Watford will face Manchester City in next month’s FA Cup final following Sunday’s electrifying 3-2 success against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves appeared to be cruising into their first final in the competition in 59 years after goals from Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez, but were forced into extra time by Hornets tallies in the 79th and 94th minutes.
Gerard Deulofeu, who was only called off the bench in the 66th minute, scored either side of Troy Deeney’s dramatic penalty deep in injury time, and his 104th-minute winner didn’t suit the occasion. Amid the nervous din in Wembley, the Spaniard drifted by Conor Coady before pushing an unfussy side-footed finish past John Ruddy.
The comeback vaulted Watford into just their second FA Cup final, having sufffered a 2-0 loss to Everton under the old Wembley’s Twin Towers in 1984. Javi Gracia and City boss Pep Guardiola will determine who will be the third Spaniard to win the historic competition, following Rafa Benitez with Liverpool and Roberto Martinez with Wigan Athletic.
Matt Doherty headed in from close range and then teed up Raul Jimenez for a textbook chest and volley to put Wolves in charge. When Deulofeu pocketed his first effort – a deft flick of his right trotter that curled the ball into the top corner – Nuno Espirito Santo soon tried to preserve Wolves’ one-goal advantage by substituting influential pair Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota.
They were unable to turn the tide back in their favor after Deeney’s last-gasp spot kick. The penalty was awarded when Leander Dendoncker mistimed a challenge on the bulky skipper.
Deulofeu’s composed winner came just before the interval of extra-time.
“We had it, and we let it get away from us,” Nuno told BBC Sport after the match.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Wolves. Two years prior to Sunday’s semifinal, they were 15th in the Championship and relying on Andreas Weimann and Nouha Dicko for penetration up front. Now, they boast one of the country’s best attacking duos in Jimenez and Jota. The West Midlands side will now battle for a seventh-place finish in the Premier League.
Watford, meanwhile, will look to defy the odds to beat Manchester City and lift their first piece of silverware since winning the Championship playoff final in 2006.