Ever since Crystal Palace qualified for the Premier League, and then managed to stay there, and then get better (and then get worse starting in January of this year, but still staying in the league), I've wanted them to have some success. Leicester City's championship this year showed that anything is possible. So with Palace reaching the FA Cup final, it also seemed possible that they could beat the big, much-higher- budgeted, and more stellarly-populated Manchester United squad.
And it seemed like it could happen. The scoreless tie was broken after substitute Jason Puncheon, who
has been a big reason that Crystal Palace has gotten to where it is and stayed there the past couple of years, made an exemplary
play into the corner of the net. Wembley was rocking and James Pardew, the CP manager, was dancing. United was dominating, though, with a few shots off the frame.
Unfortunately for Palace, the skills of world-class MU player Wayne Rooney asserted themselves three minutes later.
Rooney eluded three or four defenders on a brilliant run, then crossed to the other side, where Juan
Mata (another international star on their lineup) was able to finish.
But still -- the match went into its 30 minutes of extra time, and Palace got something it desperately
needed - a break. A Manchester defender, Chris Smalling, received his second yellow card of the match, sending him off and putting the Reds a man down. Though CP didn't score in the first half of extra time, they had 15 more
minutes with a man advantage.
But again, fate dealt them a poor hand. Young winger Jesse Lingard, a late substitute, put home a
volley off the outside of his foot, and the CP goaltender didn't have a chance. The hopes of the
Palace faithful were dashed by his superb shot.
Watching it live on TV, I can only imagine how disheartening that must have felt to be there in person, seeing the team take the lead only to lose it,
then gaining the man advantage, then have MU score what is called in soccer terms a "shortie". That
hurts. Still, making the FA Cup final is an achievement. Now they have to figure out what went wrong
in the second half of the season and fix it.
Manchester United 2-1 Crystal Palace
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