FA Cup Final: Manchester City vs. Watford
The FA Cup Final 2019 saw Manchester City lift their sixth FA Cup. The Cityzens, under the leadership of manager Pep Guardiola, became the first English team to ever win a domestic treble of trophies.
Manchester City’s opponent for the 138th edition of the FA Cup was Watford. The Hornets best FA Cup finish prior to their appearance in the tournament final this past season was a runners-up performance in 1983-84.
Manager Javi Gracia’s team was unlikely opponents for fellow Premier League side Manchester City. Watford were one minute away from elimination from the FA Cup in the semifinals against Wolverhampton Wanderers. A fortuitous penalty call in second-half stoppage-time led to the Hornets equalising and ultimate progression to the final.
The FA Cup is the world’s oldest association football cup competition. The tournament was first held in 1871-72. Wanderers FC won the inaugural FA Cup tournament by defeating Royal Engineers at Kennington Oval. Wanderers FC won six of the first nine FA Cup tournaments held.
It wasn’t until 1883-84 that one of the more familiar names of English football today won the tournament. Blackburn Rovers lifted the FA Cup with a victory over Queen’s Park. Blackburn Rovers would win four consecutive FA Cup trophies.
Prior to 1922, the FA Cup Final rotated around England to a variety of football grounds. The likes of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, and Goodison Park all hosted FA Cup Final matches. For the 1922-23 season, the FA Cup Final was played at the original Wembley Stadium for the first time. The final would remain housed at Wembley Stadium until 2000 when it hosted its last cup finale.
Between 2001 and 2006, the FA Cup Final was held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium while the “new” Wembley Stadium was constructed. After a long wait, the FA Cup Final returned to Wembley in 2007 as Chelsea defeated Manchester United 1-0.
The FA Cup is the oldest knockout cup tournament in football. It brings together teams from the Premier League all the way down to the semi-professional level. Fans can see a big club such as Manchester United playing at an obscure ground in which semi-professional players compete. It is one of the great draws of the FA Cup and a reason it is an institution in England. Players who work a day job and play football for fun may get to compete against millionaire professionals and World Cup winners.
Another intriguing aspect of the FA Cup is its knockout format. Teams merely need to win one game to eliminate their opponent. If a match ends in a draw, the two teams will play a replay at the opposite football stadium. This format endures until the quarterfinal stage of the competition.
There have been a wealth of historical moments in the FA Cup. Many of the best remembered games involve underdogs rising to the occasion to defeat high-powered teams with star players.
The 1988 final is one of the most well-remembered as Wimbledon defeated Liverpool 1-0. Wimbledon were a collection of hardnosed veteran players while Liverpool were England’s team of the 1980s. The Reds played flashy football but, on the day, Wimbledon out played Liverpool to lift the cup and write their names in history books.
More recently, the 2013 final featured Wigan against Manchester City with the former team relegated from the Premier League just weeks prior. Despite being massive underdogs, Wigan stood toe to toe with Manchester City and won the final with a goal in second-half stoppage-time.
The FA Cup Final 2019 was far from a classic. Manchester City, fresh off of winning the Premier League title on a dramatic final day of the season, romped past a poor Watford side, 6-0. The Cityzens had the fixture wrapped up within the opening 60 minutes after going up 3-0 thanks to goals from David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, and Kevin De Bruyne.
Manchester City’s 6-0 win tied Bury’s 1903 FA Cup Final victory over Derby County as the largest winning margins in the tournament’s history.
Manchester City were tipped by bookies to lift the FA Cup. The Cityzens had just won the Premier League title and, three months prior, the Carabao Cup.
Watford went into the final as 12/1 to win the match in 90 minutes. Manchester City, on the other hand, were 2/9 to win in regular time and 1/8 to lift the cup on the day.
Manchester City started the final on the front foot attacking Watford. With the Premier League title secured on the final day over Liverpool, the Cityzens played with a freedom that had been lacking for several weeks.
Watford took the full force of Manchester City’s attack and in the 26th minute, allowed Jesus to score the opener. Twelve minutes later, Jesus added a second goal to his name and the route was on. Watford were unable to stop the floodgates in defence or create anything in the final third. They were fortunate to go into halftime down by just two goals.
The second half started much the same with Manchester City relentless in attack. De Bruyne put the match to bed just after the hour-mark and Jesus capped off his hat-trick seven minutes later. The bleeding wasn’t finished yet for Watford as Raheem Sterling added two goals in the final nine minutes.
Manchester City kept 70% of the possession and starved Watford of the ball. They made 631 passes to Watford’s pathetic 280. Manchester City’s relentless attack was personified by their 13 corners. Watford tallied just one.
The FA Cup winner not only receives the prestigious FA Cup trophy, but they also receive a cash prize. Although the amount is peanuts compare to the Champions League or Premier League winner, it is still a handsome sum. Manchester City earned £3.6 million for their win while Watford were handed £1.8m as runners-up.
The tournament winners typically receive a berth in next season’s Europa League tournament. However, Manchester City’s Premier League title win already meant they had qualified for the Champions League. Their qualification to the Europa League was passed on to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who finished seventh in the Premier League.
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