The FA Cup brings a fresh sense of excitement to the English football season, providing more games, more drama and the chance for lower league clubs to bring down the top- tier giants. It is safe to say the cup never disappoints, and my day out at Selhurst Park following Derby County was no exception.
As a Derby County fan, I am used to more than my fair share of heartbreak, and a season which began with a managerial shift and the sacking of captain Richard Keogh, presented an uphill battle, leaving the team in 17th place. A long cup run would therefore provide the fans with something to cheer about.
Moreover, since the much anticipated arrival of Wayne Rooney, the squad has been galvanised by the former Manchester United captain’s quality, clearly unblemished by time. With this in mind, one can understand the optimism that many Derby fans felt upon arrival at Selhurst Park.
Indeed, when the news broke that Wayne Rooney was returning to English football, most did not expect it to be for Championship side Derby County, but yet another swift bit of business by chairman Mel Morris meant that Rooney was to be a Ram. The opportunity for a cup upset against an accomplished Premier League side was on the cards.
The 2000 Derby fans roared as the game kicked off at 2.01pm, but the early stages of the game were controlled by Palace. After the home side missed two good chances, the game appeared to switch, and it was the Rams who looked increasingly threatening, with Rooney in particular controlling the midfield battle.
In the 32nd minute, Jayden Bogle received the ball on the right-hand side and after a good touch sent the ball sailing towards the back post and a waiting Chris Martin. After the faintest of touches, the ball slipped into the bottom right corner. Derby were ahead. Ecstasy erupted in the away end
The second half started once more with early pressure from the hosts, but it was the traveling side that looked more threatening as the half went on and fatigue set in, with Bogle in particular letting a glorious chance to extend the lead. pass him by.
In the 63rd minute a moment of madness from the Palace captain, Luka Milivojevic, set the course for the final half an hour. He appeared to headbutt Tom Hiddlestone, but after referee Michael Oliver only produced a yellow card, shouts of “VAR, VAR” began to come from the away end.
After several tedious minutes of staring at the big screen, the Derby fans became riled with the match officials, until eventually the referee went over to the pitch-side screen. This was history in the making. For the first time in English football, the referee had used the pitch-side screen to make a decision. After a lengthy check, the yellow was turned to red and the Palace skipper headed for the touchline.
Now, despite this decision aiding Derby into what ended in a 1- 0 victory, it was still a frustrating experience having to wait for VAR to make its decison before the game resumed several minutes later. The continous debate surronding the role of VAR in football this season appears not to go away, and serious questions must be asked in regard to its use.
Nonetheless, it was a tense final ten minutes for the away fans, fearful of a late Palace goal to ruin their afternoon. The scenes at the final whsitle epitomised the joy of the FA Cup, as the Derby players wandered over to the away end to thank the fans who’d made the journey to watch a wonderful away victory.
Image: Carlos yo via Wikimedia Commons