By News Team
17th July 2020
With the FA Cup semi-finals taking place this weekend, we’ve decided to look back at a few of the greatest last-four ties in the competition’s history.
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal – 1999
Where better to start than with this one: Manchester United and Arsenal’s iconic semi-final battle in 1999, which had everything – from great goals, to late drama, to one unforgettable celebration.
The two sides came into this semi-final replay at Villa Park, after a dull 0-0 draw in the first game, as the country’s elite duo – reigning Premier League champions Arsenal chasing back-to-back doubles and United going in search of an historic treble.
First blood went to United with David Beckham curling a superb strike in from just outside the box, only for Dennis Bergkamp to equalise for the Gunners after half-time with a great finish from distance. Arsenal soon had the advantage when Roy Keane was sent off and had the chance to win it in the 90th minute when Phil Neville brought down Ray Parlour in the box.
Up stepped Bergkamp, only to see his spot-kick saved by Peter Schmeichel, sending this epic clash into extra-time.
The stage was soon set for one Ryan Giggs to pick up the ball in his own half in the 109th minute before bursting past four tiring Arsenal players into the box and rifling home a strike past the helpless David Seaman. Off came Giggs’ shirt, out came the infamous rug and the rest of United’s treble-winning season was history.
Spurs 3-1 Arsenal – 1991
An all-time classic north London derby sits next on our list, with arch-rivals Spurs and Arsenal meeting at a packed Wembley in the semi-finals in 1991. Arsenal were eight points clear at the top of the league and chasing a double at the time, but this match would instead go the underdogs’ way thanks to one man’s genius: Paul Gascoigne.
Just under a year on from his unforgettable performances at the 1990 World Cup for England, it was Gascoigne’s turn to do the same in a Spurs shirt. Only five minutes into the match and Gazza stepped up to take a free-kick from 30 yards out, which against the odds he somehow managed to fire past Seaman at a blistering pace and into the top corner to net one of the FA Cup’s great goals.
Gascoigne continued to dominate the game for Spurs in midfield as it went on and his silky passing skills soon led to a second goal for his side from Gary Lineker. Alan Smith’s header just before the break pulled Arsenal back into it, only for Lineker to bag another to clinch a huge win for Spurs.
An ecstatic Gazza famously told a reporter after the game: “I’m away to get me suit measured!” He would return to Wembley with his suit for the final, only to suffer a cruciate ligament rupture in his knee that would cut short his appearance in the Spurs win, sideline him for months and have a huge impact on the rest of his career.
Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool – 1990
Crystal Palace met Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-finals in a game that nobody had given them a chance of winning. Just a few months earlier in the league, champions-elect Liverpool had trounced the Eagles 9-0, and the Reds were expected to march onto the final here en route to clinching the double.
That was certainly the case when Liverpool opened the scoring to stroll into a 1-0 lead after just 14 minutes through Ian Rush. But this is the FA Cup and what was to follow was remarkable.
A Palace side up against it without striker Ian Wright somehow pulled themselves back into the game with Mark Bright levelling before Gary O’Reilly put the Eagles 2-1 ahead with just 20 minutes left on the clock. Could Steve Coppell’s side hold on?
No, it seemed, as Reds goals from Steve McMahon and John Barnes turned the tie on its head with seven minutes remaining. But Palace would soon equalise again through Andy Gray, who took advantage of a Liverpool defence all at sea to send the match into extra-time.
The stage was set for a hero, so step forward Alan Pardew, who popped up at a Palace corner to bundle the ball home and send the Eagles to Wembley.
Palace would go on to lose the final to Manchester United in another memorable match, but they had edged a classic semi-final here that will struggle to be bettered for sheer drama and excitement.