KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The old magic of the FA Cup was on display for all the world to see as Watford hit back dramatically at Wembley to reach the final against Manchester City on May 18.
Javi Gracia’s men were 2-0 down to Wolves – one point above them in the Premier League – with 12 minutes remaining. Then newly-arrived substitute Gerard Deulofeu sparked a remarkable comeback which took Watford to a 3-2 extra-time success and the final for only the second time in their history.
Wolves had been in charge up until thanks in particular to the efforts of Republic of Ireland fullback Matt Doherty.
First Doherty had headed Wolves’ opening goal in the 36th minute then he provided the cross from which Raul Jimenez scored the second in the 61st. That was the potentially devastating blow which prompted Watford manager Gracia to gamble on Deulofeu’s will o’the wisp talents.
The Spanish winger chipped a wonderful first goal with almost his first kick in the 78th minute. That inspired Watford to charge forward and equalise with a stoppage time penalty by skipper Troy Deeney after he had been brought down by Leander Dendoncker. VAR confirmed the award by referee Michael Oliver.
That goal sent the tie into extra time when Deulofeu struck decisively in a 103rd-minute counter-attack. He was substituted shortly afterwards after one of the most devastating 36 minutes of individual FA Cup action in years and his team-mates secured a return to the final for the first time since defeat by Everton in 1984.
‘Personality and ambition’
Watford manager Gracia said: “We knew it would be a tough game and when everything was lost the team was able to show our character and personality and ambition.
“In the first half we had some chances but they played better. In the second half we had more control and when we scored at the end it was amazing for us and I’m very proud of my players and supporters.
“We knew before the game that Gerard would be important during the game but what I didn’t know was that we would be losing 2-0 at the time. Maybe he was angry when he started to play but I like to see my players with that attitude to show what they are able to do.”
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “It’s a tough moment for us of real pain and disappointment. The feeling is that we had it and let it get away from us. In the last minutes of the game we should have managed better.
“Congratulations to Watford of course but we should have done better.”