburg. As expected, United saw more of the ball from the outset as an industrious Eagles sat deep and defended in numbers.

As the favourites, United looked keen to put Palace under pressure with a confident Rashford in particular causing problems. Called up to the provisional England Euro 2016 squad earlier in the week, the striker's desire to drive into the box forcing a succession of early corner kicks.

However, despite the towering presence of Fellaini - who United continually looked to at set-pieces - the best attempt the Belgian midfielder could muster was a header glanced a few yards wide of Hennessey's far post.

The counter-attack was where much of Palace's threats lay, but such was the dominance that their opponents enjoyed early on - they had few opportunities to really demonstrate their attacking qualities. 

Controversial Clattenburg decision

After a gritty first quarter-of-an-hour, in which United forged very few clear opportunities despite controlling proceedings, Pardew was left seething after Palace saw a goal disallowed.

Wickham raced down the left channel on the break and managed to beat Chris Smalling to the loose ball, but with the two visibly handling each other, Clattenburg awarded Palace a free-kick after the two went to ground.

Wickham was at the centre of a controversial decision early on. (Picture: Getty Images)
Wickham was at the centre of a controversial decision early on. (Picture: Getty Images)

The controversial decision not to wave play on meant that although Wickham quickly rose to his feet to run in on goal and finish past David De Gea - who had admittedly stopped playing - the goal was ruled out.

From the resulting set-piece, Cabaye floated an enticing right-footed delivery into the centre of the area which Bolasie flicked backwards with a header but De Gea was equal to the attempt to tip it over his crossbar.

Still, both sides fashioned few real chances from open play in a relatively slow-placed game - Hennessey denying Juan Mata the breakthrough with a solid one-handed stop after the ball broke for the Spaniard to strike a low left-footed shot towards the far post from the edge of the area.

Clear chances at a premium for both teams with no sight of goals

As United continued to win frequent corners, their fans were up off their seats on 25 minutes when Fellaini rose above the rest to flick a powerful header which seemed destined for the top corner before dropping narrowly wide of the far post.

Palace too had their moments, Bolasie forcing a good stop from De Gea after a stinging drive from range before Wickham dragged a shot wide a few moments later when Michael Carrick had conceded possession cheaply inside the United half.

The story of the first 45 minutes was that both sides came close but not close enough, Wickham only denied a good chance to test De Gea on the half-hour by a deft interception. Zaha found space beyond Rojo down the right and whipped a ball across the box, but Smalling was alert to deal with the danger and clear in the nick of time.

It was a similar story up the opposite end of the pitch as the deadlock came close to being broken after 32 minutes. Rashford skipped past his marker before cutting the ball back to Martial in space across the opposite side of the box, but Joel Ward stuck out his right knee to prevent his shot finding the back of the net.

Palace supporters were soon screaming for a penalty after Wayne Rooney's misplaced pass gifted possession to Zaha and he strode into the box only to go down under pressure from the recovering United captain, but Clattenburg was unmoved.

The experienced referee, also in charge for next weekend's Champions League final, continued to frustrate the Palace players with a refusal to let the game flow, pulling play back a second time despite Ward escaping Rojo's clutches and running away into space down the right-hand side.

But for all of Van Gaal's side's control of the ball and Clattenburg's contentious refereeing performance, Palace looked comfortable as they preserved a 0-0 scoreline into the break.

United hit both posts as they up the ante against deep-defending Eagles

Regardless of that interval, the tempo of the game was equally as slow into the first few minutes of the second-half. At least it was until Fellaini ran on to the lively Rashford's flick and crashed a powerful strike off the top of the post from close-range on 51 minutes. 

Fellaini, and then Martial, both hit the post for United. (Picture: Getty Images)
Fellaini, and then Martial, both hit the post for United. (Picture: Getty Images)

That momentarily livened things up as both teams sought the first goal, Jedinak missing the target for Palace after he peeled away from Rojo at the back post only to side-foot a free-kick delivery high and wide.

United struck the woodwork again after the hour as Martial, another of the Red Devils' brightest outlets on the day, met Antonio Valencia's cross only to see his well angled header strike the base of Hennessey's post with the goalkeeper scrambling to keep it out.

Rojo's evening ended in disappointment after he was forced off by a strong, and admittedly late, Damien Delaney challenge as Darmian replaced him at left-back before Rashford required time receiving treatment after being caught by Cabaye's studs whilst down on the turf.

He limped off at a slow pace and was then replaced by Ashley Young in what seemed like a blow to United's hopes of winning. The winger moved up front in a central position ahead of Martial, who stayed out on the left, and Rooney who remained in central midfield.

At the same time, with Palace sensing their chance, Pardew opted to bring on Puncheon in place of Cabaye with less than 20 minutes remaining as Palace appeared to switch to a 4-4-1-1 with Puncheon supporting Wickham's thankless endeavour up top.

That positive substitution invited a greater want to get forward for the South London side, but they were still required to do their defensive work - Ward once again on hand to throw himself in front of Martial's effort.

Puncheon opens the scoring only for Mata to fire immediate response

But thoughts soon returned to the FA Cup final between these two teams 26 years ago when Puncheon, much like former Palace hero Ian Wright, came off the bench to hammer his side ahead.

A cross-cum-shot after a poorly-cleared corner looped over to an onside Puncheon inside the area and following great control, he fired a powerful half-volley past De Gea to send the 25,000 Palace supporters behind the goal into raptures.

Puncheon handed Palace the opener, but it wasn't enough. (Picture: Getty Images)
Puncheon handed Palace the opener, but it wasn't enough. (Picture: Getty Images)

Heartbreakingly, United reacted inside just two minutes as Rooney drove straight through the heart of Palace's defence, dribbling beyond a number of challenges before getting to the near post and standing up a cross towards Fellaini and Mata.

Mata was reportedly just about to come off, but the ball fell kindly for the playmaker and he lashed a left-foot volley which squirmed its way through Ward's legs and restored parity.

It quickly became a scrappy end-to-end affair as United and Palace searched for a decisive blow, Young coming close but failing to bring the ball under control just a few yards out.

The introductions of Dwight Gayle and Jesse Lingard weren't enough to force a late winner in normal time for either side, although Zaha fired just wide after stealing the ball from Smalling, before Palace captain Scott Dann limped off with an ankle injury.

In spite of those energy-sapping final minutes of tense regulation time, the excitement continued on into the first-half of extra-time as Zaha threatened to run in behind before seeing the door closed on him by the incoming Daley Blind.

Van Gaal decided to make positional changes as Martial and Young swapped spots, allowing the latter to provide greater width down the left as he at times hugged the touchline to spread the play.

The injection of pace and movement of Lingard also posed new problems for Palace's defence as the first of two quickfire crosses saw Fellaini's shot blocked and the second forced a corner.

From the aftermath of that set-piece, Palace supporters cried for Rooney to be given a second yellow card after he brought down Puncheon - but rightly or wrongly - Clattenburg decided to be lenient and allowed the United skipper to remain on the pitch.

Smalling second yellow can't prevent United stealing the advantage through Lingard

Bolasie was the next to go close, meeting Blind's half-cleared header to sting the fingertips of De Gea with his shot on its way inside the post, but Palace were dealt a massive helping hand on the verge of extra-time half-time.

Smalling stayed tight on Bolasie, who turned and desperately tried to run clear of the defender and sprint away on goal, but brought the winger down and saw himself handed a second yellow card to reduce United to 10 men.

Substitute Gayle soon had a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-1, running through the middle to meet Zaha's through ball but he couldn't poke beyond De Gea before Bolasie failed to wriggle free of pressure inside the box as he looked to force something.

Palace were the team on top as they looked likely to make the most of their numerical advantage but they were almost made to pay for a lapse in defensive concentration as Carrick was allowed to waltz into space in the box only to waste a free header wide from Lingard's cross.

And then, with 10 minutes left of extra-time, Lingard despatched a stunning volley into the top corner after Adrian Mariappa headed straight into his path from Valencia's cross to put the game firmily in United's favour.

Lingard celebrates the goal that won United their 12th FA Cup. (Picture: Getty Images)
Lingard celebrates the goal that won United their 12th FA Cup. (Picture: Getty Images)

With Pardew pleading for his players to pick themselves back up, Palace almost responded well themselves but Jedinak's attempt was always curling wide and later Zaha could only fire well over the crossbar.

United did enough to protect their lead to seal an FA Cup triumph and leave the Palace players down in despair on the Wembley pitch.