Crystal Palace left it very late to overcome ten-man Reading in the FA Cup quarter-final. However, goals from Yohan Cabaye and Fraizer Campbell eventually put Alan Pardew’s side through to their first semi-final appearance since 1995.
Both sides field strong teams, but Palace edge tie due to their Premier League quality
Both sides fielded strong starting elevens; Reading’s Ola John had the better of Palace full-back Joel Ward on several occasions. Jason Puncheon also returned the Palace bench following six weeks out with a hamstring injury.
The Eagles were much the better side throughout, but did suffer some nervy scares, particularly thanks to John’s movement on the left-hand side, while Matej Vydra also caused problems as a second-half substitute.
Palace had the best chances in the opening stages, especially through Yannick Bolasie who swivelled in the box to meet a bouncing ball, but his effort hit the side-netting. The Congolese international then hit the same side of the goal soon having cut inside from the left.
Reading defended valiantly and grew in confidence as the half drew to a close and almost went ahead when Wayne Hennessey dropped a cross, but John was unable to turn the ball home from a tight angle having created space.
Ali Al-Habsi – who was excellent throughout the game – denied Emmanuel Adebayor his second Palace goal, before also batting away a Bolasie drive soon after, and Joe Ledley somehow turned the rebound over the crossbar.
The second-half continued in similar fashion to the first; a succession of set pieces from Cabaye troubled a nervy Reading defence, and Oliver Norwood had to clear the ball off the line following Scott Dann’s goal-bound header.
Mile Jedinak – who has enjoyed a succession of rare starts for Palace recently – then had a firm header superbly kept out by Al-Habsi as Palace looked the more likely to take the lead.
John, once again, had Reading’s best chance of the half when he found himself unmarked at the back-post, however, the winger’s downward header was well saved by Hennessey.
Palace win game in eventful final ten minutes
Palace finally sealed the victory in the final ten minutes having dominated for large parts, and Reading’s defence finally crumbled as the spaces began to appear in their back four. Bakary Sako – only recently on as a substitute – lofted a high, hopeful ball into the box, and Bolasie seemed to be reaching the ball first, but was hauled down by young Royals’ defender, Jake Cooper. The centre-back - already on a yellow card - was sent-off by referee, Mike Dean, as Bolasie was adjudged to have been denied a goalscoring opportunity.
Cabaye stroked the ball down the middle of the goal and despite Al-Habsi getting a strong hand to the ball, it trickled into the corner and Palace could finally dream of a first Wembley appearance for almost three years.
Substitute Campbell then doubled the scoreline in added-time and, making sure of the Eagles’ Wembley place having latched on to a wonderfully threaded pass by Adebayor, before seeing his initial shot tipped onto the post by the magnificent Reading goalkeeper, but lashing the rebound into the net from a yard out.
Palace were thoroughly deserving of their victory and now await Monday night’s draw to see who they will step out on the Wembley turf against in the semi-final.