London (AFP) – Ahead of Crystal Palace’s meeting with Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley, AFP Sport selects five of the best finals from the world’s oldest domestic cup tournament:
Blackpool 4 Bolton Wanderers 3, 1953
Even with his team-mate Stan Mortensen grabbing a hat-trick, the performance of Blackpool’s Stanley Matthews stole the show in a thrilling match that has gone down in history as ‘The Matthews Final’. The veteran England winger inspired the Seasiders to come back and claim victory after they had fallen 3-1 behind in the 55th minute with a superb display that is still regarded as one of the best to grace the final. Having finished on the losing side in the 1948 and 1951 finals, victory was triply sweet for Matthews.
Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2, 1979
Manchester United were comprehensively outplayed for 85 minutes as Liam Brady pulled the strings for Arsenal, who surged into a two-goal lead thanks to first-half strikes from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton. When Gordon McQueen bundled home an 85th-minute goal for United it looked like little more than a consolation, but remarkably, Sammy McIlroy ended a mazy run with a cool finish to equalise in the 88th minute. However, that was not the end of the drama as Arsenal’s shattered players picked themselves off the turf and launched one last attack, which saw Brady cross to the far post for Alan Sunderland to slide in an 89th-minute winner. It became known as ‘The Five-minute Final’.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 2, 1981 (replay)
Tottenham’s Ricky Villa scored arguably the greatest cup final goal to seal his side’s dramatic victory under the Wembley floodlights. Villa had feared he would be dropped for the replay after putting in a disappointing performance in the first match, which had finished 1-1. But, having gone 2-1 down in the 50th minute, Spurs levelled through Garth Crooks in the 70th minutes before Argentine midfielder Villa wrote his name into FA Cup folklore with his second strike of the game, which came at the end of a mesmerising run through City’s defence.
Coventry City 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2, 1987
Another great Wembley comeback, this time pulled off by an underdog Coventry side, saw Tottenham defender Gary Mabbutt’s day transform from a dream into a nightmare. The centre-back had put his side 2-1 ahead just before the break following his team-mate Clive Allen’s early opener and Dave Bennett’s swift equaliser. But after Keith Houchen’s flying second-half header forced extra time, the unfortunate Mabbutt saw the ball fly off him and into his own net, gifting the cup to Coventry.
Liverpool 3 West Ham United 3 (Liverpool won 3-1 on penalties), 2006
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard almost single-handedly won the cup for Rafael Benitez’s team. The Reds trailed West Ham 2-0 and 3-2 during 90 minutes, but extended the contest thanks to a stunning stoppage-time strike from Gerrard for his second goal of the game. Jose Reina then made three saves in the penalty shootout as Liverpool won the trophy for the second time at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, which staged the final for six years while Wembley was rebuilt.
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