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Published: 22:09 | 11/3/16

Palace strike late to beat Reading

Eagles reach first FA Cup semi-final in 21 years

Two late goals helped Crystal Palace to a 2-0 win over ten-man Reading in an exciting FA Cup sixth round clash at the Madejski Stadium on Friday night.

With the tie seemingly heading for a replay, Yohan Cabaye broke the deadlock from the penalty spot four minutes from time after Jake Cooper was dismissed for a second bookable offence for holding back Yannick Bolasie. Substitute Fraiser Campbell then sealed victory with a second from close range deep into stoppage time.

Palace were desperate to bring some meaning to the tail-end of their campaign following an alarming slump in form which has seen them go 12 games without a win in the league, while Reading, the last remaining non-Premier League side left in the tournament, were looking to take another top flight scalp following their 3-1 win over West Brom in the last round.

The game started tentatively enough, with neither goalkeeper called into action in the opening quarter of an hour. Both sides were making inroads on the flanks, but the final ball into the box was sadly lacking in quality.

Wilfried Zaha had a great chance to test Ali Al Habsi in the Reading goal on 23 minutes after a good break from midfield by Yannick Bolasie, but Jordan Obita got back to make the block and divert the ball out for a corner which eventually came to nothing.

Al Habsi was finally called into action four minutes later when he dived full length to keep out Cabaye's curling 30-yard free-kick, before Bolasie fired into the side netting from a tight angle as Palace began to look more threatening.

Emmanuel Adebayor should have done better shortly afterwards when Mile Jedinak's pinpoint pass allowed him a clear run at goal, but his shot was too close to Al Habsi and the goalkeeper saved easily.

Reading finally threatened late in the half as Ola John's shot was deflected into the side netting after a fine cross from Chris Gunter picked him out at the far post.

The Liberian striker was narrowly off target from a tight angle moments later after Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had completely misjudged a Hal Robson-Kanu cross.

At the other end, Joe Ledley fired over from close range after Al Habsi had saved Bolasie's rasping shot from 15 yards but, although the visitors had created the lion's share of the chances, it remained goalless at the break.

Palace were almost ahead nine minutes after the restart as Jedinak met Cabaye's whipped free-kick from the right, but Al Habsi produced a fine one-handed save to push the ball around the post for a corner.

Adebayor then fired just over after a poor Reading free-kick 30 yards from the Palace goal was quickly turned into an attacking opportunity for the visitors.

Al Habsi produced another flying save to keep out a second Cabaye free-kick, this one from just outside the penalty area after Cooper had fouled Zaha to earn his first yellow card.

At the other end, Hennessey had to scramble to keep out John's header after Gunter's floated cross found him unmarked at the far post.

A replay seemed on the cards until five minutes from time when Cooper needlessly pulled back Bolasie in the box.

Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot and immediately sent the young defender on his way for a second bookable offence.

Cabaye stepped up and sent his kick down the middle of the goal and, although Al Habsi had already gone to his right, he managed to get a firm hand on the ball only to see it rebound into the far corner.

Bolasie hit the bar moments later, but Palace made the game safe deep in stoppage time as substitute Campbell finished at the second attempt after Zaha and Adebayor had combined well to earn the Eagles their first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1995.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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