Heroes and Heartbreak: A Perfect Advert for The FA Cup.
Following an underwhelming FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Brighton, The FA Cup received a timely boost when Wolves and Watford put on a spectacle fitting of the great tournament. Man City vs Brighton saw numerous empty seats and a watered down atmosphere given the grandeur of the occasion. Unlike Brighton, the Manchester club failed to sell out their allocation and had to send thousands of tickets back to the FA, despite Raheem Sterling buying 550 tickets, so all the children from his old school could attend the game. Not even Pep Guardiola could explain why the club was failing to sell their tickets both at the Etihad and away from home, despite competing for trophies on three remaining fronts. This problem again ignited the debate of whether Wembley is the correct venue to host the semi-finals of the FA Cup given its location and size. One particular Wolves fan would debunk the suggestion Wembley is not accessible to some fans as he flew 9,000 miles from his home in Perth to watch his beloved team.
Yet if Saturday’s fixture raised questions of the FA Cup and whether its magic spark remained, Wolves and Watford answered in emphatic style on Sunday. With an attendance in excess of 80,000, Wembley was humming and the spirit of the FA Cup could be felt all around North West London. Both clubs have been outstanding all season and their fans no doubt arrived at Wembley hoping they could continue to impress and reach the final of the historic competition. Watford have never won the tournament and Wolves have not tasted glory since 1960, so given the teams are separated by one point in the Premier League the game was as close to a 50:50 as you could hope for.
Two of Wolves star men this season Matt Doherty and Raúl Jiménez gave them a two goal advantage on the hour mark. Jiménez celebrated with a mask stored behind the goal, in homage to his friend and WWE superstar Sin Cara. The game looked as good as over and Wolves fans had their hearts set on another date at Wembley on the 18th May. However, in the 79th minute Gerard Deulofeu produced a sensational chip from off the bench to score a goal that Lionel Messi would be proud of. The goal rallied Watford and in the 94th minute, Troy Deeney won a penalty and slammed it home to complete the comeback and possibly score a goal more dramatic than the one he scored in the 2013 play-off semi-final. Wolves looked like a wounded animal as extra-time rolled on, Gerard Deulofeu capped off a magic display by stroking home the winner in the 104th minute of an FA Cup epic.
The resultant reactions of the two sets of fans shows just what the FA Cup still means. Unequivocal joy for Watford and utter despair for Wolves. The scenes around Wembley echoed those of some of the great FA Cup comebacks, such as Steven Gerrard’s late equaliser in the 2006 final or Bradford’s incredible turnaround against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2015. This game was just what was needed after the lacklustre City/Brighton game from 24 hours earlier and the emotions at the end of the game prove there is still plenty of life in the trophy that has provided some of football’s finest stories over its 138 years of competition.
At IMG ARENA the spirit of the FA Cup burns brightly and we are proud to have the streaming rights for the world’s oldest football competition. We had viewers from over 200 countries watch the brilliant competition last year and they together consumed more than 116 million minutes of the Cup. We are really looking forward to another brilliant final on the 18th May between Manchester City and Watford where another champion will be crowned.
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