Categories: SPORT

Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace: Super sub Andre Gray hits winner as Hornets book FA Cup semi-final spot

There is something about Watford, the FA Cup and tears of emotion.

Their owner Elton John broke down at the 1984 final against Everton when 100,000 fans joined in Abide with Me. This time. . veteran goalkeeper Heurhelho Gomes who was overcome as his side reached the semi-final on probably his final appearance at Vicarage Road.

Gomes, who says he is 99 per cent certain to retire in the summer to become a pastor, was joined by his children on a personal lap of honour to say goodbye to the Watford fans celebrating a famous win.

Watford took the lead shortly before the half-hour mark after Etienne Capoue adjusted quickly to turn the ball home

The Watford midfielder celebrated with Abdoulaye Doucoure and the rest of his team-mates after netting the opener

Michy Batshuayi levelled the scores after nicking the ball off Adrian Mariappa and superbly finding the corner of the net

Andre Gray fired Watford into the FA Cup semi-final by striking the winner into the corner minutes after coming off the bench


WATFORD (4-4-2): Gomes 6; Femenia 6, Mariappa 5.5, Cathcart 7, Holebas 7 (Masina 45 6); Hughes 6.5 (Gray 77 6.5), Capoue 7.5, Doucoure 6.5, Pererya 6.5; Deeney 6, Deulofeu 6.5 (Cleverley 89)

SUBS NOT USED: Janmaat, Success, Kabasele, Dahlberg

SCORERS: Capoue (27), Gray (79)

BOOKED: Masina

CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1): Guiata 6; Wan-Bissaka 7, Tomkins 6, Kelly 6, Schlupp 6; Kouyate 6, Milivojevic 7.5; McArthur 5.5 (Benteke 84), Meyer 6, Townsend 6; Batshuayi 6.5

SUBS NOT USED: Woods, Ward, Hennessey, Ayew, Wickham, Riedewald

SCORERS: Batshuayi (62)

BOOKED: Milivojevic

REFEREE: Kevin Friend 6

MOM: Capoue

Andre Gray came off the bench to hit the winner after a lovely chipped ball from Roberto Pereyra. CLICK HERE to see more from Sportsmail’s brilliant MATCH ZONE feature.

‘It was amazing, I needed to be with them and say thank you,’ explained 38-year-old Gomes who cried on the shoulders of team-mates when they embraced him at the final whistle.’

For skipper Troy Deeney, the sentiment of the occasion was understandable: ‘He (Gomes) is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and you see by everyone’s reaction what he means to everybody. It has been a tough week for him.’

Gomes has been at the club five years and seen them develop from being a joke in The Championship to a real force in the Premier League and now serious contenders for a first major trophy in their history.

Manager Javi Gracia, whose first-choice ‘keeper in the Premier League is Ben Foster, has brought stability and his decision to rest players for the Premier League fixture at Manchester City last weekend paid dividends.

Doucoure misses a glorious opportunity to score for Watford as he can only manage to blaze over from close range

Heurelho Gomes gets down well to his right to push a goalbound header from Crystal Palace’s Max Meyer away to safety

Batshuayi controls the ball and unleashes a powerful half-volley but his left-footed effort flies past the Watford goal

Gerard Deulofeu strikes a powerful dipping free-kick over the wall and on target but the Palace keeper makes the save

Watford goalkeeper Gomes comes through a crowd of bodies to collect the ball in the penalty box and relieve the danger

Crystal Palace supporters celebrate in the away end after watching Batshuayi get them back on level terms

Though Crystal Palace had a good spell in the second half when Michy Batshuayi cancelled out Etienne Capoue’s opener, the home side deserved their late winner on the overall balance of play.

That resulted in another astute decision from Gracia who sent on Andre Gray after 77 minutes and watched him volley home Roberto Pererya’s cross two minutes later. ‘We knew there was space in behind their defence,’ said the match-winner afterwards.

Both Palace and Watford have been to FA Cup finals but neither has every won a major trophy. There was no lack of incentive therefore for the lunchtime kick off though Palace were rocked by the absence of star man Wilfried Zaha with a hamstring injury, besides centre-half Mamadou Sakho who underwent knee surgery last week.

A swirling Hertfordshire wind unsettled the visitor’s Spanish goalkeeper Vicente Guiata and after flapping at a couple of corners, he was undone again for the opening goal after 27 minutes.

He came out to claim a Jose Holebas corner but was in trouble once the ball sailed over his head. Craig Cathcart neatly put the ball back into the danger zone and Capoue neatly slotted in with his right foot.

Watford lost Holebas to an ankle injury on the stroke of half-time and Palace showed far greater vigour after the interval.

Watford defender Jose Holebas times his sliding challenge to perfection to kick the ball against Andros Townsend’s leg

Townsend looks full of frustration as he reacts angrily after the referee decides to award a goal kick instead of a corner

Batshuayi brings the ball under control as he looks to fashion a shooting opportunity inside the penalty area

Referee Kevin Friend stamps on a blue balloon before removing it from the pitch during Saturday’s FA Cup match

Deulofeu grapples with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur as the pair fight for possession of the ball

Batshuayi had a sighter on goal before robbing ex-Palace defender Adrian Mariappa after 62 minutes before advancing into the area and rifling past Gomes.

It was the Belgian’s third goal since signing on loan from Chelsea on deadline day in January and at that stage the visitors looked the likelier winners.

‘Their crowd got quiet at that stage and I was fairly feeling good about my team,’ said Hodgson.

‘I thought there was every chance we could win it. We didn’t because they scored a good goal, but it was obviously a missed opportunity for us. We didn’t lose because we were outplayed.’

The good goal Hodgson referred to came about when Pererya got away for once from Palace’s excellent right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and followed a driving run with an excellent dink into the penalty area.

From there, Gray cleverly stole a yard on Palace’s back-line and steered a first-time finish past Guiata with is left foot.

Wan-Bissaka had Palace’s only chance of an equaliser in injury-time but steered wide, leaving Gracia with the opportunity to go one better than the club’s greatest manager Graham Taylor and lift silverware.

Crystal Palace’s Cheikhou Kouyate (right) brings down Deulofeu as he slides in to try and win back possession

Luka Milivojevic receives treatment from the physio after being hit the stomach by the ball during the second half

Watford striker Troy Deeney and Crystal Palace’s Jeffrey Schlupp argue with each other after a coming together

Watford fans waved black and yellow flags as they turned out in their thousands for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final tie

‘We will enjoy the semi-final but of course show the same mentality we’ve had all season and try to get to the final. I am glad there is an international break now – I need a break! – but when we come back, we will try to be demanding and competitive in every game and achieve something different this season.’

Foster will play Watford’s remaining league games but Gracia has a big decision whether to allow Gomes to play in a Wembley semi-final. He has not given up all hope of trying to persuade the Brazilian to stay next season, but the way the player is talking that is unlikely to happen.

‘Everbody knows he (Gomes) is important for us on the pitch, and also when he play,’ said Gracia.

‘Today he got his chance to play I was very pleased for him. He played well and he could show his quality.

‘We will see what happens it the next games and in the future. There is no clear deicison yet. We have to speak.’

For Palace, they still need a few points between now and the end of the season to secure their Premier League status for next season. Hodgson will anxiously monitor Zaha’s hamstring problem over the next fortnight and pray he’s recovered for the next game against Huddersfield on March 30.

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