Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Over the years, the semi-finals of the FA Cup have produced some of the most iconic and memorable moments in the English domestic game.
Any player who hits a stunning or winning strike at the last four stage of the competition is immortalised forever in cup folklore, and there have been countless flashes of breath-taking brilliance and match-swinging skill in semi final skirmishes of years gone by.
Ahead of the 2020 FA Cup semi finals between Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd this weekend, we recount some of the best goals at this stage of the tournament in our rundown of the top 10 FA Cup semi final goals ever scored.
Remember – we’ll be covering all of the semi final action with match previews and betting tips on our FA Cup predictions page.
10. Didier Drogba – Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur (2012)
Legendary Ivorian centre-forward Didier Drogba was always Chelsea’s man for the big occasion, and the prolific frontman’s sensational opener against Spurs in the 2012 semi final perfectly encapsulated his ability to combine strength with substance.
Drogba controlled a raking long ball from Frank Lampard in the 43rd minute, expertly turned Spurs defender William Gallas, and let rip with a left-footed Exocet that steamed past Carlo Cudicini who was almost left concussed by the ball’s violent wake.
Chelsea eventually ran out 5-1 winners, and Drogba scored again in the final to help the Blues beat Liverpool.
9. Johnathan Walters – Stoke City vs Bolton (2011)
In what had been billed as a close match between two well matched teams, Stoke City cut loose at Wembley to batter Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in as one-sided a semi final as you’re likely to witness.
Republic of Ireland international added gloss to the final scoreline with two goals in the second half, one of which ranks as one of the most stunning efforts ever hit in the final four.
Walters picked the ball up in his own half before driving forward with typically direct determination. The striker then turned his man inside 25-yards out before lashing a wicked drive into the corner past Jussi Jääskeläinen.
8. Mark Hughes – Manchester United vs Oldham (1994)
With United trailing and on the cusp of a hugely unexpected semi final exit against Oldham Athletic, the Red Devils’ pursuit of domestic honours looked on the verge of collapse.
Alex Ferguson’s side looked like they were running out of ideas, until a hit and hope hooked pass was clipped over an advancing Oldham defensive line in the last minute of extra time.
With space at a premium, Mark Hughes, sandwiched in between two Oldham opponents, stretched out a right leg to bury a trademark volley past the Latics keeper, sending the red half of the crowd into raptures. United went on to win the replay 4-1 and the final itself 4-0 to complete the Premier League and FA Cup double.
7. Gerard Deulofeu – Watford vs Wolves (2019)
While Watford fans would be keen to forget their 6-0 hammering at the hands of Man City in last year’s final, their incredible semi final victory over Wolves will live long in the memory.
With the Hornets two goals down, a wonderfully impish moment of invention from Gerard Deulofeu set them on their way to one of the most compelling FA Cup semi final comebacks in the modern era.
The technically gifted Spanish winger’s delicately struck curling lob seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before it found the net, though the goal sparked a revival of epic proportions.
6. Chris Waddle – Sheffield Wednesday vs Sheffield United (1993)
The 1993 Sheffield derby semi final between Wednesday and United was an occasion for heroes, and Owls icon Chris Waddle wasted little time in making an impact against the Blades, sweeping home a majestic free kick with his regal left foot after just two minutes of the game.
Despite Waddle’s wonderstrike, Wednesday eventually needed extra time to secure their place in the final, though they were undone in the showpiece fixture by Arsenal.
5. Gianfranco Zola – Chelsea vs Wimbledon (1997)
Gianfranco Zola demonstrated his unique brand of genius in Chelsea’s 3-0 semi final win over Wimbledon at Highbury in 1997 when he pulled a first touch from his endless bag of tricks to bamboozle a marker before slamming the ball past Neil Sullivan.
Collecting a routine pass from his compatriot Roberto di Matteo, Zola controlled the ball and changed direction in a nanosecond before ramming the ball beyond the reach of the Dons stopper.
4. Emerson – Middlesbrough vs Chesterfield (1997)
In the competition’s other semi final in 1997, Middlesbrough needed a replay to force their way past lower league opponents Chesterfield, though their eventual 3-0 triumph in the second game was marked by a stunning goal by Brazilian Emerson.
In the second half, the dynamic midfielder with the perma-perm ran on to an awkwardly delivered pull back from Fabrizio Ravanelli, though Emerson made the poor pass look good, meeting the ball perfectly on the half volley and cutting across it to send it swerving past the despairing dive of the keeper.
3. Nemanja Matic – Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur (2017)
There are few more satisfying sounds than the noise a football makes when crashing into the net off the underside of the crossbar, and Nemanja Matic’s thunderous hit from distance against Spurs in 2017 hit all the right notes.
A static Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris could only watch as Matic’s left-footed piledriver put Chelsea 4-2 up in the 80th minute, and though the Blues went on to lose the final to Arsenal, that goal doesn’t lose any of its magic.
2. Paul Gascoigne – Tottenham vs Arsenal (1991)
Paul Gascoigne released a missile with deadly precision from long range in what was more an explosion of emotion than a strike of a football in the 1991 semi final between North London foes Spurs and Arsenal.
Direct from a free kick, from what seemed like a country mile out, Gazza put the football right into the top corner past an ailing David Seaman to break the deadlock after just five minutes at Wembley. Spurs went on to win 3-1, before lifting the cup at Nottingham Forest’s expense the next month.
1. Ryan Giggs – Manchester United vs Arsenal (1999)
With the scores locked at 1-1 in extra time between the country’s two most powerful sides and nearest rivals, Ryan Giggs picked up a stray Patrick Vieria pass near the half way line, and danced forward through the massed ranks of Arsenal defenders like an ethereal Welsh Will-o’-the-wisp.
A thumping finish into the roof of the net over David Seaman’s head followed with half a dozen beaten Gunners’ stalwarts looking on, and in bare-chested delirium, Giggs fired United onwards towards the treble. It was the last semi final replay goal ever scored, and the best goal any semi final has ever seen.
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