As holders Arsenal and Aston Villa clash in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, when the last major honour of the English season will be handed out, we select five of the best finals from the world's oldest and most famous domestic cup tournament.
Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard (C) lifts the FA Cup after winning the English FA Cup final soccer match between Liverpool and West Ham United at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, 13 May 2006. Pic/AFP
Five classic FA Cup finals
Blackpool 4 Bolton Wanderers 3, 1952-53: Even with his team-mate Stan Mortensen grabbing a hat-trick, the performance of Blackpool's Stanley Matthews stole the show in a thrilling match that has gone down in history as the 'Matthews Final'. The veteran England winger inspired the Seasiders to come back and claim victory after they had fallen 3-1 behind in the 55th minute with a superb display that is still regarded as one of the best to grace the final. Having finished on the losing side in the 1948 and 1951 finals, victory was doubly - if not triply sweet for Matthews.
Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2, 1978-79: Manchester United were comprehensively outplayed for 85 minutes as Liam Brady pulled the strings for Arsenal, who surged into a two-goal lead thanks to first-half strikes from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton. When Gordon McQueen bundled home an 85th-minute goal for United it looked like little more than a consolation, but remarkably Sammy McIlroy ended a mazy run with a cool finish to equalise in the 88th minute. However, that was not the end of the drama as Arsenal's shattered players picked themselves off the turf and launched one last attack, which saw Brady cross to the far post for Alan Sunderland to slide in an 89th-minute winner.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 2, 1980-81 (replay): Tottenham's Ricky Villa scored arguably the greatest cup final goal to seal his side's dramatic victory under the Wembley floodlights. Villa had feared he would be dropped for the replay after putting in a disappointing performance in the first match, which had finished 1-1. But, having gone 2-1 down in the 50th minute, Spurs levelled through Garth Crooks in the 70th minutes before Argentine midfielder Villa wrote his name into FA Cup folklore with his second strike of the game, which came at the end of a mesmerising run through City's defence.
Coventry City 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2, 1986-87: Another great Wembley comeback, this time pulled off by an underdog Coventry side, saw Tottenham defender Gary Mabbutt's day transform from a dream into a nightmare. The centre-back had put his side 2-1 ahead just before the break following his team-mate Clive Allen's early opener and Dave Bennett's swift equaliser. But after Keith Houchen's flying second-half header forced extra time, the unfortunate Mabbutt saw the ball fly off him and into his own net, gifting the cup to Coventry.
Liverpool 3 West Ham United 3 (Liverpool won 3-1 on penalties), 2005-06: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard almost single-handedly won the cup for Rafael Benitez's team. The Reds trailed West Ham 2-0 and 3-2 during 90 minutes, but extended the contest thanks to a stunning stoppage-time strike from Gerrard for his second goal of the game. Jose Reina then made three saves in the penalty shoot-out as Liverpool won the trophy for the second time at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which staged the final for six years while
Five memorable FA Cup final goals
Kevin Keegan (Liverpool 3 Newcastle United 0, 1974): In legendary manager Bill Shankly's final game in the dug-out, Liverpool produced a ruthless performance that foreshadowed their dominance of the next decade and a half. Keegan gave Liverpool the lead in the 57th minute with a rasping drive from the edge of the box and sealed victory by finishing off a delightful team move two minutes from time. A patient 11-pass move culminated in Liverpool right-back Tommy Smith exchanging passes with Steve Heighway before drilling a low cross into the six-yard box that Keegan turned into the net.
Ricky Villa (Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 2, 1981): The most famous FA Cup final goal of all, Ricky Villa's soft-shoe shuffle through the Manchester City defence remains one of the most iconic images associated with the old Wembley Stadium. After a 1-1 draw in the first game, the sides were locked at 2-2 in the replay when Villa, who had already scored earlier in the match, picked up the ball in the inside-left channel, 35 yards from goal. The Argentine, his straggly hair streaming behind him, tiptoed his way into the area, through a phalanx of defenders, before cutting inside and slotting a low shot past Joe Corrigan to send the cup to White Hart Lane.
Roberto Di Matteo (Chelsea 2 Middlesbrough 0, 1997): Italian midfielder Di Matteo provided an explosive start to the 1997 cup final by scoring after just 42 seconds. After collecting the ball just inside his own half, he advanced unchallenged into Middlesbrough territory before dispatching a dipping right-foot shot from 25 yards that kissed the crossbar on its way into the net. He held the record for the fastest goal in a modern FA Cup final until 2009, when Louis Saha netted after 25 seconds in Everton's 2-1 defeat by Chelsea.
Arsenal's Ray Parlour celebrates after he scored the opening goal during the The F.A Cup final against Chelsea at The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff 04 May 2002. Pic/AFP
Ray Parlour (Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0, 2002): Arsenal were being held by London rivals Chelsea at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium when Parlour raced onto a pass from Sylvain Wiltord in the 70th minute. The danger appeared to have passed as the shaggy-haired English midfielder allowed Chelsea's defenders to get into position, but after shifting the ball onto his right foot he curled a glorious shot into the top-right corner from 25 yards. Freddie Ljungberg made it 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining and four days later, Arsenal beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to complete the Double.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool 3 West Ham United 3; Liverpool win 3-1 on penalties, 2006): The last FA Cup final goal to be scored at the Millennium Stadium - used as an alternative venue during the construction of the new Wembley was fittingly one of the best in the competition's history. Twelve months on from their astonishing comeback to defeat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final, Liverpool trailed West Ham 3-2 as injury time approached when a loose ball fell to Gerrard and he cracked a sublime 35-yard missile into the bottom-left corner to claim his second goal of the afternoon. Liverpool won on penalties and their captain ended the day with another trophy in his arms.
List of FA Cup winners
The previous winners of the competition over the last 25 years and the total number of FA Cup successes per club:
2013: Wigan Athletic
2011: Manchester City
2004: Manchester United
1999: Manchester United
1996: Manchester United
1994: Manchester United
1991: Tottenham Hotspur
1990: Manchester United
Total FA Cup wins:
11: Arsenal, Manchester United
8: Tottenham Hotspur
7: Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa
6: Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers
5: Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City, The Wanderers
4: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield United
3: Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United
2: Preston North End, Old Etonians, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Nottingham Forest, Bury
1: Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town, Southampton, Leeds United, Derby County, Royal Engineers, Oxford University, Blackpool, Cardiff City, Burnley, Charlton Athletic, Barnsley, Notts County, Clapham Rovers, Wimbledon, Coventry City, Ipswich Town, Bradford City, Blackburn Olympic, Old Carthusians
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