As the Eagles entered the final 10 minutes of the 90 in their FA Cup semi-final against Watford, Alan Pardew bought on his second of three substitutes, Bakary Sako, to keep the Hornets at bay as the clock counted down to a second FA Cup final appearance for the Eagles.
Sako made his third FA Cup appearance of the season in front of nearly 80,000 at Wembley, in a competition that the Malian winger knows all about going back to when he lived and played in France.
“I know the FA Cup is very important here in England,” said Sako. “I really appreciate it because I’ve watched a lot of the finals and to say now that I could be there makes me very happy. The way I’ve come from Wolves to then get to an FA Cup Final at Wembley makes me very proud and the atmosphere will be amazing - I’m really looking forward to it.”
In the week running up to the Watford game, Palace boss Alan Pardew made a point of bringing in all the Eagles squad to be part of the preparations as well as providing valuable experience and guidance, particularly from the senior squad members including Paddy McCarthy and Brede Hangeland.
That squad unity was evident not only in the spirit of the team but in the play on the pitch yesterday with all players defending and attacking together, no matter what their position on the team sheet - and it paid dividends at both ends.
“It was great to have all the squad together,” said the 27-year-old. “That was to show everyone we stand together and we wanted to show the spirit of the team. It’s very important for us and for people to see – we all feel very good, very good. We couldn’t do better than we’ve done today and we are all very proud to bring the club to the final.
“We wanted to control the game from the start and I think we did quite well so the game plan worked very well for us. As attackers we need to do the job of defending from the front so there’s less work for the midfielders and defenders and this is very good for the whole team.
"Yannick has been looking very sharp and he was fighting for every ball today. Luckily for us he got the goal and he was involved with the second one as well so that’s very good for us.”
Before the game, Pardew showed the video of the Eagles' famous 1990 FA Cup run, complete with his semi-final winner at Villa Park against Liverpool to cause shockwaves in English football. After the game, in his post-match changing room speech, the manager again recalled 1990, but urged his players to write their own history and get that elusive final win.
“He said it was one more step for us to make history and we can make it,” said Sako. “The final will be a tough game, but in one game we can make history. He talked about when he played against United, but this final will be a totally different game and hopefully we can win.
“We’re going to recover and celebrate a little bit, but we will then focus on battling hard against Newcastle.”