Aston Villa provided a huge shock on Sunday as they beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley Stadium to seal an FA Cup final against Arsenal on May 30 and deny Steven Gerrard a fairytale finish to his Liverpool career.
It all started so well in the semifinal for Liverpool as Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring in the first half. Villa responded well after going behind and Chrsitian Benteke finished off a flowing team move to make it 1-1. In the second half Fabian Delph delivered the game-winning moment as Tim Sherwood punched the air with glee as the final whistle blew at Wembley and Villa’s fans rejoiced at reaching their first FA Cup final in 15 years and also hand themselves a huge boost in their fight against relegation from the Premier League.
After a positive start Villa were dealt a blow as center back Nathan Baker had to be replaced by Jonas Okore after Baker fell awkwardly after an aerial challenge.
That change disrupted the underdogs flow and in the 29th minute a driving run forward from Jordan Henderson opened up Villa’s defense. The ball then pinballed around as Villa couldn’t clear their lines and Raheem Sterling found Coutinho who took one touch to settle himself before slotting home his third goal of the FA Cup campaign to put Liverpool 1-0 up.
Villa weren’t rattled by that opener and were soon level as Jack Grealish played in Fabian Delph down the left and his cut-back was finished coolly by Benteke. 1-1. Coutinho and Dejan Lovren went close before half time for Liverpool, but Villa were good value to go in level at the break.
At half time Mario Balotelli replaced Lazar Markovic as Liverpool pushed the Italian up top and moved Sterling out wide. That switch did little to swing the tie in Liverpool’s favor as Gerrard’s long-range effort went over, then Benteke had an effort at the other end which tamely made its way through to Simon Mignolet.
Delph then gave Villa their first lead of the match as Benteke surged clear of Liverpool’s defense, played a wonderful backheel to Grealish and the teenager found Delph who sent a composed finish past Mignolet who dove the wrong way. 55 minutes gone, 2-1 to Villa.
Gerrard went close to equalizing for Liverpool as his glancing header was cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson as the Reds skipper tried to drag his team back on level terms. Late on Liverpool tried to pile on the pressure but could not break down a resolute Villa defense, despite Balotelli looking clearly onside as he slotted home but was flagged off, as Sherwood’s boys made their first FA Cup final since 2000.
After being denied a fairytale end to his Liverpool career by captaining his boyhood club in an FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30, which is also his 35th birthday, Gerrard will now make his final appearance for the Reds at Stoke City on May 24.