Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Spirit of 1990 shines through as Palace book final spot

Crystal Palace were playing in their first semi-final since 1990, against a Watford team who last appeared during Graham Taylor's reign.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Spirit of 1990 shines through as Palace book final spot
Yannick Bolasie breaks the deadlock as early as the sixth minute (photo: Reuters)
Crystal Palace
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Crystal Palace: (4-4-2) Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Puncheon (Sako 81'), Cabaye, Jedinak, Zaha; Bolasie (McArthur 74'), Wickham (Adebayor 86').
Watford: (4-4-2) Pantilimon; Nyom (Anya 82'), Britos, Cathcart, Ake; Abdi (Guedioura 55'), Capoue (Suarez 32'), Watson, Jurado; Deeney, Ighalo.
SCORE: 1-0, Bolasie 6'. 1-1, Deeney 55'. 2-1, Wickham 61'.
REFEREE: Craig Pawson. Booked: Jurado (38'), Dann (54'), Suarez (79'), Deeney (89').

Crystal Palace secured a first FA Cup final for 26 years, as they saw off Watford at Wembley on Sunday afternoon to set up a dream date with Manchester United in May; a replay of that famous final in 1990.

Cabaye runs the show in a stale first half

It was Crystal Palace who came flying out of the blocks in the opening stages and settled into the game the fastest. A flurry of attacks eventually resulted in the Eagles breaking the deadlock as early as the sixth minute. A Yohan Cabaye corner was flicked on by Damien Delaney, before the returning Yannick Bolasie nodded Palace into the lead.

The goal seemed to springboard Watford into a response as they began to progress further upfield. They came close to an equaliser on the 19th minute when an Allan Nyom cross caused confusion between Delaney and Scott Dann, with the ball rebounding just wide off the former.

Yet Palace were still threatening and Cabaye produced a curling effort that had to be palmed away by Costel Pantillimon. The French playmaker was proving to have an almighty influence on the game as he tested the giant goalkeeper minutes later with a bending free-kick. 

As the first 45 minutes filtered out, Palace went into the break comfortably in charge of the game, if not destructive, as they took one step towards a return to Wembley for the final.

Can Palace get revenge for defeat in 1990? | Image source: Bob Thomas - Getty IMages
Can Palace get revenge for defeat in 1990? | Image source: Bob Thomas - Getty Images

Palace are too strong for their London rivals 

The Eagles could have been afforded a chance to double their lead just a few seconds into the half as Connor Wickham was brought down in the box by Miguel Britos, but referee Craig Pawson waved away the protests. Watford had to respond and they almost did when Troy Deeney headed over from another Nyom cross.

However, Palace produced an even better chance just moments later when a powerful Bolasie run resulted in the winger firing a shot that was kept out by Pantillimon's legs. That save was able to spark Watford into life and they duly forced their way back into the game, as Deeney floated away from Scott Dann at a corner to head Watford level.

The Watford jubilation did not last long though, as Connor Wickham restored Palace's advantage just six minutes after losing it. Headers had been key throughout the contest and that is the strikers forte, as he climbed above Nathan Ake to meet a Pape Soare cross and make the score 2-1.

Troy Deeney, Jose Manuel Jurado and Adlene Guedioura had late efforts, whilst Palace had opportunities to wrap the game up on the break but just could not apply the finishing touches. It did not matter for the Crystal Palace fans as their side cruised into the FA Cup final.