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Five of the most memorable FA Cup semi-finals ever

The FA Cup reaches the semi-final stage this weekend with two exciting looking clashes in the last four, holders Manchester City meeting record winners Arsenal on Saturday before Manchester United face Chelsea the following day.

Each side will have high hopes of lifting the famous old trophy after reaching the latter stages of the competition, but first must navigate the pressure of a semi-final encounter to earn their place in next month’s showpiece.

Ahead of this weekend’s clashes, we’ve decided to look back at some of the best last four encounters in cup history.

Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool (1990)

Liverpool have been on the wrong end of some memorable cup upsets and whilst their defeat to Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ in the 1988 final remains iconic, this thrilling loss to Crystal Palace two years later stands out as one of the best semi-final clashes of all-time.

Kenny Dalglish’s side had beaten Palace by an aggregate score of 11-0, including a 9-0 thrashing at Anfield, in the two league fixtures between the sides and were in pursuit of a domestic double as they closed in on the First Division title.

Ian Rush’s opener for the Reds looked to set them on their way to victory, but a resilient Palace side hit back through goals from Mark Bright and Gary O’Reilly. Hopes of an upset looked to have vanished as Liverpool scored twice in three minutes via Steve McMahon and a John Barnes penalty to lead the tie with just seven minutes remaining at Villa Park.

Crystal Palace – despite the absence of Ian Wright – were more than plucky underdogs and continued the topsy-turvy nature of the tie by equalising to force extra-time, Andy Gray heading home as Liverpool struggled to deal with an aerial bombardment from the Eagles.

Those same set-piece specials later saw Palace snatch a dramatic and unlikely victory in the added period, Alan Pardew crashing home a header to book his side’s place at Wembley and win an enthralling semi-final.

Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal (1991)

The FA Cup‘s semi-finals may now regularly – to the dismay of many – be played at Wembley Stadium, but the first-ever last four meeting at the national stadium produced a classic contest between two bitter north London rivals.

Tottenham were the underdogs heading into a contest against an Arsenal side who would go on to be crowned as champions, but Spurs’ hopes were boosted by the presence of the magical Paul Gascoigne amid their ranks.

Gascoigne’s genius was at the peak of its powers as he dazzled on the Wembley turf, opening the scoring with a sensational strike – rocketing a 30-yard free-kick into the top corner after just five minutes to score one of the FA Cup’s all-time classic goals.

Gary Lineker doubled the lead with a typical poacher’s effort before Alan Smith’s header brought Arsenal back into the tie, though it would be the white half of north London celebrating as Lineker’s second of the afternoon – a fine run and finish past David Seaman – booked Tottenham’s place in the final.

Gascoigne’s post-match celebrations and interview remain one of the most iconic FA Cup moments, though his final would be soured after suffering a serious knee injury despite Spurs lifting the trophy against Nottingham Forest.

Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Sheffield United (1993)

Another local rivalry played out in the pressure-cooker of an FA Cup semi-final, Wembley was once again the host for a Steel City derby clash that will live long in the memory for fans of a Wednesday persuasion.

Chris Waddle’s set-piece stunner opened the scoring on an afternoon which seemed as if the whole of Sheffield had travelled down to the capital, the mercurial midfielder curling home an unstoppable effort after just two minutes to set the Owls on their way to victory.

Sheffield United were playing at Wembley for the first time in more than half a century and levelled through veteran Alan Cork, with nothing to separate the two sides after 90 minutes of action.

The Blades, however, were on the back foot for much of the tie as Wednesday surged forward in search of a winner. Goalkeeper Alan Kelly produced a string of saves, but United hearts and resistance were broken deep into the additional time, Mark Bright sending the Owls through to a showpiece meeting with Arsenal.

The final was the third time Wednesday travelled to Wembley that season after reaching the finals of both domestic cup competitions, though sadly for the Owls they left each showpiece empty-handed after defeats to Arsenal in both finals.

See also – How Waddle and the Owls became the beautiful losers of the nineties

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United (1999)

English football was defined by a classic rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United at the turn of the millennium, the two sides regularly going head-to-head for the game’s biggest prizes.

Arsene Wenger’s arrival in north London had galvanised the Gunners and they were seeking a second successive domestic double under the guidance of the Frenchman, but faced a Manchester United side competing on three fronts and chasing their own piece of unique history.

A fiercely contested meeting saw David Beckham open the scoring with a dipping effort from distance, before Dennis Bergkamp’s deflected drive levelled the scores in the second half.

Nicolas Anelka had a goal disallowed for offside before the momentum swung further in Arsenal’s direction, United captain Roy Keane dismissed for a second yellow card following a lunging challenge on Marc Overmars.

Bergkamp had the chance to win the tie for the Gunners in stoppage-time after Phil Neville clumsily brought down Ray Parlour in the penalty area, only for Peter Schmeichel to deny the Dutchman from the spot in stunning style to force the clash into extra-time.

The added period saw United seal victory in a pulsating clash as Ryan Giggs scored a goal that would define the nineties. The winger picked up Patrick Vieira’s wayward pass inside his own half before embarking on a sensational solo run into opposition territory, weaving his way through four Arsenal challenges before rifling the ball into the roof of the net past David Seaman.

An iconic goal was followed by an equally iconic celebration, a shirtless – and rather rug-chested Giggs – swirling his shirt above his head, his solo strike sealing United’s place in the final as the club went on to pip Arsenal to the title and seal a historic Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.

Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham (2017)

A modern classic as London rivalries were resumed at Wembley at the semi-final stage of the 2017 FA Cup, Chelsea and Tottenham playing out a six-goal thriller in a thoroughly entertaining last four meeting.

Willian opened the scoring on an atmospheric afternoon with a fine free-kick after just five minutes, before Harry Kane flicked home Christian Eriksen’s right-wing cross to level the scores.

Chelsea regained the lead via the penalty spot after Son Heung-Min brought down Victor Moses, Willian stepping up confidently to score his second of the game and put the west London side back ahead.

Tottenham, however, began to dominate and got a deserved equaliser through Dele Alli, the midfielder turning home Eriksen’s perfect delivery to level the scores early in the second half.

The introduction of Eden Hazard from the bench saw Chelsea hit back once more against the run of play, the brilliant Belgian drilling a low left-footed effort past Hugo Lloris to put Antonio Conte’s side in the ascendancy once more.

Their final place was assured courtesy of a blockbuster effort from Nemanja Matic, the midfielder hitting one of the FA Cup’s great thunderbastards – in off the crossbar – to book Chelsea a final meeting with Arsenal.

Read – 90’s Football Hall of Fame: Tony Yeboah, the thunderbastard king of Leeds

See also – Five of the most iconic goal celebrations in Premier League history: Cantona, Klinsmann, Fowler

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