Crystal Palace 2 Watford 1
Alan Pardew guided Crystal Palace to the second FA Cup final in their history — and the Eagles boss is determined to go one better than the class of 1990.
Connor Wickham’s towering header just after the hour mark secured a 2-1 win over Watford and a return to Wembley to face Manchester United next month.
But it was Yannick Bolasie’s sixth-minute opener that evoked memories of Steve Coppell’s side who reached the final 26 years ago, where they lost to United after a replay.
As a player, Pardew had memorably nodded the Eagles into that final with their dramatic extra-time winner against Liverpool.
And just over a quarter of a century later, as Palace manager, he was celebrating with a clenched fist and a knowing grin as the current Eagles side created a carbon copy.
This time it was Yohan Cabaye, rather than Andy Gray, who swung in a corner towards the near post.
Damien Delaney reprised the Andy Thorn flick-on and Bolasie applied the Pardew finish, squeezing his header between the far post and Hornets goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
“We paid a bit of homage to that side with the flick-on for the corner,” smiled Pardew. “Steve Coppell can take a bit of credit for that one.
“This is a different team, with a different spirit, but the characteristics are similar to 1990. They are hard-working, diligent, with good defenders and some pace on the attack.
“I just hope the destiny isn’t the same result in the final.”
Watford were disappointing apart from a brief spell after half-time, when captain Troy Deeney headed in Jose Jurado’s corner to equalise.
However, they were level for just six minutes before Pape Souare sent an inviting high cross towards Wickham, who rose above Nathan Ake and guided his header across Pantilimon and into the far corner.
The future of Hornets head coach Quique Sanchez Flores remains uncertain despite their cup exploits, as well as securing survival in their first season back in the Premier League.
But the Spaniard insisted he still has plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
“The players feel positive,” he said. “Everyone is disappointed but we need to be realistic. No one expected us to be in the semi-final.
“When we started the season the main target was to stay in the Premier League. That’s the most important thing for Watford.
“We need reasons to be happy, to be positive. I don’t see why we have to be negative.
“We were competitive and created chances. But we did not expect to concede with the first play.
“But Crystal Palace have a great team and a great manager, and congratulations to them.”
CRYSTAL PALACE: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak, Cabaye, Zaha, Bolasie (McArthur 74), Puncheon (Sako 81), Wickham (Adebayor 86)
Subs not used: Speroni, Gayle, Ledley, Kelly
WATFORD: Pantilimon, Nyom (Anya 83), Cathcart, Britos, Ake, Abdi (Guedioura 55), Capoue (Mario Suarez 32), Watson, Jurado, Ighalo, Deeney
Subs not used: Gomes, Prodl, Behrami, Berghuis
Referee: Craig Pawson
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