Flashback: FA Cup Semi-Finals


FA Cup Balll

As we look ahead to an exciting FA Cup semi-final weekend, Kitbag.com has collected together a cluster of classic semi-final showdowns, from the dawn of the 1990s to the present day. Contested across the nation’s three biggest cities, these timeless ties should help whet the appetite ahead of the weekend’s action when, in two all-Premier League affairs, Chelsea tackle Spurs on Saturday, before Arsenal face Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. The stage is about to be set… but can this season’s semis match up to these from the archives?

FA Cup Balll

1990 FA Cup Semi-Final
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Villa Park, Birmingham

We begin in 1990 with an unforgettable win for one of London’s less fashionable outfits. Only seven months after a notorious 9-0 humbling at Anfield, Crystal Palace upset the odds to slam champions-elect Liverpool in a dramatic 4-3 thriller at the Villa. Recovering from a two-goal deficit and equalising with two minutes to spare, the Eagles soared to new heights in extra-time, as future Selhurst Park supremo Alan Pardew netted the winner (pictured). Few semi-finals have provided such an exhilarating thrill ride; not to mention such unexpected victors.

A floored Bruce Grobbelaar looks on as Pardew and Palace celebrate their winner at Villa Park. Credit – Action Images

1991 FA Cup Semi-Final
Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur
Wembley Stadium, London

Less than 12 months after winning the hearts of the nation at Italia ’90, Paul Gascoigne revelled in the romance of the FA Cup, providing another memorable moment for the archives. Firing home a powerful free-kick from all of 35 yards, Gazza’s 5th minute drive would be the highlight of Tottenham’s 3-1 win over North London rivals Arsenal. A brace from Gary Lineker would seal Spurs’ path to the final, but the match with Nottingham Forest would prove a bittersweet affair, as Gascoigne’s participation ended in leg break heartbreak.

Credit - Action Images
Tottenham’s Paul Gascoigne celebrates opens the scoring at Wembley in 1991. Credit – Action Images

1993 FA Cup Semi-Final
Sheffield Wednesday vs Sheffield United
Wembley Stadium, London

In 1993, the stars of the Steel City converged in the capital for another cup classic. With Gazza’s thunderbolt two years previously still fresh in the memory, history appeared to repeat itself as Chris Waddle scored a sensational free-kick inside the opening minutes. However, sharpshooter Alan Cork would draw level for the Blades before the break, latching on to Franz Carr’s through ball to and slotting home to delight the travelling red and white contingent. After a second-half stalemate, Mark Bright’s free header would finally separate the Sheffield sides in extra-time, helping Trevor Francis’ Owls through to their second Wembley final of the season. Remarkably, both would be against George Graham’s Arsenal.

Credit - Action Images
Mark Bright’s extra-time effort settled the Steel City showdown in Sheffield Wednesday’s favour. Credit – Action Images

1994 FA Cup Semi-Final
Oldham Athletic vs Manchester United
Wembley Stadium, London

These two Northern neighbours, barely ten miles apart, had already contested a 3-3 thriller in the 1990 semi-finals, yet this rematch from four years later is remembered even more vividly. The Latics seemed destined for a final with Glenn Hoddle’s Chelsea, after Neil Pointon had broken the deadlock midway through extra-time. However, United’s Mark Hughes refused to concede defeat, unleashing a trademark volley at the death to salvage a replay at Maine Road days later. With Oldham’s best chance seemingly behind them, United would win the second game comfortably, en route to securing their first Premier League and FA Cup double.

Oldham Athletic manager Joe Royle and players regroup in their Wembley war of attrition with Manchester United. Credit - Action Images.
Joe Royle and his players regroup in Oldham’s Wembley war of attrition with Manchester United. Credit – Action Images.

1997 FA Cup Semi-Final
Chesterfield vs Middlesbrough
Old Trafford, Manchester

Middlesbrough’s international all-stars were given the fright of their careers in 1997, as a spirited Chesterfield were denied a first FA Cup Final appearance by a controversial goal-line decision. The third-tier outfit led their Premier League opponents at one stage by two clear goals. However, after Fabrizio Ravenhill pulled one back, the Spirites saw Jonathan Howard’s killer third ruled out, before Craig Hignett’s penalty leveled. Falling behind in extra-time, Chesterfield’s home-grown hero Jamie Hewitt scored at the death to salvage a replay, but Boro would go on to advance days later, strolling to a routine 3-0 win at Hillsborough.

Chesterfield's phantom third bounces clear in the semi-final against Middlesbrough. Credit - Stuart Franklin/Action Images.
Jonathan Howard’s phantom third for Chesterfield bounces clear. Credit – Stuart Franklin/Action Images.

1999 FA Cup Semi-Final Replay
Manchester United vs Arsenal
Villa Park, Birmingham

The most famous semi-final replay of them all, the vision of a shirtless Ryan Giggs careering across the Villa Park turf remains suitably imprinted in the memories of millions of fans. After superlative strikes from Dennis Bergkamp and David Beckham lit up the Villa Park replay, Roy Keane’s dismissal handed the impetus to the Gunners; who were then awarded a penalty in the final minute. However, Peter Schmeichel dramatically saved from Bergkamp to clinch extra-time, before Welsh wing wizard Giggs’ weaved his midweek magic to win the match.

Credit - Action Images, Darren Walsh
Ryan Giggs famously dribbles his way into history’s highlight reel. Credit – Action Images/Darren Walsh

2008 FA Cup Semi-Final
Barnsley vs Cardiff City
Wembley Stadium, London

Draped in the colours of the flag of St. David, Cardiff City took the lead in this all-Championship encounter when Wales international Joe Ledley fired home inside ten minutes (pictured). Barnsley’s attempts to reply would meanwhile be in vain. The FA Cup had been won and lost in Cardiff from 2001 to 2006, but now the city’s most famous club had a final of their own to look forward to. Not since the Bluebirds themselves achieved the feat twice in the 1920s had a team from outside England experienced FA Cup semi-final success.

Joe Ledley fires home Cardiff's winning goal against Barnsley in 2008. Credit - Action Images/John Sibley.
Joe Ledley fires home Cardiff’s winner against Barnsley at the new Wembley in 2008. Credit – Action Images/John Sibley.

2009 FA Cup Semi-Final
Everton vs Manchester United
Wembley Stadium, London

The record attendance for an FA Cup semi-final was set in 2009, as Everton upset reigning Premier League and European champions Manchester United in a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out. At the time of the match, United were still in contention for a record five trophies, but the Toffees ensured they became unstuck on this April afternoon; Goodison hero Phil Jagielka keeping his nerve to convert the decisive spot kick. A crowd of 88,141 witnessed the drama, with Everton securing a date with Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea in May’s FA Cup Final.

Everton players look on as they contest the penalty shoot-out against Manchester United. Credit - Action Images, Jason Cairnduff.
Everton players look on during their shoot-out with Manchester United in 2009. Credit – Action Images/Jason Cairnduff.

2011 FA Cup Semi-Final
Manchester City vs Manchester United
Wembley Stadium, London

Wembley’s first ever Manchester derby was settled by a single second-half strike; its winner coolly dispatched by City’s Yaya Toure, following a mistake from United midfielder Michael Carrick. Playing without their suspended striker Wayne Rooney, the Reds saw talisman Paul Scholes sent off, in what would prove his final Wembley FA Cup appearance. The Citizens meanwhile would return to beat Stoke City in the final, securing a first major trophy in some 35 years. Once again, Toure would score the only goal that day, in another 1-0 victory.

Contrasting fortunes for Kolo Toure and Paul Scholes in 2011. Credit – Action Images/Carl Recine

2014 FA Cup Semi-Final
Hull City vs Sheffield United
Wembley Stadium, London

A high-scoring affair marked by eight different goalscorers, entertainment was in no short supply in 2014 as Sheffield United lost their fifth consecutive semi-final and opponents Hull City advanced to a first FA Cup Final in their 110-year history. Foiled in their attempts to re-write the record books, the League One Blades had forged ahead on two occasions, only to succumb to four second half goals that twisted the tale in the Tigers’ favour. A feast for the neutral, this 5-3 thriller remains the new Wembley Stadium’s highest-scoring FA Cup fixture.


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