Deulofeu stars in a five-goal thriller at Wembley
Watford come from 2-0 down to beat Wolves in extra-time and book an FA Cup final date against Man City
07 April, 2019 — By John Evans
FA Cup Semi-Final
WATFORD 3 (Deulofeu 79, 104, Deeney 90+4)
WOLVES 2 (Doherty 36, Jimenez 62)
WATFORD reached their first FA Cup final since 1984 in front of a crowd of 80,092 at Wembley on Sunday, and their battling display to overturn a two-goal deficit was marked by a tremendous contribution by their fans.
It could have been so different, with the sides evenly matched, as they have been throughout the Premier League campaign, and with Wolves holding a 2-0 lead with just 11 minutes of the 90 remaining.
The programme notes reminded us this was the 15th FA Cup semi-final Wolves have played in, but their last victory at this stage of the competition was in 1960, the year of their fourth and most recent FA Cup victory.
But the nostalgia surrounding the history of this tournament really counts for little on the pitch and the gladiatorial nature of such a semi-final. Wolves tried to play the more elegant football on the day. Watford, on the other hand, simply wanted it more and were prepared to use muscle to get it.
They were assisted in this by referee Michael Oliver, who may have shown five yellow cards but should have provided Wolves’ striker Diogo Jota with better protection from Watford’s blunt tactics. It wasn’t until the hour mark that Jose Holebas was shown a yellow for his challenge on Jota.
After the opening exchanges, it had been Irish defender Matt Doherty who broke the deadlock with a fine steal at the far post, following a short corner on the right and a pinpoint cross from Jota.
Both sides were to spurn good chances, but both were blocking well. In the 62nd minute Raul Jimenez clinically chested down and volleyed the ball home from close range to give his side a two-goal cushion and bring a thunderous roar from the Wolves fans.
Enter Watford sub, Spain international Gerard Deulofeu, who was so fired up he was subjected to a VAR red-card check within a couple of minutes. He stayed on the pitch and on 79 minutes found himself gifted space inside the box. His deft, looping, shot to beat John Ruddy was something special, though the keeper will know he might have positioned himself better.
The high drama continued and, not for the first time, captain Troy Deeney played a major part as Watford’s superior fitness began to tell. As the Watford support, behind the Wolves goal, urged their team on for an equaliser, the other end of the ground fell quiet.
Yet it was not until stoppage time, after a string of corners and pressure, that Deeney won a penalty, confirmed by VAR, after a challenge by Leander Dendoncker. Deeney made no mistake and the outcome was more or less assured as the game went to extra time.
And it was Deulofeu who sealed the win, at speed, with an angled shot from the right in the 104th minute, again beating the hapless Ruddy. The reward for victory is a final against Manchester City on May 18.
WATFORD: Gomes, Mariappa, Deeney capt, Cathcart, Doucoure, Gray, Hughes (Deulofeu, 66), Deulofeu (Sema, 112), Femenia (Janmaat, 108), Holebas (Masina, 98), Capoue, Pereyra
Substitutes not used: Foster, Kabasele, Quina
WOLVES: Ruddy, Doherty, Neves (Bennett, 86), Jimenez, Boly, Coady capt, Jota (Cavaleiro, 89), Jonny (Vinagre, 105), Saiss, Moutinho (Traore, 102), Dendoncker
Substitutes not used: Norris, Gibbs-White, Helder Costa