His team trailing by two goals to Wolves in the FA Cup semifinals with time running out, Watford manager Javi Gracia needed quick inspiration from one of his players.
Cue substitute Gerard Deulofeu.
The former Barcelona forward indeed turned things around for the Hornets, producing a remarkable chip that would have made Lionel Messi proud to start the comeback before scoring the winner in extra time.
“He was angry,” at not starting “and I like to see my players with his attitude,” Gracia told Watford’s website. “When they feel angry in those moments they are able to show what they are able to do.”
In between Deulofeu’s goals at Wembley Stadium, Watford talisman Troy Deeney kept his cool on an injury-time penalty to force the extra period.
Surely no one would have foreseen the 3-2 final result after Wolves – so impressive this season after earning promotion from the second-tier last term – led 2-0 approaching the 80th-minute mark.
“We are suffering because we had it, we had it there and it got away from us,” Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told his club’s website.
In its first FA Cup final since 1984, Watford will meet quadruple chasing Manchester City next month.
Pep Guardiola’s City beat relegation threatened Brighton 1-0 on Saturday in a game that had little of Sunday’s thrilling entertainment.
Good start for Watford
Watford, two spots behind Wolves in the top flight in 10th, bossed the early proceedings.
Just past the half-hour mark Deeney set up strike partner Andre Gray, who made a good run behind the Wolves defense. With keeper John Ruddy stranded and off his line, his volley, though, went wide.
Six minutes later Wolves took the lead when Matt Doherty slipped past marker Abdoulaye Doucoure to head home from a free kick.
Gray had another golden opportunity in first-half injury time but his scuffed shot struck defender Conor Coady in the chest.
Wolves’ influential striker Raul Jimenez – whose loan move from Benfica was made permanent last week – doubled the advantage with a stunning goal in the 62nd minute.
He chested down before volleying past Heurelho Gomes.
For his celebration, the Mexican donned a Wolves-looking mask.
Watford wasn’t done, though, thanks to Deulofeu – who was briefly managed by Guardiola at Barcelona.
Sometimes criticized for being too inconsistent, the Spaniard changed the game with his lob from inside the box in the 79th minute. It trumped even Jimenez’s effort.
“When I was younger, I scored some goals like this at Barcelona,” Deulofeu told Watford’s website. “I saw the keeper up a bit and I put it over into the corner.”
Doucoure atoned for his earlier error, delivering the cross that saw Deeney clipped by Leander Dendoncker in injury time.
Deeney took the penalty kick, too, and rocketed it past Ruddy for 2-2.
Wolves’ chances of reaching a first FA Cup final in 59 years were fading and disappeared altogether when Deulofeu wrong footed Ruddy in the 104th minute on a counter attack.
He had to be substituted minutes later due to an injury but his job was complete.
There was, however, one more chance for Wolves in the second period of extra time but after expertly rounding Gomes, Wolves sub Ivan Cavaleiro lost control of the ball.
Arsenal loses in league
Elsewhere in England, Arsenal suffered a blow in its bid to finish in the top four in the Premier League after losing 1-0 at Everton.
Veteran defender Phil Jagielka, only drafted in to the starting lineup because of an illness to Michael Keane, poked home the lone goal in the 10th minute at Goodison Park to extend the Gunners’ woes away from home.
Arsenal has now lost seven of its past 11 matches on the road and is the lone team in the top tier not to keep an away clean sheet this season.
Arsenal though remained in the final spot to clinch a Champions League berth on 63 points, two points ahead of Manchester United and better than Chelsea on goal difference while a point behind North London rival Tottenham.
Juventus must wait
In Italy, Juventus will have to wait one more week before potentially clinching an eighth straight Scudetto.
After Juventus downed AC Milan 2-1 on Saturday, a Napoli loss at home to Genoa Sunday would have seen the “Old Lady” of Italian football officially win the title.
But Napoli – which faces Arsenal in the Europa League quarterfinals Thursday – drew 1-1 to mathematically stay in contention a little longer. It trails Juventus by 20 points.
Napoli led 1-0 after Genoa’s Stefano Sturaro saw red for a dangerous challenge in the 28th minute, only for Darko Lazovic to level in first-half stoppage time.
The visitors, not completely out of relegation danger, then hung on in the second half.