Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves were agonisingly denied a first FA Cup final since 1960 after Watford staged a dramatic comeback at Wembley. A goal in each half from Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez put Nuno’s side on the brink of history, but the semi-final proved the end of the road after the Hornets shaded proceedings in extra time.
Doherty’s thumping header from a delightful Diogo Jota cross had Wolves supporters dreaming of a first FA Cup final in 59 years. Then, after the break the Irishman set up Jimenez, who controlled his centre brilliantly and volleyed home to spark pandemonium in the Wolves end of Wembley.
However, Gerard Deulofeu reduced the deficit with a clever goal to set up a nervy end to proceedings and when Leander Dendoncker fouled Troy Deeney in the area with a minute of added time left, the Watford skipper smashed home from 12 yards and send the game to extra time.
With the momentum with the Hornets, Deulofeu slipped them ahead in the first half of extra time and Wolves couldn’t recover. The efforts made during this incredible FA Cup run won’t be forgotten, but 2019 was not the year memories of 1960 were matched at Wembley.
The club’s biggest occasion in more than 20 years kicked off to the tone of ‘Nuno Had A Dream’ ringing out of the East End of the national stadium and the men on the pitch were equally as pumped, working the ball wide to Jonny, who cut onto his right foot and curled narrowly wide of the top corner with just 22 second on the clock.
Three minutes later, after Jota had been halted on his way to goal, Joao Moutinho stood over a well-positioned free-kick and lifted onto the roof of the net. That close call spelled the end of a lively opening period, and the 20 that followed failed to live up to expectation, with Deeney firing the only shot high and wide.
The half-hour mark brought about the best chance yet, but when Andre Gray sprung the Wolves offside trap, he could only turn Deeney’s cross over the bar. That chance woke Wolves up and their best move of the half concluded with Dendoncker’s piledriver taking a deflection and being tipped over the bar by Heurelho Gomes.
However, that save was only a momentary rest bite and from the resulting corner Wolves took the lead. Moutinho took the corner short to Jota, creating the space for the forward to swing in an inch-perfect cross across the face of goal, which was met by the onrushing Doherty to thump a header in from close range.
As the board went up for two minutes added time, Wolves had their captain to thank for remaining in front. For all the world, it looked like Gray would equalise for the Hornets on the stroke of half-time, but his goal-bound strike was kept out by the face Coady, who showed tremendous bravely to keep his side in front.
Half-time: Watford 0 Wolves 1
Wolves began the second period in a positive manner and Jimenez stung the palms of Gomes early on, after latching onto Romain Saiss’ searching pass. Then, after Jota had been wrestled to the ground by Craig Cathcart, Ruben Neves fizzled a free-kick agonisingly in between the top corner and Saiss’ head.
Then came the hour-mark and what better way for Jimenez to celebrate his first game as a permanent member of the pack? A Wembley goal in front of the travelling fans was just the tonic. Following Moutinho’s short free-kick to Doherty, Jimenez took the Irishman’s cross on his chest and smashed a volley into the back of the net. Wild celebrations in the Wolves end and out came Jimenez’s Mexican wrestler mask.
The game was very much played in the Wolves half from that point, with Jota and Jimenez attempting to break at any opportunity, but once penned in on 79 minutes, Wolves were punished as, with very little back lift, Deulofeu clipped a brilliant effort over everyone inside the area and into the top corner. Game on at Wembley.
Game management was the aim of the game for Wolves with the time remaining, and Ryan Bennett was brought on to shore up the defence, with Neves making way and Saiss moving into the middle. Ivan Cavaleiro then replaced Jota with time running out and the tension mounting.
However, there was one final twist as a cross came into the Wolves box and Dendoncker arrived a fraction behind Deeney, clipping the Watford skipper in the process. After VAR reviewed the decision, a penalty was the outcome, and Deeney stepped up to slam the spot kick home with just a minute of added time left. Heartbreak for Wolves, they had to come again.
Full-time: Watford 2 Wolves 2
Refuelled and ready for another 30 minutes, Wolves stuck to their task and a fingertip save by Gomes kept out Jonny’s powerful drive. Moutinho’s game was done by this point too, and Traore took his place for the rest of extra time.
However, there was still time left in the first period of extra time for the Hornets to edge ahead for the first time in the game. Gray’s through ball was perfectly into the path of Deulofeu, who slid beyond John Ruddy.
Half-time extra time: Watford 3 Wolves 2
With 15 minutes left, Ruben Vinagre was brought on for Jonny and Wolves threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser. Jimenez had the first of the chances but headed Cavaleiro’s cross wide under pressure by Gomes.
The best opportunity fell to Cavaleiro himself, who was fed by Jimenez, rounded Gomes with a clever roll, but got the ball stuck underneath his feet and allowed Watford to clear. With that went the final chance of the contest and brave Wolves were beaten.
Full time extra time: Watford 3 Wolves 2
Watford: Gomes, Femenia (Janmaat 108), Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas (Masina 98), Hughes (Deulofeu 66)(Sema 112), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Deeney, Gray.
Unused subs: Foster, Kabasele, Quina.
Wolves: Ruddy, Doherty, Saiss, Coady, Boly, Jonny (Vinagre 106), Neves (Bennett 86), Dendoncker, Moutinho (Traore 102), Jota (Cavaleiro 89), Jimenez.
Unused subs: Norris, Gibbs-White, Costa.