The top 10 most memorable FA Cup finals of the 21st century

The FA Cup final will take place at Wembley on Saturday, as eight-time winners Chelsea play Leicester City.

It’s a cliche for finals to be dull and fall below expectations – and some do live up to that – but not these.

From Wigan to West London, there’s an FA Cup story for almost every corner of the country and the showpiece event sparks many magical moments that are remembered for years both by the clubs involved and also those of us watching on from afar.

But what are your standout matches and moments?

Here, we rank the top 10 FA Cup finals of the 21st century, a list full of Cardiff chaos and Wembley wonder.

10. Manchester City 6-0 Watford, 2019

Heurelho Gomes couldn’t watch as City ran riot

Some would call this the worst final of the 21st century, given that it was the most one-sided.

However, the Citizens made a team who finished 10 places below them in that season’s Premier League table look like they were 10 divisions below with their scintillating display.

Doubles from Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling helped Pep Guardiola’s side to a historic domestic treble, while the Hornets could still hold their heads high after a decent run in their own right.

9. Portsmouth 1-0 Cardiff City, 2008

Portsmouth ran out winners in the most unlikely final of the 21st century
Portsmouth ran out winners in the most unlikely final of the 21st century

This was undoubtedly the year of the underdogs, as Dave Jones’ Bluebirds aimed to become the first FA Cup winners from outside the top flight since West Ham in 1980.

Try as they did, though, Pompey’s Premier League quality shone through as Kanu’s first-half strike gave Harry Redknapp’s side the illustrious trophy.

It wasn’t a thriller, but it was nice to see some variation in the competition for the new Wembley’s second-ever final.

8. Chelsea 2-1 Everton, 2009

Yellow was the colour for Lampard and Chelsea against Everton
Yellow was the colour for Lampard and Chelsea against Everton

This was certainly the most quickly-entertaining final, as Toffees striker Louis Saha scored after 25 seconds to net the earliest FA Cup final goal in history.

Wembley-lover Didier Drogba responded with a thumping header 20 minutes later, before a late Frank Lampard strike earned interim Guus Hiddink a token trophy.

It would’ve been a bigger win for the Blues had referee Howard Webb allowed Florent Malouda’s spectacular effort moments later, which bounced down off the crossbar and beyond the goalline.

It didn’t make much of a difference, though, as Man of the Match Ashley Cole became the first man to win five FA Cup finals.

7. Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool, 2012

Cech made an incredible save from Carroll to deny Liverpool in 2012
Cech made an incredible save from Carroll to deny Liverpool in 2012

Time for two teams who feature heavily on this list, and another success story for an interim Blues boss.

On this occasion, Roberto Di Matteo was the victor and, like many, had Drogba to thank for his fourth final goal, following winners in 2007 and 2010.

Ramires netted at the near post after only 11 minutes and the Ivorian striker doubled the lead shortly into the second half, before Andy Carroll pulled one back for the Redmen.

Kenny Dalglish’s side were almost level soon after, too, as Carroll met Luis Suarez’s cross to head towards goal and forced Petr Cech to pull off a wonder save, clawing the ball off the line as the £35m targetman wheeled away thinking he’d equalised.

He hadn’t and Chelsea won their seventh title.

6. Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United, 2016

Lingard was United's hero against Palace at Wembley
Lingard was United’s hero against Palace at Wembley

Somewhat surprisingly, given that they hold the title of second-most FA Cups, this is the Red Devils’ only inclusion on this list.

A tense first hour was forgotten about when Jason Puncheon gave the Eagles the lead and sent Palace boss Alan Pardew into party mode with his dancing, before Juan Mata’s equaliser and Jesse Lingard’s emphatic winner meant it was the soon-to-be-sacked Louis van Gaal celebrating after 120 minutes.

Captain Wayne Rooney drove 10-man United on as they avoided further post-Sir Alex Ferguson embarrassment, and a year later, became the first Englishman alongside Michael Carrick to win the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League, and FIFA Club World Cup.

5. Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea, 2017

Aaron Ramsey fired Arsenal's winner past Thibaut Courtois at Wembley
Aaron Ramsey fired Arsenal’s winner past Thibaut Courtois at Wembley

Our first Gunners entry now, and they earned their 13th FA Cup by beating Antonio Conte’s recently-crowned Premier League champions.

It was Arsene Wenger’s third triumph in four years, a year before he parted ways with the club after 22 years at the helm.

Three years prior to a repeat of the result and fixture, Victor Moses’ controversial second yellow card for simulation from referee Anthony Taylor changed the game, as Aaron Ramsey scored a winner 11 minutes from time.

Diego Costa had cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s early opener, but the Blues would go on to win the trophy the following year at the expense of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

4. Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester City, 2013

Wigan's Ben Watson stunned Man City in 2013
Wigan’s Ben Watson stunned Man City in 2013

Arguably the biggest FA Cup final upset of all time, the soon-relegated Latics lifted their first and only major trophy in their history.

Ben Watson’s last-minute header clinched it for Wigan, as Roberto Mancini’s men succumbed to a shock defeat, having lost Pablo Zabaleta to a red card late on.

The result cost the Citizens manager his job and was a true giant-killing.

What made it more of a fairytale was that Watson had missed most of the season through injury and only entered the fray with only nine minutes remaining, then entering club history by converting a Shaun Maloney corner.

3. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal, 2001

Michael Owen incredibly took the cup away from Arsenal
Michael Owen incredibly took the cup away from Arsenal

It hasn’t always been FA Cup joy for Wenger and co, like in this edition, when to-be Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen dragged Gérard Houllier’s team to victory.

The 21-year-old made the Gunners pay for letting numerous chances go begging, scoring twice in the final eight minutes.

The match marked the first of the Millennium Stadium’s six FA Cup finals, and had been where Liverpool lifted the League Cup a few months earlier.

It was a dramatic end to a largely one-sided affair, which left Arsenal shellshocked.

2. Arsenal 3-2 Hull City, 2014

Arsenal had been 2-0 down to Hull before coming back to win 3-2
Arsenal had been 2-0 down to Hull before coming back to win 3-2

Almost another giant-killing next, prevented by an incredible turnaround.

The Tigers made a dream start inside eight minutes through defensive duo James Chester and Curtis Davies, as Steve Bruce’s side looked to be on their way to extending the Gunners’ nine-year wait for silverware.

Santi Cazorla had other ideas, though, scoring a scrumptious free-kick before the break, and Laurent Koscielny equalised in the second half to put the match to extra time and push Hull further than they could go.

Ramsey popped up with the winner just as he would three years later, and the comeback was complete.

1. Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United (Liverpool win on pens), 2006

Steven Gerrard turned in a virtuoso performance in Cardiff
Steven Gerrard turned in a virtuoso performance in Cardiff

More joy for the Redmen and more misery for Pardew in surely the most thrilling final of the 21st century.

This one is undoubtedly remembered for *that* Steven Gerrard goal, a last-minute equaliser to take the game to extra time and allow his beloved Liverpool to win on penalties, thanks to Pepe Reina.

The skipper has equalised earlier, too, adding to Djibril Cisse’s strike, following Jamie Carragher’s own goal and Dean Ashton’s close-range finish.

Future Anfield employee Paul Konchesky put the Irons back in front after Gerrard’s first equaliser, and one of English football’s most stunning goals was scored to round off the six-strike romp.

The Millennium Stadium was a happy hunting ground for the Redmen, and Gerrard’s virtuoso display closed the Cardiff stadium’s time as hosts.

What’s your favourite 21st century FA Cup final? Let us know @MirrorFootball on Twitter.

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