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Darren Ambrose Looks Back to the Strike of a Lifetime

23 November 2018

Back on a frosty November night - almost seven years ago to the day - Crystal Palace recorded a shock result somehow better remembered by one moment of magic than the jaw-dropping scoreline.

Palace fans will all recall the strike that opened the Eagles' account on the night they ultimately defeated Manchester United in the League Cup's quarter-final, a rifling, thunderous long-range effort by Darren Ambrose.

When the ball, after an eternity in the air, finally tore into the back of United's net, Palace fans were filled with a belief none would have anticipated for a Championship club who hadn't scored in five games. That belief carried the Eagles through the night and into the semi-finals of the League Cup as Glenn Murray netted their second to cancel out Federico Macheda's equalising spot-kick.

They would go on to lose on penalties against Cardiff City and finish 17th in the league, but memories of that win and, more accurately, that 65th minute strike, live on. Perhaps none remember it clearer than the man himself, however: Darren Ambrose.

"Wilf [Zaha] picked the ball up and I found myself in space just inside their half and, as all Palace fans know, I like to drift into those areas," he said.

"As I took the shot I think it was just one of those moments where everything just seems to go right and the strike was perfect. When I speak to football fans, regardless of the team they support, they talk to me about that goal and it is a lovely feeling recalling the magic of that night."

A surprise to some, Ambrose didn't actually start the game that night and then-manager Dougie Freedman had only decided to bring him on at half-time. The switched proved to be an inspired move and the former Ipswich Town man gladly repaid his coach just 20 minutes in.

"When I found out I wasn't in the side I was personally frustrated because you want to be involved in every game but the reasons were explained to me and I just had to wait for the opportunity. That came about at half-time when I was introduced into the game."

And in spite of their poor league form, Ambrose remarked, the Palace squad were still confident.

"Dougie said to us prior to the game that we were a good squad of players, so we should make sure we believe in our own ability and have no fear about being drawn against Manchester United in such a big cup-tie.

"From our point of view it was a nothing-to-lose game and as we all know with cup matches there is always a chance of an upset.

"When we arrived for the game we saw the team they had selected and it was stronger than what everyone was expecting. We had a great bunch of lads within the squad with a lot of confidence and spirit, an ingredient that gets you a long way and that was proved on the night."

The game has since formed an iconic part of Palace's recent history and is remembered vividly to this day. It was a night that will never be forgotten, explained Ambrose.

"Footballers will tell you that there are many ups and downs in your career and you have to take both in equal measure but that night was something I will cherish for a long, long time.

"It was even better for us all on the night to get the result, if I had scored that goal and we hadn't won the match it wouldn't have meant as much to me so it was good to cap a great night off with us winning a place in the semi-finals."

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