Top 10 of the Best FA Cup Matches in History

Throughout its nearly 150-year history, the FA Cup, the world’s oldest football competition, has witnessed numerous legendary matches and been graced by a handful of iconic footballers representing the hundreds of teams that have participated over the years. Following Manchester United’s thrilling penalty shoot-out triumph over Coventry City in the 2024 FA Cup semi-final, here are the top 10 matches in the tournament’s storied history.

Ranking factors

To select them, we decided to use a number of criteria, including:

  • Historical significance
  • Entertainment
  • Stage of the match

10. Manchester City 0-1 Wigan Athletic

11/05/2013, Final

Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup in 2013.

On May 11, 2013, Manchester City faced Wigan Athletic in what seemed like a typical FA Cup final. As the favorites, City was expected to dominate against Wigan, who had never before reached such a prestigious stage. However, Wigan wasn’t content with being mere underdogs against the star-studded City lineup.

Exemplifying their determination, Callum McManaman delivered an unforgettable performance, earning him the Man of the Match accolade. But the pinnacle moment came with a late goal in the 91st minute by Ben Watson, who had only been on the pitch for ten minutes. This historic goal sealed the victory for Wigan at Wembley, securing their first-ever FA Cup title under the guidance of manager Roberto Martinez.

Unfortunately, despite their FA Cup triumph, Wigan’s joy was short-lived as they faced relegation to the Championship just days later after a defeat to Arsenal. Nonetheless, their triumph against Manchester City will forever be etched in FA Cup history as one of the most remarkable David versus Goliath encounters.

9. Manchester United 4-3 Liverpool

17/03/2024, Quarter-final

Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford celebrate

Sometimes, nostalgia doesn’t require a journey back in time. Take, for instance, the 2024 FA Cup quarter-final clash between Manchester United and Liverpool. Amidst their fierce competition with Manchester City and Arsenal for the English league title, Liverpool ventured to Old Trafford with hopes of securing another spot in the domestic cup semi-final. This encounter between two English giants elevated the excitement to extraordinary levels.

With the score deadlocked at 2-2 after 90 minutes, it appeared that the historic rivals were destined for a penalty shootout. Goals from Harvey Elliott (2-3, 105th minute) and Marcus Rashford (3-3, 112th minute) added to the intensity of the showdown. Yet, Amad Diallo had other plans. In the 121st minute, he clinched victory for the Red Devils, sparking jubilation reminiscent of the glorious days at the Theatre of Dreams.

This thrilling match not only showcased the enduring rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool but also reignited the passion and joy among fans, evoking fond memories of past triumphs.

8. Arsenal 3-2 Hull City

17/05/2014, Final

Arsenal won the 2014 FA Cup.

The 2014 FA Cup final marked a significant turning point. It was the first time since 2010 that the final took place after the conclusion of the league season. Additionally, a new version of the trophy was introduced for the occasion when Arsenal faced Hull City, who were making their debut appearance in the final.

Hull City dominated the early stages of the game, scoring twice within the first seven minutes. However, Arsenal managed to reduce the deficit thanks to Santi Cazorla’s direct free-kick in the 15th minute. It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Laurent Koscielny leveled the score for the Gunners. Forced into extra time, Arsene Wenger’s team faced a tough challenge but eventually secured victory with Aaron Ramsey’s decisive goal, putting an end to years of disappointment and trophy drought.

7. Conventry City 3-3 Manchester United

21/02/2024, Semi-Final

Manchester United's Andre Onana reacts after referee Robert Jones disallows Coventry City's Victor Torp's goal

It was a comeback that will be remembered for its sheer incredibility and the bitter taste of missed opportunity. Coventry City came agonizingly close to achieving the impossible against Manchester United in the semi-finals of the 2024 FA Cup. Trailing 0-3 with just 20 minutes remaining, the Championship side mounted an astonishing rally to salvage an improbable equalizer in the 95th minute.

The valiant Skyblues even dared to dream of one of the greatest upsets in the history of the oldest competition when they netted a fourth goal in extra time. Yet, their jubilation was short-lived as the goal was ruled out for offside. In the end, Manchester United capitalized on two missed penalties by Coventry to secure their spot in the FA Cup final.

6. Everton 4-4 Liverpool

20/02/1991, Fifth round

Ian Rush celebrating a goal for Liverpool

The initial replay of the 1991 FA Cup fifth-round clash between Everton and Liverpool is often cited as a pivotal moment in football history. Following a goalless draw at Anfield in their first encounter, the two iconic rivals reconvened, this time at Goodison Park, to vie for a spot in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

In a thrilling contest, the match concluded in a 4-4 draw, with goals coming from Peter Beardsley (twice), Ian Rush, and John Barnes for Liverpool, and doubles from Graeme Sharp and Tony Cottee for Everton. Notably, this fixture marked the first Merseyside derby to be televised on satellite television. Shortly thereafter, the football world was stunned by the unexpected resignation of Sir Kenny Dalglish as manager of Liverpool.

5. Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal

14/04/1991, Semi-final

Tottenham's Paul Gascoigne celebrates after scoring.

On April 14, 1991, Wembley Stadium witnessed the inaugural FA Cup semi-final, and what better clash to inaugurate this historic event than a North London derby. In front of a crowd of approximately 77,000 spectators, Tottenham and Arsenal engaged in an intense battle.

Led by the exceptional talent of Paul Gascoigne, who not only scored a brilliant free-kick but also assisted Gary Lineker for the second goal, Spurs quickly seized the initiative. However, favorites Arsenal managed to claw their way back into the game with a goal from Alan Smith early in the second half. Nevertheless, Lineker secured Spurs’ victory with their third goal, aided by a deceptive touch from David Seaman’s hand. A few weeks later, Tottenham went on to defeat Nottingham Forest, clinching their eighth FA Cup title in history.

4. Blackpool 4-3 Bolton Wanderers

02/05/1953, Final

Stanley Matthews

At Wembley Stadium, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, who was attending her first-ever football match, Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers participated in one of the most legendary encounters in British football history. This match was particularly notable for the presence and performance of one man – Sir Stanley Matthews – to the extent that the match was later dubbed ‘The Matthews Final’ in his honor.

Despite the match being synonymous with Matthews, it was Stan Mortensen who stole the show by scoring a hat-trick for Blackpool, leading to a late equalizer against Wanderers. Bill Perry then completed the comeback, securing the title for Blackpool. Nevertheless, on that memorable day, 38-year-old Matthews, revered as the man who “taught us the way football should be played,” according to Pelé, delivered a performance that will forever be remembered.

3. Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool

08/04/1990, Semi-final

Former Crystal Palace player and coach Alan Pardew.

Having suffered two defeats, including a humiliating 9-0 loss at Anfield, at the hands of the future English champions during the 1989/90 season, Crystal Palace viewed the FA Cup semi-final as an opportunity for redemption against their ruthless yet talented opponents. Ian Rush dealt an early blow by scoring in the 14th minute, immediately complicating Palace’s task. Trailing at halftime, the Eagles staged a strong comeback in the second half, with goals from Mark Bright (46th minute) and Gary Mills O’Reilly (70th minute) propelling them into the lead.

However, their lead quickly evaporated within three minutes as Steve McMahon (80th minute) and John Barnes (83rd minute, penalty) turned the tide in Liverpool’s favor. Unfazed, Andrew Gray’s team rallied behind their captain, who equalized in the 88th minute to force extra time. Revitalized, the Londoners seized control, with Alan Pardew netting the decisive fourth goal in the 109th minute to secure their first-ever FA Cup final appearance.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, their fairytale journey came to an end in the final, where they were defeated by Manchester United in a replay (1-0), following a thrilling 3-3 draw just days earlier.

2. Liverpool 3-3 West Ham

13/05/2006, Final

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates flanked by Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres.

Moved to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium for the sixth consecutive year due to Wembley’s reconstruction, the 2006 FA Cup final showcased a historic showdown between Liverpool and West Ham. On the 125th anniversary of the prestigious competition, the match proved to be one for the ages.

Trailing by two goals following a Jamie Carragher own goal and a Dean Ashton strike, Liverpool turned to their talismanic captain, Steven Gerrard, to orchestrate a remarkable comeback. Gerrard assisted Djibril Cisse’s goal to narrow the deficit before leveling the score himself. Despite falling behind once again after Paul Konchesky’s goal for West Ham, Rafael Benitez’s side relied on Gerrard once more to force extra time with an equalizer in the 91st minute.

In the nerve-wracking penalty shootout that ensued, West Ham faltered three times, while Liverpool capitalized on three of their four penalties to clinch their seventh FA Cup title in history. Steven Gerrard’s heroics cemented his status as a Liverpool legend and ensured that the 2006 FA Cup final would be etched in football folklore for generations to come.

1. Tottenham 2-3 Coventry

16/05/1987, Final

The 1987 FA Cup-winning Coventry City team, reunited a few years later.

On May 16, 1987, under the sunny skies of Wembley Stadium, Coventry City made history by competing in their first-ever domestic cup final. Their journey to the final included an impressive victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, they faced formidable opponents in Tottenham, who were heavily favored to win.

True to expectations, Tottenham quickly asserted their dominance by taking the lead just two minutes into the match. Coventry, undeterred, swiftly responded with an equalizer seven minutes later, courtesy of Dave Bennett. Despite Tottenham regaining the lead shortly before halftime, Coventry leveled the score once again in the 60th minute.

With the deadlock persisting into extra time, David Pleat’s Tottenham side ultimately succumbed to defeat, undone by Gary Mabbutt’s own goal. The final scoreline of 3-2 secured Coventry City’s first and only FA Cup title to date. Described as “the finest cup final I’ve had the pleasure of commentating on” by BBC commentator John Motson, the match remains a cherished moment in Coventry’s footballing history.

All statistics courtesy of Wikipedia


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.