Football: Watford fall to Manchester United in FA Cup

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Watford F.C. 1 4 Manchester United F.C.

Match Stats
Attendance 37425
Goalscorers for Watford F.C. Bouazza (26')
Goalscorers for Manchester United F.C. Rooney (7', 66'), Ronaldo (28'), Richardson (82')
Bookings (Watford F.C.) DeMerit (Yellow (1))
Bookings (Manchester United F.C.) Rooney, Carrick (Yellow (2))

Manchester United and Watford met Saturday at the neutral ground of Villa Park for the semi-final of the FA Cup. Both teams went into the game on highs, as United had thrashed Roma 7-1 during the week, and Watford had defeated Portsmouth 4-2 in the Premiership. With that confidence boost for Watford boss Adrian Boothroyd, Watford sported an attacking lineup with Hameur Bouazza and Tamas Priskin as strikers. United's recent injury troubles allowed Alan Smith to play as strike partner to Wayne Rooney with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the bench.

The first chance in the match fell to United, and the Red Devils capitalized. A long ball by Carrick was left by both Smith and Giggs before it came to Rooney, and he cut inside before blasting a shot high to the right of Richard Lee, giving United an early lead. Watford were not dispirited by the early goal, and soon began to create chances through set pieces. A flailing boot by a Watford player in the area connected with Edwin Van Der Sar's recently healed nose, and the big Dutch keeper had to have splints put in before play could continue. Watford took advantage of the stoppage to catch their breath, and scored as soon as play resumed when Hameur Bouazza's side footed volley caught Van Der Sar unaware, and crept in off the crossbar after deflecting off Gabriel Heinze. United's response was nearly instant, as Smith's pass into Rooney released him on the right. After Lee nearly blocked a pass into Ronaldo, the Portuguese winger was able to bobble the ball home, scoring his twenty-first goal of the season, and restoring United's lead. Gavin Mahon then had a chance to equalize again for Watford, but his side footed volley was saved by Van Der Sar. Ronaldo then had a chance for his second as he was released by Rooney, but a last ditch tackle by DeMerit kept the scoreline at 2-1. A groin injury for United's Rio Ferdinand then forced Alex Ferguson to replace him with Darren Fletcher, a move which saw a shuffle in the entire back line. Rooney then had a chance for a brace, but his hard shot was palmed away by Lee.

Watford started the second half strongly with Bouazza nearly scoring off a long throw, but his side footed effort went just wide. Alan Smith then set up Rooney's second goal of the match as his curling cross was easily deflected in by Rooney's left foot. Cristiano Ronaldo was then replaced with Kieran Richardson, and the substitute made nearly an instant impact, scoring United's fourth goal of the afternoon. A well timed pass by Smith was met by the sprinting Richardson, and he easily chipped the ball over Lee and into the back of the net to secure a place in the final for United.

Relegation bound Watford will meet Blackburn in the Premiership next, while United have a league game of their own at Old Trafford against Sheffield United.