Friday, 29 April 2016

FA Cup Semi Final recap

Harry Elliott gives a recap to this weekend’s FA Cup Semi Final match ups at Wembley between Manchester United, Everton, Crystal Palace and Watford.
Everton 1-2 Manchester United
(Smalling O.G 75’) (Fellaini 34’, Martial 90’ + 3)

Managerial pressure is a funny thing. As United defeated Everton, and in the process won their first FA Cup tie at Wembley since 1999, a degree of pressure was lifted from the shoulders of manager Louis van Gaal. Whereas a cup semi-final defeat, following a 4-0 Merseyside derby trouncing, piled even more pressure onto Everton boss Roberto Martinez.
In the end, Everton could have snatched a draw or even a win over 90 minutes, but going forward they left too little, too late, and a dramatic game was won courtesy of a sublime Martial finish in stoppage time.
From an Everton perspective, the outlook seems fairly bleak at the moment, at least according to @nsno:
“Anthony Martial’s second half injury time winner broke Evertonian hearts as the Toffees’ defensive frailties reared their ugly head for the umpteenth time this season. Everton’s players slumped to the floor at the final whistle in despair. Just four more league matches await of a sorry, bewildering campaign.”
Andy Gray, quoted on @nsno, believes the Toffees have actually regressed under Martinez:
They have won only four home league games this season and with this group of players that is just not good enough.
“What we are seeing is what we saw when Roberto was Wigan’s manager – an entertaining coach who can’t win enough football matches.
“In my opinion Everton have gone backwards since last year. Martinez has admitted that he never sends his team out to keep a clean sheet. You are not going to win many games doing that.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the picture was rather more rosy on the United side of things. @peoplesperson highlighted just how much the victory meant to players and fans alike:
“Manchester United’s players joined in with fans by revelling in the 2-1 victory over Everton in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.”
“Anthony Martial‘s last gasp winner sent 30,000 fans wild inside Wembley and the players couldn’t control their emotions either as they all ran to the fans to celebrate alongside them.”
“It’s frowned upon by the governing bodies of football but, as a fan, there is nothing better than seeing the players lose their marbles and jump in the crowd to celebrate.”
In particular @peoplesperson picked out goal scorer, and often maligned figure Marouane Felliani for praise:
“With Herrera , Mata and Schneiderlein all starting on the bench, fans questioned the Dutchman’s tactics to start Fellaini in the middle of the field before the game.”
“However the Belgian played a crucial role in the match and even made a wonderful recovery tackle after his own mistake to stop Romelu Lukaku from scoring at the opposite end of the pitch in the second half.”
“It looked like he finally found his form. He held the ball well, linked up play and it was arguably his best performance in a Man United shirt as he came up against his former club, and in a more advanced midfield role which he played so often at Everton rather than the central midfield role he’s occupied on too many occasions this season. Who’d have thought it?”
Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford
(Bolasie 6’, Wickham 61’) (Deeney 55’)
It would appear the Premier League table gets thrown out of the proverbial window as one approaches Wembley Stadium along Olympic Way and past the statue of Bobby Moore. Crystal Palace, whilst not exactly in danger of relegation have endured a fairly poor season having won just 10 times all season. Watford, on the other hand, have had a very solid season, reaching a cup semi final and at no point being in danger of the drop, as Quique Sanchez Flores’ men sit comfortably in mid table. However, as suggested above, this counted for little on the day as the Eagles booked themselves a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup final with Manchester United next month.
@HLTCO , a Crystal Palace blogsite, may have had a sore head this morning after yesterday afternoon’s celebrations in the capital, but that has not limited them in blogging about a famous day in Palace history. They claim Zaha was the best player on the pitch and wax lyrical about the former Manchester United winger:
“Much has been made, both by the media and Crystal Palace fans, of the drive that Zaha will have to prove any doubters wrong when he faces his old club in a little over a month’s time, but for the Palace academy graduate, any talk of a special performance from him is met with an impressive degree of apathy.”
“At the time of his move to the North West, Zaha was a man with the world at his feet, but following the unexpected retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and his successor David Moyes’ baffling refusal to ever use the wide man, he eventually returned to SE25 with an entirely unfair reputation as something of a failure in the eyes of the fickle and painfully uninformed general footballing public.”
“His route back to success has been a long and tricky one, routinely kicked and doubled up on by opposing defences, Wilf has had to work hard to quell the temper that often bubbled over the surface in his formative days, but under the careful guidance of Alan Pardew, he is starting to realise the full extent of the potential we always knew he had stashed away.”
Rather gushing, but potentially legitimate considering the combination of Zaha and Bolasie went a long way to securing a chance of silverware for the Eagles.
For any Palace fan reading this, here is a highlight video from yesterday, as we assume you’ll want to relive it again and again (sorry Watford fans).
TheWatfordBlog held hopes for the Hornets, previewing yesterday’s game as:
“The game we’ve looked forward to ever since that superb 2-1 win over Arsenal in the quarter finals.”
Prophetically, but perhaps now sickeningly for Watford fans, TheWatfordBlog highlighted the danger of Zaha in their match preview:
“The key player for Palace on Sunday will undoubtedly be winger, Wilfred Zaha. The England international always seems to cause Watford problems, with his pace and skill running the Hornet’s full backs ragged this season.”
“On his day, Zaha has proven that he is virtually unplayable due to his direct and skilful style of play, he will no doubt be crucial to Palace’s chances of progressing to the final.”
It’s just a shame that the Watford defence weren’t as switched on to the dangers of Zaha as TheWatfordBlog.
So next month sees Manchester United face Crystal Palace at Wembley. Louis van Gaal’s side can, to a certain extent at least, save their season with a cup win, whilst Pardew will want to exercise his demons of 26 years ago and emerge victorious for Palace. It promises to be a great Cup final.
By Harry Elliott.

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