Football Features

Five things learned as Wolves collapse under pressure of Watford’s cojones

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:48, 7 April 2019

Watford have reached the FA Cup final for just the second time in their history thanks to a 3-2 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Matt Doherty opened the scoring for Wolves 10 minutes before half-time, heading in Diogo Jota’s cross and Raul Jimenez doubled their lead with a superb volley midway through the second half.

Gerard Deulofeu pulled one back for Watford with a fine curling effort from close range and, as Wolves looked to be seeing out the game, Troy Deeney equalised from the penalty spot to take the game to extra-time.

And Deulofeu won it in extra-time completing Watford’s dramatic comeback, setting up the FA Cup final against Manchester City on May 18.

But what did we learn from the semi-final?

1. Troy Deeney shows his cojones

Watford had looked down at out as injury-time of their FA Cup semi-final against Wolves started. Aside from Deulofeu’s wonderful effort, the Hornets hadn’t looked too likely to score and were set to miss out on an FA Cup final.

But Troy Deeney reacted quickly to a hopeful cross from Abdoulaye Doucoure into the box, getting just ahead of Leander Dendoncker who felled the Englishman – just moments after being riled up following a challenge.

And who else but Deeney would have stepped up to take such a vital spot-kick with so much on the line. Score, and Watford would be back from the dead; Miss and the Hornets are out the FA Cup.

Deeney stepped up confidently and blasted his effort down the middle of the goal, giving John Ruddy no chance of saving it. It was the 26th penalty Deeney has scored for Watford from 31 attempts across all competitions and added to his impressive FA Cup record.

The Englishman has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his past 14 FA Cup matches, scoring six and recording four assists.

2. Gerard Deulofeu proves his point

Gerard Deulofeu was understandably unhappy with starting Watford’s most important game of the season on the bench, as Javi Gracia opted for Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra behind Andre Gray and Troy Deeney in his 4-2-2-2.

But when Watford were in need of a miracle, Deulofeu was brought on with 24 minutes to go and the hopes of half of Wembley resting on his shoulders. Some players might have taken being dropped to heart and not put the full amount of effort in, but not Deulofeu.

The Spaniard decided it was his time to show Gracia why he should have started for Watford, beginning by pulling a goal back with a sumptuous effort from inside the area.

Deulofeu’s goal added something to Watford’s game, a belief that the tie wasn’t over despite not having too many big chances to score, and Troy Deeney’s equaliser in injury time put the Hornets in control.

But a winner was still required and up stepped Deulofeu once more, linking up well with Andre Gray before racing into the box and finishing past Ruddy – completing the comeback.

It would not all be positive for Deulofeu as the substitute had to be taken off himself due to injury, but the Spaniard made his mark and Watford have him to thank for their first FA Cup final since 1984.

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3. Heurelho Gomes may get his fairytale end

When Watford secured their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a win over Crystal Palace, Heurelho Gomes was in tears. The Hornets’ designated cup goalkeeper, it was almost certainly Gomes’ final game at Vicarage Road with the Brazilian expected to retire at the end of the season.

At the time, there were discussions as to whether Gomes would continue in goal for the semi-finals with some teams opting for their first-choice goalkeeper in the bigger games regardless of their policy.

But Gomes started at Wembley ahead of Ben Foster and, despite conceding two goals, helped Watford reach the FA Cup final where they will face Manchester City – keeping dreams of a fairytale end alive.

However, will Gomes start the final against City given Foster’s excellent league performances this season? Only Javi Gracia knows.

4. Wolves’ luchador the silver lining on a cloudy day

What a season Raul Jimenez is having, and it doesn’t look like stopping any time soon. The forward has now scored or assisted in five of his last six games in all competitions for the club, only failing to be directly involved in a goal against Burnley.

That run includes goals against Chelsea and Manchester United and made Wolves’ decision to sign him permanently for £30m this week a very easy one.

Jimenez celebrated with a simply beautiful goal to double Wolves’ lead on Sunday, controlling Doherty’s cross with his chest before volleying in from close range and putting his side on the brink of a first FA Cup final since 1960.

And what better time to bring out the luchador mask WWE star Sin Cara gave to him, with Wrestlemania 35 taking place later in the day.

While it was not meant to be in the end, with Wolves capitulating late on, Jimenez’s permanent deal is something to smile about.

5. Manchester City’s name is on the FA Cup

The FA Cup is a brilliant tournament, known for making dreams and providing magical moments at times – regardless of what some people say.

But this season, the competition has shown it can produce brilliantly bizarre statistics, like the one which may have had some Wolves fans worrying about their chances of beating Watford.

In one particular sequence of matches, from the extra preliminary rounds of the FA Cup, no team has won more than one game on the path before being knocked out.

Biggleswade beat Northampton ON Chenecks in the extra preliminary round but lost to Soham Town Rangers in their very next FA Cup match. Soham Town Rangers then lost to FC Romania, who fell to Beaconsfield Town.

Beaconsfield Town lost to Concord Rangers, who were knocked out in the fourth qualifying round by Dover Athletic. In the first round ‘proper’, Dover Athletic lost to Bury, who were then beaten by Luton Town.

Luton Town would go on to lose to Sheffield Wednesday, who lost to Chelsea, who were knocked out by Manchester United. United then lost to Wolves in the quarter-finals, leading many to expect Watford to win this semi-final tie.

And that is exactly what happened, despite Wolves taking a 2-0 lead. However, this does mean that Manchester City will probably win the FA Cup unless Watford can break the curse.