Top 10 Greatest FA Cup Finals Of All-Time
The FA Cup is vaunted as the greatest cup competition in the world and there have certainly been some classic contests over the years to back up that assertion. Finals of any tournament can often be cagey affairs, but every so often both sides throw caution to the wind and produce an absolute classic. Here are the 10 best FA Cup finals to ever take place.
10. Arsenal 3-2 Hull 2014
This modern classic Cup final has gone a bit underrated since it occurred in 2014, perhaps because the favourites ended up winning, although that did not look like it was going to happen after 10 minutes had been played. Hull were lengthy underdogs going into the showpiece against Arsenal but found themselves 2-0 ahead after just eight minutes, with centre-backs James Chester and Curtis Davies both netting. Santi Cazorla responded with a stunning free-kick just eight minutes later but then the Gunners really hit a brick wall and struggled to break the Tigers down. Eventually Laurent Koscielny managed to find a way through with 20 minutes to play, the clash went to extra time where Aaron Ramsey found the winner and completed an epic comeback.
9. Crystal Palace 3-3 Man Utd 1990
1990 also saw two of the most exciting semi-finals in FA Cup history as Crystal Palace beat Liverpool 4-3 in extra-time at Villa Park and Manchester United drew 3-3 with Oldham, before beating them 2-1 in extra-time at Maine Road. The final then lived up to the expectation this built. United were favourites but Palace played a bright and aggressive brand of football under Steve Coppell and they took the lead thanks to Gary O’Reilly. Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes scored to put United into the lead but then Ian Wright came off the bench for the Eagles after recently returning from a broken leg. The future Arsenal legend scored to take it to extra-time then netted again to give Palace the lead. In the 109th minute Hughes struck for the second time and the tie ended 3-3. At that time there were no penalties and the game went to a replay which United won 1-0 but it is the first leg that will go down as a classic.
8. Everton 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday 1966
1966 was not just the summer that England won the World Cup, but also the time when one of the all-time FA Cup final classics was produced. In front of 100,000 people at Wembley, Sheffield Wednesday looked to be en route to glory as they took a 2-0 lead. Jim McCalliog netting in the fourth minute and David Ford in the 57th. Everton did anything but crumble, though, as Mike Trebilcock scored twice in five minutes after Wednesday’s second to take the game to 2-2. The wind was well and truly out of Wednesday’s sails and 10 minutes later Derek Temple made it 3-2 to the Toffees and that is how it stayed.
7. Liverpool 3-2 Everton 1989
One of a few extra-time FA Cup final classics, but this one had the added spice of being a Merseyside derby to boot. Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool were the favourites against Colin Harvey’s Everton side and they duly took the lead through John Aldridge after just four minutes. The scoreline remained that way all the way till the 89th when substitute Stuart McCall netted for the Toffees to take the game into the extended stanza. That’s when the game became a classic as Ian Rush, also off the bench, restored Liverpool’s lead but McCall got a second to make things level once more. The Reds were not to be denied though as Rush scored again to make it 3-2 and net the fourth goal in 15 crazy Wembley minutes.
6. Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd 1979
You will struggle to find a more dramatic ending to a Cup final than in 1979 when three goals in the last four minutes turned the tie on its head and then back again. Arsenal looked to be cruising to victory having gone 2-0 ahead at half-time through Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton. They got to the 85th minute with this lead intact but then things changed. Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy struck for United in the 86th and 88th minutes and they looked to have, remarkably, secured a trip into extra-time. It was not to be for the Red Devils, though, as just a minute later Alan Sunderland found the back of the net to restore the Gunners’ lead and hand them the famous trophy.
5. Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool 1988
Often cited as the greatest FA Cup final upset, this one was not a high-scoring goal-fest, but it was a memorable final for the winners and the famous action from the penalty spot. Wimbledon had only been in the Football League for 11 seasons whilst Liverpool were the dominant force in the country and had just won the league title. No one gave the Crazy Gang much of a chance against Dalglish’s side in the final. However, Wimbledon were never fans of the script and they duly tore it up as Lawrie Sanchez put them ahead in the first half. An hour in their captain Dave Beasant became the first goalkeeper to save a Cup final penalty and they held on to secure a stunning victory.
4. Coventry 3-2 Tottenham 1987
One of the biggest upsets in FA Cup final history as Coventry, appearing in their first ever domestic final, bested Spurs who were in their third final in seven years. Tottenham were huge favourites heading to Wembley and it looked like they would justify that tag when Clive Allen put them ahead after just two minutes. Dave Bennett equalised just seven minutes later, signalling the Sky Blues’ intent to put up a fight. Gary Mabbutt would regain the lead for Tottenham before Keith Houchen again levelled things up and took the game to extra-time. It was in the extended period that disaster struck for Spurs and in particular Mabbutt. The defensive stalwart was hugely unlucky to send a cross off his knee and over goalkeeper Ray Clemence to score an own goal and hand the cup to Cov in the 95th minute which his side couldn’t recover from.
3. Tottenham 3-2 Man City 1981
A great game and one of the greatest goals in Wembley history gave Spurs the FA Cup in 1981. The first contest between Tottenham and Man City ended 1-1 so they went to a replay which saw Spurs take the lead, only for City to score twice to claim it for themselves. With 20 minutes to go Garth Crooks levelled things up for Tottenham and then the magic happened. Ricardo Villa had it all to do when he picked up the ball but he beat four City players and slotted home past Joe Corrigan to score one of Wembley’s greatest ever goals and win the game 3-2 for his side.
2. Liverpool 3-3 West Ham 2006 (Liverpool won 3-1 on pens)
Steven Gerrard’s last minute equaliser in this match is one of the most replayed FA Cup goals of all time and deservedly so. The Reds were hot favourites going into this one but found themselves 2-0 down to West Ham just half an hour in thanks to a Jamie Carragher own goal and Dean Ashton. Rafael Benitez’s dragged it back to 2-2 through Djibril Cisse and Gerrard’s first, but Paul Konchesky put the Hammers back in front on 64 minutes. The see-saw battle looked to be going the way of the Londoners but up stepped the captain who rifled home from a hell of a distance to take the game to extra-time. The match reached penalties and the Hammers couldn’t handle the pressure, missing three of their four spot kicks whist the Scousers scored three of their four to claim the trophy.
1. Blackpool 4-3 Preston 1953
Famously known as the ‘Matthews Final’ this Wembley showpiece had everything between two giants of the time that have since diminished in stature. After 55 minutes, Bolton were 3-1 ahead thanks to goals from Nat Lofthouse, captain Willie Moir and Eric Bell. Stan Mortensen had scored Blackpool’s solitary goal at that point. It was then that the game’s moniker was earned as Stanley Matthews, the legendary England winger, put in a sublime display to bring his side glory. Matthews did not score, in fact it was Mortensen who scored the first, and still only, Wembley Cup final hat-trick, but it was Matthews who stole the show and inspired the Tangerines to a 4-3 win. Mortensen’s second two goals levelled things before Bill Perry scored a 92nd minute winner.
Read our preview of this year's FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea here.
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