Famous FA Cup Semi-Final Shocks

With just one game between them and a place in football’s greatest domestic cup final, fans, players and staff alike can be forgiven for beginning to dream about lifting the famous FA Cup trophy. But first they must negotiate their way past the semi-final stage, a stage where the losers are rarely remembered and a stage where shocks can happen and have been witnessed.

For famous shocks of the FA Cup rounds three to six, please click on the following links.

Round Three Part 1

Round Three Part 2

Round Four

Round Five


Famous FA Cup Semi-Final Shocks

Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool, 1990

At the time, as they are now, both teams were plying their trade in the top flight of English football. However, in the early part of the 1989/90 season Liverpool gave Palace, who had just been promoted, a crash course in playing football at highest level. They thumped the Eagles 9-0 at Anfield and with this still fresh in everyone’s mind, the smart money was on another victory for the Reds of Merseyside.

The Eagles came into this game a stronger team than the one destroyed earlier in the season, and they also had a tactic in mind: man-mark the Liverpool danger men, keep it as tight as possible and come half time a chance of progressing could be there. A simple tactic but one that can be very effective. Ian Rush gave Liverpool the lead on 14 minutes and another comfortable game seemed on the cards, however, Palace stuck to their tactics and got to half time without conceding again.

Much to the surprise of everyone, including their own supporters, Palace came out for the second half with all guns blazing and before Liverpool’s manager Kenny Dalglish had taken his seat back in the dugout, they had equalized through Mark Bright to stun the favourites.

25 minutes later and things got even better for then men from London when centre-back Gary O’Reilly put them in front after a set piece caused a scramble in the box. With 20 minutes still remaining, Liverpool were by no means beaten and in the space of just two minutes they had retaken the lead. Steve McMahon scored on 81 minutes to level the game and then a John Barnes penalty on 83 minutes put Liverpool back in front.

With just seven minutes remaining it was felt that Liverpool had got themselves out of jail but Palace were made of sterner stuff. With just two minutes of normal time remaining, midfielder Andy Gray equalised to send the game into a nail biting extra 30 minutes.

On 109 minutes a goal was scored that will long live in the memories of Palace supporters and football supporters around the world. Alan Pardew headed in after a corner was flicked on at the near post to put the Eagles through to their first ever FA Cup Final. This was a typical FA Cup tie that had virtually everything, and was one of the best semi-finals in football history.

Middlesbrough 3-3 Chesterfield, 1997

This was a semi-final case of so near, yet so far for Division Two side Chesterfield. Premiership, as it was called then, outfit Middlesbrough boasted the likes of the Brazilians Juninho and Emerson plus Italian international striker Fabrizio Ravenelli and were rightly seen as massive favourites to ease through to the final.

Boro had several chances to take the lead in the first half but failed to take any of them. The tide turned dramatically in the 37th minute when the Teessiders’ Vladmir Kinder was sent off for a second bookable offence to give Chesterfield a man advantage. It took until the second half for the underdogs to take the initiative, but when they did, they took it with both hands.

Andy Morris put The Spireites in front from close range and then on the hour, Boro ‘keeper Ben Roberts brought down Morris in the area and Sean Dyche hammered home the resulting penalty. The underdogs were in dreamland but Boro, even though they were down to 10 men, still had danger men in their side.

Just four minutes after going two down Ravenelli pulled a goal back. Chesterfield, however were not about to give up without a fight. On 69 minutes Jonathan Howard’s close range effort cannoned off the underside of the bar and appeared to cross the line. The referee did not think it was a goal but replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the line. The goal would have put Boro two goals behind, and with a man down and time running out they may have struggled to come back.

Middlesbrough were awarded a soft penalty, which Craig Hignett dispatched. It was now the Teessiders who had the initiative and as the game went on it looked like they would narrowly get through it. The contest went into extra time and when defender Gianluca Festa put Boro ahead the underdogs’ dreams looked in tatters.

A shock draw was still on the cards but with the extra time final whistle looming the fairytale looked unlikely. That is until Chesterfield born Jamie Hewitt looped a header past Ben Roberts in the 119th minute to send their supporters wild and give them a thoroughly deserved replay.

Sunderland 1-0 Norwich, 1992

With almost the same players playing week in week out and underperforming in the league, Sunderland’s caretaker manager Malcolm Crosby managed to produce a side for the FA Cup who at times looked like world beaters.

The Black Cats had dispatched First Division sides Chelsea in the quarter-final and West Ham United in the fifth round. Even so, many fans around the country and experts alike thought that this game was where their cup run would end due to the increasing pressures not to be relegated to England’s third tier for only the second time in their long history.

Despite missing several players, First Division Norwich City were confident heading into this tie at Hillsborough, Sheffield. Their main striker, Scotland’s Robert Fleck, had been passed fit and with pressure mounting on The Black Cats in the league, the Canaries had confidence that they would be strong enough to defeat their opponents and reach their first ever cup final.

Sunderland however, were using the cup as an escape from the rigours of league football and were playing without fear. They also had their now not-so-secret weapon up front in Eire International John Byrne who had scored in every round so far.

40,000 packed into Sheffield Wednesday’s home and the vast, towering Hillsborough Kop stand which housed the majority of Sunderland’s fans was a wall of noise which rattled every Norwich player and supporter alike. John Byrne headed in to an empty net on 34 minutes after a delightful cross from Brian Atkinson to send Sunderland supporters in every part of the ground into dreamland.

Try as they might, Norwich could not find a way past a stubborn Black Cats defence and could have few complaints about how the afternoon had gone. Sunderland’s and John Byrne’s fairytale cup run would continue and deservedly so as they reached their first FA Cup Final since their famous trip in 1973.