By News Team
16th April 2021
With this season’s FA Cup approaching its business end and the final not far off, we’ve taken a look back at the greatest ever FA Cup final matches in history. For comparison check out our list of the greatest FA Cup upsets ever.
Blackpool 4-3 Bolton – 1953
Where better to start our list of FA Cup matches than with this seven-goal thriller from 1953, which has since gone down in football folklore as the ‘Matthews Final’ thanks to the legendary Stanley Matthews’s stunning performance at Wembley to inspire Blackpool to victory and their first and only FA Cup triumph. Stan Mortensen can certainly count himself unlucky not to have had the final named in his honour, having netted a hat-trick for the Seasiders, but it’s Matthews’ wing wizardry, at the age of 38, that is remembered most fondly as he helped rescue his side from 3-1 down to win 4-3 in dramatic fashion in one of the great FA Cup games.
Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United – 1979
When it comes to the most thrilling of FA Cup final finales, then it’s hard to beat this one between Arsenal and Manchester United in 1979 for sheer late drama – so much so that it’s often known as the ‘Five Minute Final’. The Gunners looked to be heading for a comfortable 2-0 victory with five minutes remaining, only for United to do the unthinkable thanks to goals from Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy to draw their side level. Yet, somehow, with just one minute left on the clock there was still time for Graham Rix to loop a cross to the far post for Alan Sunderland to net the most dramatic of FA Cup winners for Arsenal.
Spurs 3-2 Manchester City – 1981
Our next entry on the list from 1981 was actually an FA Cup final replay. After the 100th FA Cup final between Spurs and Manchester City ended in a 1-1 draw, the two teams met again at Wembley just a few days later. This time there was to be a victor and thanks to one man: Ricky Villa. The Argentine opened the scoring for Spurs to put them one ahead, only for City to soon turn things around and lead 2-1. Garth Crooks then levelled for the north London side before Villa embarked on one of the most famous runs in FA Cup history. Picking up the ball outside the area, Villa drove into the box, waltzing through the City defence before slotting the ball home to claim the cup for Spurs in style.
Crystal Palace 3-3 Manchester United – 1990
While the last entry was an FA Cup final reply, this final between Crystal Palace and Manchester United had so little between the two sides in a breathless clash that it then required a replay to settle it after 120 minutes. Gary O’Reilly had put the Eagles in front of the 15th minute before favourites United turned the game on its head through goals from Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes. Palace soon brought on Ian Wright, however, and within a few minutes the future Arsenal man had made an instant impact to equalise. Extra-time soon beckoned, and up stepped Wright again to strike at the far post. Underdogs Palace had one hand on the cup and looked to have upset the FA Cup odds, but not for long, as Hughes scored once more to send the game to a replay. Lacking the same drama and excitement the second time around, the replay was not the greatest of FA Cup games, witnessing just one goal as Lee Martin won it for United, who became FA Cup holders for the third time in seven years.
Liverpool 3-3 West Ham (Liverpool win on penalties) – 2006
As we’ve seen, the FA Cup final usually provides the platform for a hero to etch his name into history and at the 2006 final in Cardiff, it was the turn of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. While the Reds would ultimately win the cup through a penalty shootout and the heroics of Pepe Reina, Gerrard’s never-say-die attitude is remembered best as he dragged his team out of nowhere into contention. After West Ham had raced into a 2-0 lead, it was Gerrard who eventually bagged the equaliser after Djibril Cisse’s strike, with a stunning hit into the top corner. And then with West Ham, who had then taken a 3-2 lead through Paul Konchesky, just seconds away from a famous cup triumph, up stepped Gerrard deep into stoppage time with the most unbelievable of long-range strikes into the bottom corner to take the game to penalties…