‘And Smith must score,’ the BBC commentator Peter Jones said, famously, back in 1983. It has been 40 years since Brighton & Hove Albion missed a golden opportunity to win the FA Cup Final against Manchester United at Wembley but last night, the echoes of their despair came rolling back down the decades.
It has been 40 years since Gordon Smith entered FA Cup folklore for all the wrong reasons by foiling the prediction and missing the chance to put Brighton 3-2 up against United in the last moments of extra time. United won the replay at a canter and “And Smith Must Score’ became the title of a Brighton fanzine. Four decades on, Brighton are back in the same dark place again.
This was not the final, of course, but the heartbreak was still there. And the sense of missed opportunity. The feeling of what might have been. The team that has lit up the Premier League this season, a club that has won plaudits for navigating the madness of modern football with grace and style and smarts, were the better side against United, still reeling from their Europa League humbling by Sevilla last week, and got stronger and stronger as the game went on.
There was a moment in extra time when it felt as if Kaoru Mitoma must score but he overran it in the United box. There was a moment in normal time when it felt as if Deniz Undav must score but the ball bounced off his shin when he tried to control it and only had David de Gea to beat.
There was a moment when it felt as if Danny Welbeck must score when he rose highest at a corner a few yards out but he headed it too high. And so the opportunity ebbed away and this semi-final went to penalties and United held their nerve and Brighton blinked first.
Victor Lindelof scored the winning penalty to send Manchester United into the FA Cup final where they face Manchester City
Manchester United’s stars burst from the halfway line to celebrate as Lindelof’s penalty finds the back of the net on Sunday
Solly March (blue white top) blasted his penalty over the bar to hand Manchester United advantage in the penalty shoot-out
And so United will play against Manchester City in an all-Manchester FA Cup Final here on June 3. It may be that City have won the Premier League by then. It may be that City will have made it past Real Madrid into the Champions League final which will be played in Istanbul on June 10.
It may be that it will fall to United to stop City becoming only the second time in English football history to win the Treble. United, of course, were the first. United will have to play a lot better than they did against Roberto de Zerbi’s side if they are to have any chance of derailing the Pep Guardiola Bullet Train but they have a chance to add a second trophy to their haul this season. It represents another step forward for the reign of Erik ten Hag.
United deserved to go through if only for their resilience. Brighton shaded the match and grew stronger the longer the contest went on but Robert Sanchez, who had denied Marcus Rashford with a brilliant save late in the game, could not stop any of United’s first six penalties after the game had ended scoreless at the end of extra time.
United’s penalty-takers showed commendable composure, particularly Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. Both had missed penalties at this stadium at the end of the Euro 2020 final against Italy. Both hit brilliant spot kicks that gave Sanchez no chance. After six penalties each, Solly March, one of their most loyal servants, a player synonymous with their rise, stepped up for Brighton and blazed his kick high over the bar. Victor Lindelof, an unlikely hero, converted his with outward calm. Brighton’s FA Cup dream had been dashed by United again.
The drama was back-loaded. After United’s recent woes, Brighton started the game as favourites but it was a cagey start. De Gea was the first goalkeeper to be called into action. Seven minutes had gone when Mitoma was brought down on the edge of the United box by a shove from Antony. Alexis Mac Allister curled the ball around the wall and it was clawed away, with an element of fortune, by De Gea.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi rallied round a dejected March (right) at the end of the match as Brighton exited the FA Cup
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (middle) remained calm at full-time as his side booked their place in the Cup final
Robert de Zerbi (left) and Erik ten Hag (right) played out an interesting tactical battle on the touchline which led to a stalemate
Brighton & Hove Albion: Sanchez 7– Gross 7, Webster 7, Dunk 6, Estupinan 6 – Caicedo 8, Mac Allister 7 – March 7, Enciso 7(Veltman 67 6), Mitoma 7 – Welbeck 6(Undav 75 6).
Manchester United: De Gea 7 – Wan-Bissaka 8(Malacia 101 6), Lindelof 7, Shaw 6, Dalot 7 – Casemiro 6, Eriksen 5(Fred 62 6) – Antony 7(Sabitzer 90 6), Fernandes 7(Weghorst 101 6), Rashford 6 – Martial 5(Sancho 85).
Referee: Craig Pawson 7
In breaks between lying on the turf and complaining to the referee, Bruno Fernandes looked the sharpest of United’s midfielders and drove them forward as best he could but as the half wore on, Mac Allister and Caicedo gained more control and Brighton began to find space in behind United’s full backs.
Julio Enciso, a font of relentless energy, drove a shot just wide ten minutes before the interval after an incisive run from Mitoma. Soon after, Casemiro received his customary booking, this time for an unpleasant tackle from behind on Mac Allister. For such a fine player, it is a shame he lacks the judgment and the reserve to stay out of trouble.
Fernandes embarked on another epic bout of complaining, interspersed with falling to the floor, clutching his face, after he had lost his balance in a challenge. He was so busy with those events, it almost seemed to come as a surprise to him when he was presented with a chance five minutes before half time. He could not convert it.
United, though, did enjoy their best spell of the half as the interval approached. Anthony Martial should have done better when he caught Sanchez off his line but lifted the ball high over the bar. And when Rashford burst through and cut the ball back for Christian Eriksen, Eriksen could only hit it straight at Sanchez, who kicked it clear.
Antony started the second half with a burst of acceleration that left Lewis Dunk standing but he could not quite pick out Martial with his cross. At the other end, De Gea made a brilliant reaction save to keep out a rising drive from Enciso. Welbeck should have scored against his old club from the resulting corner but his free header from six yards out went high over the crossbar.
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea produced an outstanding diving save to deny Brighton in the second-half
Bruno Fernandes was at the heart of every positive piece of attacking play but couldn’t take his chance just before the break
Welbeck had to be substituted soon afterwards with a knee injury sustained when he landed awkwardly after fouling Lindelof and both sides struggled to make clear cut chances. Eight minutes from time, De Gea saved well from Solly March after he had cut inside on his left foot. The United goalkeeper did even better to recover the ball before Pascal Gross pounced on the rebound.
Brighton finally carved the United defence open four minutes into extra time but when the ball reached substitute Undav alone ten yards out, his first touch bounced off him and the ball rolled to safety. United hit back and Jadon Sancho’s floated cross was glanced wide by Marcel Sabitzer.
Both sides refused to sit back. Fred and Sancho worked the ball to Rashford on the edge of the box and when the England forward’s shot deflected off Adam Webster and headed for the corner of the goal, Rashford thought he had scored. Sanchez flung himself to his left and tipped it round the post. It was a brilliant save. Dunk, Brighton’s captain, rushed over to congratulate him.
Rashford cut in from the left and flashed a shot wide and Mitoma and Mac Allister weaved through the United box to set up a chance Mitoma could not quite finish. Brighton finished the stronger side, as if they knew this was their best chance of victory but neither could do enough to ward off penalties. Suddenly, the echoes of 1983 began to grow louder.
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-12004981/Brighton-0-0-Manchester-United-6-7-pens-Victor-Lindelof-scores-winner-penalty-shoot-out.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270