Top Five: FA Cup finals

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Liverpool and Chelsea meet in one of football’s greatest spectacles this Saturday, with two of the games most famous clubs going head-to-head for the honour of being crowned FA Cup winners.

The Blues have recent history at this stage of the competition, winning it three times in the past five years. Roberto Di Matteo has a chance to make it four in six for the side from west London, although there victories against Manchester United, Portsmouth and Everton have been far from spectacular.

For the Reds, their last win was one of the more memorable finals in recent history, beating West Ham at the Millennium Stadium on penalties.

It’s that final which kicks-off GiveMeFootball’s list of five great post-war finals, as we remember some of the most memorable days at the national stadiums of England and Wales…

Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United - 2005/06

A quite stunning final between the underdog Hammers and a Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool, as the Reds grabbed victory from the clutches of defeat on penalties.

Jamie Carragher’s own goal and a Dean Ashton strike put the East London outfit 2-0 up, before Djibril Cisse and Gerrard made the scores level. Paul Konchesky’s cross somehow ended up in the back of the net to put Alan Pardew’s side back in-front, before the Reds skipper rescued his side in injury-time with a quite stunning long-range strike past Shaka Hislop.

Neither side could hit a winner in extra-time, sending the game to penalties for only the second time in history. Three of West Ham’s four takers missed, and Rafa Benitez lifted the trophy as manager on Merseyside.

Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool – 2000/01

Whilst the scoreline suggests anything but a spectacular match at the Millennium Stadium, this match was packed with drama as Michael Owen hit a late brace to hand Liverpool the trophy.

Part of the club’s astonishing domestic and European treble (League and UEFA Cup), manager Gerard Houllier must have feared the worst after Freddie Ljungberg put the dominant Gunners in-front on 72 minutes.

Stephane Henchoz hand-balled on the line in the first period, whilst Thierry Henry and Robert Pires also threatened the Reds’ line throughout the clash.

However, it was Owen who won the day, lashing home when the ball fell to his feet in the box, before outpacing the defence and bending the ball round David Seaman in the 88th minute. Queue delirium in the Liverpool end.

Manchester United 3-3 Crystal Palace – 1989/90

(Man Utd win replay 1-0)

A final forever remembered for Ian Wright’s intervention, but Palace actually led in this clash twice before Sir Alex Ferguson’s side forced a draw at Wembley.

Gary O’Reilly headed home an early free-kick to put the Eagles in-front, but goals from Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes either side of the break gave United the advantage.

Enter Wright, who had missed much of the season with a broken leg. Three minutes after coming off the bench, he beat two defenders before firing into the bottom corner past Jim Leighton.

The match drifted to extra-time, and Wright then thought he’d won it for Steve Coppell’s men when he repeated the trick on 92 minutes. However, United had time to find an equaliser, and Hughes struck in the second short period to force a replay.

Lee Martin’s solitary strike was the difference on the next occasion.

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United – 1978/79

Remembered by many as ‘the five-minute final’, Arsenal nearly threw it away against the Red Devils before Alan Sunderland’s 89th minute strike took the title to north London.

Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton put the Gunners in complete control in the first-half, with Terry Neill looking to claim his first trophy as manager during his third season at the helm.

However, defender Gordon McQueen gave the Red Devils hope on 86 minutes, and Sammy McIlroy seemed to send the game to extra-time when he scored a fine individual goal.

It wasn’t to be though, and as United fans celebrated in the stands, Sunderland earned his place in north London folklore with a dramatic winner.

Blackpool 4-3 Bolton Wanderers – 1952/53

‘The Stanley Matthews final’ saw Blackpool turn things around in the most dramatic fashion, scoring in the 89th minute and then injury-time to steal the trophy from Bolton’s grasp.

Nat Lofthouse gave the Trotters the lead, before Stan Mortensen pulled the Tangerines level. Bobby Langton put Bolton back in front before half-time, and then Eric Bell made it 3-1 on 55 minutes.

Matthews would not be denied in a third final however, setting-up Mortensen in the 68th minute with a fine cross. He then completed his hat-trick with a free-kick, before Matthews again delivered a telling cross for Bill Perry to hit home the winner.

Special Mentions:

Some famous games missed out of course, and closest to making the cut were Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Leeds United in 1972-73, and Wimbledon’s ‘crazy gang’ victory over Liverpool in 1987-88.

Additionally, Coventry’s 3-2 win over Spurs, Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Everton, Southampton’s 1-0 win over Manchester United and Brighton’s almost win over the Red Devils in 1982/83 were also considered.

FA Cup

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