Soccer-Man Utd win FA Cup thriller against Coventry on penalties


Soccer Football - FA Cup - Semi Final - Coventry City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 21, 2024 Manchester United's Rasmus Hojlund scores the winning penalty in the penalty shootout REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United survived one of the most astonishing FA Cup semi-final comebacks ever to beat second-tier Coventry City 4-2 on penalties after a chaotic clash ended 3-3 following extra time at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

United were cruising to a record 22nd FA Cup final and a repeat clash with Manchester City thanks to goals by Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes with Coventry barely laying a glove on their opponents for 70 minutes.

But Coventry, playing in their first FA Cup semi-final since they won the Cup for the only time in 1987, were not about to go down without a fight and exposed United's soft centre.

Goals by Ellis Simms and Callum O'Hare gave them hope and with United rocking, Haji Wright stroked home a stoppage-time penalty after an Aaron Wan-Bissaka handball.

Both sides hit the woodwork in a nerve-shredding extra 30 minutes -- Fernandes with a curler for United and Simms for Coventry, his angled effort bouncing down off the underside of the crossbar with minutes left.

Coventry's 36,000 fans were then sent into delirium when substitute Victor Torp poked home with almost the last kick of the game for what would have been a deserved winner, only for Wright to have been adjudged fractionally offside by VAR when he played the ball across the face of goal.

Casemiro's weak opening spot kick for United was saved by Bradley Collins but Onana saved O'Hare's kick and Ben Sheaf fired his effort over the crossbar to leave Rasmus Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he coolly sent his effort past Collins to break Coventry's hearts.

United celebrated but they know they came within a whisker of a calamitous defeat and it was a performance that will heap further scrutiny on manager Erik ten Hag.

"It's mixed feelings. The way we did it isn't OK," Ten Hag said. "We should have managed it better but it's a huge performance. If you analyse the game we controlled 75 minutes but then allowed them to return into the game.

"I have to give a compliment to the opponent. They believed but we allowed them. We should have managed it better."

United will now face neighbours City in the showpiece final on May 25 -- the first time the same two clubs have contested the FA Cup final in consecutive years since 1885 when Blackburn Rovers beat Queens Park Glasgow both times.

They will have to improve dramatically, however, if they are to avenge last season's loss and win the Cup for a 13th time.

"We have to face the best team in the world but we showed last season that if we execute our plan over 90 minutes we have a chance to win," Ten Hag said.

While United's erratic display typified their season, Coventry showed huge character having looked down and out and but for a cruel VAR check would have been celebrating one of the greatest days in their history.

"Someone said to me I don't think any team have been as close to a final without getting there," their manager Mark Robins, a Cup winner with United in 1990, said.

"We deserved to go through, we were 20 seconds away and a toenail offside, it's ridiculous."

United went ahead in the 23rd minute when McTominay tapped home from Diogo Dalot's cross and Maguire' thumping header put them 2-0 ahead on the stroke of halftime.

Some Coventry fans left when Fernandes scored from close range just before the hour but those that stayed were treated to something truly astonishing.

Simms stroked home in the 71st minute and suddenly all United's earlier poise evaporated. When O'Hare's shot took a freakish deflection and ballooned up and over Onana into the net the comeback looked well and truly on.

Onana made a sensational save from Jake Bidwell but Coventry kept pressing and when a cross hit the arm of Wan-Bissaka, Wright blasted home a 95th-minute penalty.

Coventry, who had dropped into the fourth tier of English football six years ago, looked the more likely winners but they were to suffer more Wembley heartache after losing last season's Championship playoff final to Luton Town.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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