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2016 FA Cup Final – Did Clattenburg steal the spotlight?

Crystal Palace lost in heart-breaking fashion to the now twelve time winners Manchester United in 135th edition of the FA Cup final this afternoon. Twenty-three year old Jesse Lingard stole the headlines, scoring a magnificent goal in extra time to complete a United comeback. The result means United have denied the Eagles FA Cup glory for a second time, after winning the 1990 final in a replay. It is a similar story of disappointment for the current Palace manager, with Alan Pardew being a player during that final twenty-six years ago.  

Yet it is a game that will be talked about as much due to Mark Clattenburg’s refereeing decisions as well as the stunning 3 volleys the game produced. It was during the first half in which the referee’s impulsive and reckless calls led to Palace players’ incensement, as a first half led would surely have resulted had Clattenburg not been so quick with his whistle. The ref failed to play advantage as Connor Wickham was fouled by Chris Smalling, who then managed to shake him off and run through to put the ball into the net. However incredibly, the same thing almost happened again moments later. Joel Ward would have been through on goal had the game not been stopped for a foul committed by Marcus Rojo. Despite correctly condemning Smalling to a red card in extra time ( who has become only the 4th player to be sent off in a cup final), Pardew will undoubtedly point a finger towards the official who was conspicuously seen sharing a joke with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson before the start of the match.

Irrespective of this, Palace were the first side to take the led, with Jason Puncheon’s spectacular strike sending half of Wembley into ecstasy, while Pardew also rolled back his years with some classic dances moves of his own. The Palace boss was not partying for long however, as a brilliant run from man of the match Wayne Rooney led to Juan Mata firing in the equaliser just minutes later and sending the final into extra time. Yet the best goal of the match, and potentially the competition, was still to come. After Smalling was sent off for a second bookable offensive, young English prospect in the form of Jesse Lingard wrote himself into FA Cup history to win the cup for United with an instinctive volley that will live long in the memory.

Both teams have suffered so far this year, with United missing out on a top 4 spot while Palace managed to only win 2 league matches since the turn of the year. Nevertheless, the Eagles managed to avoid relegation from the Premier League, but will ultimately end up pondering  over how they have failed to finish the season in glorious style by securing their first ever FA Cup triumph. When United went down to 10 men, the game was certainly there for the taking, and even if the referee did make some bad decisions, it could be argued that a United side who did hit the post twice in normal time deserved to lift the trophy.  Disappointingly, the London club could not avenge the defeat of 1990 and can only hope that one day their time in the FA Cup will finally come.

By Freddie Alcock