LONDON (AFP) – Watford captain Troy Deeney hailed his side’s “special” comeback as they reached the FA Cup final for the first time since 1984 with a dramatic 3-2 win over Wolves on Sunday (April 7).
Javi Gracia’s side were 11 minutes from bowing out at the semi-final stage after Wolves raced into a two-goal lead at Wembley. But substitute Gerard Deulofeu gave Watford a lifeline with a superb strike, setting the stage for Deeney to win a penalty deep into stoppage-time when he was tripped by Leander Dendoncker.
Deeney admitted it was an anxious moment as he waited for VAR to confirm the foul, but he held his nerve to score the most important goal of his life with a fierce blast from the spot.
Deulofeu completed Watford’s stunning revival in extra-time when he calmly slotted in the winner set up a final date with Manchester City on May 18.
“I’m not going to lie, I just hit it as hard as I could. You know if you miss you’re out, so I just had a word with myself and calmed down,” Deeney said. “I’d been practising them but this emotion you can’t really create on the training pitch so I took myself away and calmed myself down and got myself in that training pitch mode.”
Gracia admitted he was pinching himself when Watford snatched their last-gasp leveller. “Everything was lost, but we were able to show our character and at this moment I am very proud of my players,” he said.
“We tried until the end and sometimes it happens if you believe.”
Watford will be bidding to win the FA Cup for the first time when they face City, after their only other final appearance ended in defeat against Everton 35 years ago.
That Hornets team, managed by legendary boss Graham Taylor, was the finest in the club’s history. But Deeney believes the current crop are building something memorable as well.
“I’ve said on many occasions that this team has something special. We’re not the most talented, we’re not all that,” he said. “The hard work and desire at 2-0 down, many teams would’ve called it a day but we kept fighting and kept going and brought the little man on, who produced a bit of magic.
“We’ve got room to grow, there’s not a ceiling on us yet a team. For a club of this size, let’s enjoy this moment.”
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo admitted it was devastating to miss out on the club’s first FA Cup final appearance since 1960.
“It was an emotional game. We had it, and it got away from us. It was a sad moment, we cannot hide it. Now it is disappointing and sadness,” he said.