Yohan Cabaye’s 84th minute penalty and an injury-time goal from Fraizer Campbell was enough to send Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-final at the expense of Reading after a pulsating cup-tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Having suffered late penalty heartache last weekend, Palace were on the receiving end of some good fortune when Yannick Bolasie was tugged back in the area by Michael Cooper, who was sent-off before the Frenchman dispatched the spot-kick, and then substitute Campbell’s late tap-in sealed the Eagles’ route back to Wembley.
It was a game packed full of chances with the majority of the better ones coming to the visitors with Bolasie also hitting the bar after his side had taken the lead, but Cabaye’s precious strike was all that was needed to send the Eagles into the final four.
Getting underway amongst a feverish atmosphere in Berkshire with a packed house cheering on both sides, the game struggled to match its surroundings and chances were at a premium to begin with, and it took 24 minutes for the first save of the game to arrive when Michael Hector forced Wayne Hennessey to collect his header from an Oliver Norwood delivery.
However a couple of minutes later Al-Habsi dirtied his gloves for the first time when a Cabaye free-kick beat the wall but not the Oman international, and Bolasie then hit the side-netting twice in quick succession.
Opportunities continued to be created by Alan Pardew’s men and Jedinak won the ball in midfield 35 yards out in trademark style and immediately slipped in Adebayor who, under pressure from Paul McShane, looked the shape the ball around Al-Habsi but could only hit it straight into the midriff of the Royals stopper as a good chance went begging.
Brian McDermott’s men then carved out their best opening when a fine deep cross by Chris Gunter found Ola John in time and space, but he took too long over his attempt and saw it deflected wide by Joel Ward, but Palace got a huge reprieve when a hopeful Hal Robson-Kanu cross caught out Hennessey who could only palm it onto Ward and into the path of the lurking John behind him, but from the byline he could only strike into the side-netting.
After Cabaye had seen a deft prod goalwards dip wide, it was the visitors who were next to fluff a golden chance with a couple of minutes remaining of the half. Bolasie again caused problems in the penalty area after being found by Joe Ledley, and after the winger twisted past a defender and shot straight at Al-Habsi, the Welshman screwed the rebound over from six yards out.
Camped inside the Reading half at the start of the second half, Pardew’s side had further chances when Al-Habsi had to be at his best to make a tremendous one-handed save to prevent Jedinak from heading in a Cabaye corner, and then from another set-piece by the Frenchman Norwood had to clear off his own line to deny Scott Dann from burying the ball into the net with his head.
Adebayor was next to try his luck when Palace counter-attacked from a poor Reading free-kick but saw his shot clip a Royals defender before going over the bar, but on a rare foray forward Stephen Quinn saw a shot slip through Dann’s legs but Hennessey was equal to it.
Midway through the half Cabaye was then thwarted by Al-Habsi again from a free-kick that looked destined to sail into the net, but with 15 minutes remaining it looked nailed on that John was going to get on the scoresheet when another good cross by Robson-Kanu found him unmarked at the back post but Hennessey managed to block his header.
But with six minutes remaining Palace were handed their chance to book a place at Wembley when Bolasie looked to get on the end of a long ball and was pulled back by Cooper, who received a second yellow card and dismissed. Cabaye stepped up to take the penalty and an unconvincing attempt saw Al-Habsi get a hand to it, but not enough to prevent it finding the corner of the net.
Bolasie then struck the woodwork when he cut inside and fizzed the ball over Al-Habsi but saw it come off the crossbar, but in the final throws some neat play involving Zaha, Bakary Sako and Emmanuel Adebayor allowed Campbell a sight of goal, and after Al-Habsi had tipped his initial shot onto the post, the striker nipped in to blast the ball the yard required over the line and seal the semi-final spot.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, McShane, Cooper, Obita (Rakels 90), Robson-Kanu, Hector, Norwood (Williams 75), Quinn, John, Cox (Vydra 60). Subs not used: Bond, Ferdinand, McCleary, Piazon.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Zaha, Cabaye, Jedinak, Ledley (Sako 79), Bolasie (Campbell 90), Adebayor. Subs not used: McCarthy, Kelly, Puncheon, Mutch, Gayle.