Back in the Day: April 8th - The Greatest FA Cup Game of All Time

Back in the Day

Monday 8th April 1985

Crystal Palace 1-0 Notts County

League Division Two – Att: 4,744

Manager: Steve Coppell

Palace Link: Rachid Harkouk played for the visitors.

Tuesday 8th April 1986

Crystal Palace 2-1 Portsmouth

League Division Two – Att: 11,731

Manager: Steve Coppell

Palace Link: Vince Hillaire and Billy Gilbert both played for Portsmouth in this one.

Sunday 8th April 1990

Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool

FA Cup Semi Final – Att: 38,389

Manager: Steve Coppell

This was the first ever live on TV FA Cup Semi Final. There has never been a better one. Voted the Greatest Match in FA Cup history in 2010, on this day in 1990 the Eagles shocked the World and beat the mighty Liverpool by the odd goal in seven at Villa Park.

Liverpool had thrashed newly promoted Palace 9-0 earlier in the season and were on for a League and Cup Double. Nobody gave Steve Coppell’s men a chance. At half-time, the Reds led through an Ian Rush (15) strike and the second half would be but a formality for Kenny Dalglish’s superstars – John Pemberton had other ideas.

The Palace full-back went on a marauding run down the right and his cross into the area caused havoc. Barry Venison did superbly well to head away in front of Phil Barber, but his clearance only found John Salako who volleyed goalwards. Bruce Grobbelaar saved well with his feet but the ball bounced up to Mark Bright (46) who hammered home the rebound – game on!

On 69 minutes another cross into the box, this time from an Andy Gray free kick, caused more problems. The ball dropped (“and just for a moment the whole ground seemed to freeze”) kindly for Gary O’Reilly (69) who smashed the ball home to send half of the Holte End behind the goal into ecstasy.

All seemed to be going so well for the Eagles, but in the space of two minutes, the game was turned on its head. A ‘from the training field’ free kick routine caught Crystal Palace napping, and Steve Staunton played in Venison down the side of the penalty area. The mulleted defenders cutback found Steve McMahon (81) who fired the ball back across goal and into the top corner. A clever Peter Beardsley pass down the left then released Staunton, who got the wrong side of Pemberton in the penalty area. The catalyst to the Palace comeback could not get out of the way, and the contact sent the Liverpool fullback tumbling in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and John Barnes (83) coolly slotted home the penalty.

You’ll Never Walk Alone” was being sung in victorious fashion by the Liverpool fans as the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark. Palace won a free kick just inside their own half and the commentator uttered, as the camera showed Sir Steve Coppell, “his team were ten minutes away from Wembley, let it be said. They are now three minutes away from going out.” The long ball towards the edge of the penalty area was flicked on by Geoff Thomas, and yet again Liverpool struggled to deal with the chaos. Grobbelaar tried to take command by coming out and punching clear, but he succeeded in only finding Thomas again. The Palace captain’s header towards goal was soft but Staunton appeared to make the weird decision to control it on his chest. The ball bounced up and Gray pounced and headed home for the most unlikely of equalisers.

Into Extra Time went the match, Palace now fully believed and a red ‘n’ blue folk hero was born. Two minutes into the second period Crystal Palace won a corner. Andy Thorn flicked the ball on at the near post “and somewhere out the crowd came Pardew.” The much-maligned midfielder headed home the winner and the team that was embarrassed at Anfield on the 12th of September, in the space of just 207 days, had completed a Roy of the Rovers-esque turnaround. Crystal Palace were going to Wembley for the first time in the Clubs history.

Palace Link: Future Palace players Ray Houghton and Steve Staunton, as a sub, turned out for our opponents on this day.

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