5 things we learned from Crystal Palace's FA Cup semi-final win over Watford


Crystal Palace's 2-1 FA Cup semi-final win over Watford has presented their manager Alan Pardew with a third chance of winning the competition that has long been close to his heart, while increasing the pressure on Hornets boss Quique Sanchez Flores.

Here, football writer Declan Warrington lists five things we learned from a fixture that will do much to define both teams' seasons.

1. Alan Pardew has significant faith in Connor Wickham.

Connor Wickham celebrates scoring for Crystal Palace
(Andrew Matthews/EMPICS)

It surprised that, at a time when Connor Wickham has appeared short of match sharpness, and Emmanuel Adebayor has demonstrated promise, Pardew selected the Englishman as his sole striker. His goal threat has been lacking this season, but clearly the manager believed he had the potential to be decisive for Palace, and so it proved.

2. Costel Pantilimon cannot be relied upon.

It says something that at a club where Heurelho Gomes is the first-choice goalkeeper, it is Costel Pantilimon who is considered the liability. He let his team down when allowing Yannick Bolasie's header to beat him at his near post for Palace's opening goal, and failed to settle thereafter, inspiring little confidence from his team.

3. The FA Cup retains its magic.

In an era when the FA Cup does not attract the interest it often deserves, Yannick Bolasie scored Crystal Palace's opening goal having missed out the last time his team reached Wembley - also against Watford, in 2013´s play-off final. Victory also earned Pardew a third chance at glory in the final, 10 years after he managed West Ham there, and against the team who denied him as a player in 1990, Manchester United.

4. Quique Sanchez Flores is a victim of unrealistic expectations.

Quique Sanchez Flores on the bench at Wembley
(Steve Paston/PA)

The Watford manager should be considered one of the successes of the season, but instead, the feeling at Wembley was that defeat intensified the pressure he is already under. They appeared likely candidates for relegation at the season's start, but are comfortably above the bottom three having reached the FA Cup semi-finals by eliminating Arsenal, winners during the past two years. If he ends up leaving, it will be Watford's loss.

5. Manchester United are the favourites to win in the final.

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal laughs with Anthony Martial
(John Walton/PA)

Regardless of who progressed to the final as their opponents, Manchester United will miss a fine opportunity if they do not win on May 21. One thing that stood out at Wembley was the lack of true quality from either team: rarely did either look like scoring, and the first two goals were the result of mistakes in defence. With the ability United possess, they should win the final within normal time.