FA Cup Wrap-up: Martial Saves United

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

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With a lack of big name matches in the Premier League this weekend, all eyes were turned to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals. On Saturday, Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United took on Roberto Martinez’s Everton. Both managers had been on the hot seat this season, and some commentators said that whoever failed to lead their side to the final may face the axe. This was the 28th time that United had reached the semi-finals of the tournament, but they had never managed to win one of those fixtures at the new Wembley Stadium. In this thrilling match, who would play the hero?

The match would give off to a quick start with both side having amazing chances to open the scoring. In the fourth minute, Anthony Martial, who scored the winner against Everton earlier in the month, danced his was past the Toffees’ backline, but John Stones’ last second block denied the striker’s shot. A minute later, Romelu Lukaku found himself one-on-one against David De Gea. A poor touch from the Belgian striker forced him a little wide, but he still made it past De Gea. A bouncing effort looked destined for the back of the empty net only for Wayne Rooney to deliver a goal line clearance.

In the 12th minute, Rooney found himself involved on the other end of the pitch. The English skipper delivered a beautiful lofted through ball to Jesse Lingard, but the midfielder’s shot went straight at Robles. Minutes later, Lukaku again found himself almost alone in the box with De Gea and again a bad touch forced him too wide to really challenge De Gea. In the 21st minute, Martial had a great chance to open the scoring, but he thrashed his shot high and wide. Could either of these teams take advantage of any of their chances?

Finally, in the 34th minute, Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring. Good interplay between Marcus Rashford and Martial on the left wing gave the Frenchman space to send in a cross. Fellaini came to the near post and hit a one-touch finish past Robles to send United 1-0 up against his former club. Fellaini’s goal was the only one of the half and concluded a thrilling 45 minutes of play. Fans could only hope that the second half could come close to matching that level of excitement.

Ten minutes in the second half, Everton were given a glorious chance to put themselves back on level terms. A difficult challenge from Timothy Fosu-Mensah on Ross Barkley earned Everton a penalty kick and Lukaku was the man to take it. The Beglian hit a thunderous low drive into the corner, but De Gea delivered his best save of the match with a strong hand to push the ball away from his net.

After the penalty kick, Everton began to push further up the field for a goal. Tom Cleverley had a close-range chance in the 58th minute, but just couldn’t keep it on target against his former employers. Five minutes later, Fellaini again came close to finding the back of the net but an unspotted handball from Phil Jagielka denied United a two-goal lead. In the 76th minute Everton found their equalizer. Gerard Deulofeu fizzed in a low cross and a misguided clearance from Chris Smalling sent the ball into his own net. 1-1.

Lukaku and Deulofeu came within inches of putting Everton ahead within minutes of the opening goal, but neither one could find a way past De Gea. In the 82nd minute, Lukaku was inches away from firing in a close-range goal, but Fellaini delivered a game saving challenge to deny his compatriot. Was Everton about to shock the Red Devils and book a ticket to the cup final?

As the match entered the final minute of added time, it looked like it was going to take extra time to determine a winner. Then in the 93rd minute, Martial struck. A hard fought through ball from Ander Herrera put the Frenchman through on goal, and he made mistake in passing the ball into the side netting. The 20-year-old immediately ran into the supporters’ section and celebrated the biggest goal of his United career.

The thrilling 2-1 result must’ve been an amazing game to watch from a neutral perspective, but it was a very stressful two hours on my end. This was arguably the most exciting game of either of the clubs’ seasons, and it took a last second goal to find a winner. Can the Red Devils carry this momentum through to the remaining four games of the season and the final?

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford

Sunday’s semi-final had a lot to live up to after Manchester United’s victory. The two sides involved aren’t necessarily two clubs you would pick to be this far in the cup. Watford, who were playing in the English second division this time last season, took down Arsenal at the Emirates to book their place in the semifinals. Crystal Palace, on other end, have overcome the likes of Southampton, Stoke City, and Tottenham on their way to Wembley. I think if you told supporters for either of these clubs at the start of the season that they’d be playing in the FA Cup semi-finals, they would be overjoyed. Which club would continue their fairytale run, and advance to the final?

Not to be outdone by the previous semi-final, Crystal Palace opened the scoring after just six minutes at Wembley. A corner kick from Yohan Cabaye was flicked on at the near post by Damien Delaney, who actually conceded on own-goal midweek against Manchester United, towards the far post. Their, Yannick Bolasie nodded home a yard out past an out of control Costel Pantillimon to give Palace the early lead.

Ten minutes later, Joel Ward came within inches of leveling the score at the other end. A dangerous cross by Allan Nyom went to the back post and the Palace defender did his best to clear the danger. For a moment, Ward’s heart had to be in his mouth as the ball started to creep towards the net. Luckily or Palace fans it fell harmlessly out of play. This first half didn’t have quite the same openness to it that the Man U/Everton fixture did, but Alan Pardew’s side wouldn’t have minded that with their 1-0 lead.

Five minutes into the second half, Bolasie was once again terrorizing Watford’s backline. The Congolese winger danced in from the left wing, but his powerful low-drive was narrowly kicked away by Pantillimon. Could Watford find a way into this match, or would Bolasie and Co. begin to dominate proceedings?

Five minutes after Bolasie’s chance, Watford finally answered. Another corner kick, this time from Jurado, found Troy Deeney in the heart of the scrum. The Drake-lookalike scored a captain’s goal as his headed effort left Wayne Hennessey helpless in the center of the goal. 1-1, game on.

It just wasn’t quite meant to be for Watford, however, as Connor Wickham restored Palace’s lead just after the hour mark. The chance started with Bolasie holding the ball up for Pape Souaré on the left wing. Souaré then delivered a lovely ball into the penalty area, and Wickham was there to head the ball back into the side netting. Was there going to be an answer from Watford?

To answer that quickly, no. Other than an off target effort by Adlène Guérdioura in the final moments of the match, Watford just couldn’t find a way through Palace’s backline. When the final whistle blew, Palace walked away with a 2-1 victory and a date with Manchester United on May 21.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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