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Man Utd avoid epic collapse, reach FA Cup final after PKs

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Manchester United recovered from the embarrassment of blowing a 3-0 lead to Championship side Coventry City to win Sunday’s helter-skelter FA Cup semifinal on penalty kicks.

United will once again face Manchester City in the final on May 25.

Erik ten Hag’s side benefited from a narrow offside call just to get to the shootout. Victor Torp thought he had scored a sensational winner for Coventry in the 122nd minute of extra time, but the VAR ruled teammate Haji Wright a fraction offside in the buildup.

Rasmus Hojlund‘s blistering spot-kick then proved decisive as United clinched the shootout 4-2.

Coventry forced extra time with a stunning three-goal swing in the final half-hour of regular time. Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare scored in the 71st and 79th minutes, respectively, and Wright completed the turnaround from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

United and Coventry each hit the crossbar in extra time before settling for penalties. Ben Sheaf skied his attempt for Coventry moments after Andre Onana saved O’Hare’s, setting the stage for Hojlund to give United much-needed relief.

When asked about the manner in which his team crumbled, Ten Hag was defiant, saying it was a “huge achievement” to reach a second FA Cup final in two seasons and that United had to combat calls against them to do so.

“I see the mistakes we make,” the Dutchman told reporters. “You can’t look away from it. But it’s not an embarrassment. … With all the setbacks we had this season – also today at 3-3, it’s absolutely crazy that decision (to give a penalty) – and if there’s consistency, we should have the opportunity to make it 4-3 as well. That was more of a handball than the penalty we concede. That also happens lately as well.”

Though the Red Devils have let leads slip away – notably allowing Chelsea to win 4-3 in the Premier League earlier this month with two goals scored in second-half stoppage time – few could’ve expected such a turn of events at Wembley Stadium. United were up 2-0 and in complete control by half-time, and when Bruno Fernandes struck in the 58th minute, there seemed no way back for the Championship’s eighth-placed team.

But Coventry were in a similar position before. Their magnificent FA Cup run, which began in the third round with a 6-2 win over League One’s Oxford United, culminated in a dramatic 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Wolverhampton, achieved only by a pair of injury-time goals.

Simms was Coventry’s standout player in the early rounds, and it was only right his goal breathed life into their comeback attempt. His exceptionally taken half-volley from close range gave him his sixth FA Cup goal of the season, the most by any Coventry player in a single campaign since Keith Houchen in 1986-87, the year the club won the competition for the first and only time.

United suddenly looked frazzled, and O’Hare earned a touch of luck when his drive took a deflection on its way up and over Onana and into the net. A pivotal handball call against Aaron Wan-Bissaka allowed Wright to score the equalizer.

United overcame a seesaw FA Cup quarterfinal of their own to get to this point, beating Liverpool 4-3 after trailing 3-2 in extra time. Amad Diallo‘s 121st-minute goal clinched their place in the semifinals.

They’d prevail once again in the most chaotic circumstances, robbing Coventry of the opportunity to become the first non-Premier League side to reach the final since Cardiff City in 2008.

“We were 20 seconds away and a toenail offside, it’s ridiculous,” Coventry manager Mark Robins said. “Disappointed but we have to be really proud. Once the dust settles, a lot of people will talk about that game for a long time.”

The FA Cup is the last trophy United can win amid a disappointing second season under Ten Hag. Currently seventh in the Premier League table, United are expected to miss out on Champions League football for the second time in three seasons.

But they’ll have a chance to exact revenge against City in the FA Cup final and deny their rivals a chance to win a domestic double after failing to dent their treble charge last year. City beat United 2-1 in the end-of-season showpiece event in May 2023, thanks to a pair of goals from Ilkay Gundogan.


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