Darren Ambgrose scored one of the greatest goals ever seen at Old Trafford as Crystal Palace booked a semi-final berth at the expense of Manchester United
Good evening everyone. There's one remaining berth in the semi-finals of this year's Carling Cup and by close of play tonight we'll know who of Manchester United and Crystal Palace will join Liverpool, Manchester City and Cardiff City in the last four.
For supporters more familiar with administration, talk of ground freeholds and nerve-jangling flirtations with relegation from the Championship, Palace fans will be pleased with the progress their team has made under club hero and managerial novice Dougie Freedman. Comfortably settled in mid-table with a place in the play-offs a long shot if they can end a worrying 500-minute goal-drought, they'll have enjoyed the diversion of a Cup run in which their team has recorded victories over Crawley Town, Wigan Athletic, Middlesbrough and Southampton.
Their reward for progressing this far is a visit to Old Trafford, where they're 10-1 outsiders to beat a second-string Manchester United team almost certain to be comprised of fringe players and youngsters, among them Ravel Morrison, who will surely relish the chance of parading in front of photographers who might provide assorted media outlets with something other than this stock study of bored and sneery indifference which seems to be the only one in existence.
Breaking news: While we wait for the line-ups to appear on the wires, the sacking of Steve Bruce as manager of Sunderland is the only show in town. Martin O'Neill is odds-on favourite to replace him, with Mark Hughes also heavily backed, but my money's on the Mackem's going for untried local pyramid inverter Jonathan Wilson, who would probably like me to steer anyone looking for a nice Christmas stocking-sized present for that special somebody in their life in the direction of his new biography of Brian Clough.
Man Utd: Amos, Rafael Da Silva, Smalling, Evans,
Fabio Da Silva, Valencia, Gibson, Park, Diouf, Berbatov,
Subs: Lindegaard, Michael Keane, Pogba, Morrison,
Fryers, Cole, Lingard.
Crystal Palace: Price, Clyne, McCarthy, Gardner, Moxey,
Dikgacoi, O'Keefe, Wright, Zaha, Scannell, Easter.
Subs: Speroni, Parr, Ambrose, Iversen, Jedinak, Murray, Ramage.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Not long now: The teams click-clack out the tunnel and on to the pitch, with Manchester United's players kitted out in their usual home strip, while Crystal Palace's players wear an away strip of yellow shirts, shorts and socks. Sir Alex Ferguson has opted to leave many of the kids some thought might start the game on the bench tonight, while Dougie Freedman has also had to thihnk carefully about who to select, aware of the need to keep one eye on Friday night's Championship match against Derby County.
Before play starts, the players from both teams line up around the centre-circle for a minute's applause for Gary Speed.
1 min: Manchester United kick off, with Federico Macheda and Dimitar Berbatov doing the honours. They're playing into the Stretford End and line up in a 4-4-2, with Antonio Valencia and Mame Biram Diouf on the right and left their midfield four. Palace are playing a 4-3-3, with David Wright and Kagisho Dikagoi on the right and left of Stuart O'Keefe in their midfield trio.
2 min: Crystal Palace tyro Wilfrid Zaha, a stripling of just 19, goes on a box-to-box run with the ball at his toe, before shooting over from the edge of the penalty area when a through-ball to Sean Scannell would probably have been a better option.
4 min: Crystal Palace are really taking the game to Manchester United here, showing them little or no respect.
5 min: Not for the first time, Palace attack, with Jermaine Easter galloping between defenders to chase a bouncing through-ball from midfield. Chris Smalling does well to get back and put the ball out for a corner.
6 min: Valencia sends in a cross from the right, which Macheda picks up on the left-hand side of the penalty area. He keeps the ball in play and crosses it again and it's put out for a corner.
9 min: United take the corner, the ball is half-cleared as far as Rafael Da Silva, who has a pop from distance. He doesn't put his foot through the ball properly and shanks it horribly wide from the edge of the penalty area.
9 min: Sloppy defending from Rafael gifts possession to Sean Scannell in the Manchester United right-back position, but he's unable to make much of it and is forced to switch play to the other side of the field, where the attack fizzles out.
12 min: Under pressure from Jermaine Easter, Chris Smalling over-hits a backpass to goalkeeper Ben Amos, who prevents it going out for a corner but is forced to hack the ball clear for a Palace throw-in. The Championship side have had a great start, silencing the locals and prompting the visiting fans to strike up a chorus of "You're supposed to be at home!"
13 min: Crystal Palace are pretty much bossing midfield at the moment, where Stuart O'Keefe is proving his worth as an industrious box-to-box midfielder. Manchester United are playing very narrowly, with Valencia and Diouf having been squeezed inside in search of the possession their central midfielders Darron Gibson and Park Ji-sung have failed to provide them with thus far.
16 min: Ben Amos is forced to hack the ball out for another Palace throw-in after another kamikaze back-pass, this time from Jonny Evans.
17 min: From that throw-in, the ball is put through into the penalty area, with Wilfried Zaha in hot pursuit. Fabio shoves him just outside the penalty area, he goes to ground inside it and appeals for a spot-kick. None is forthcoming. Replays show that Chris Foy should have awarded Palace a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
19 min: The ball is played towards Darron Gibson about 30 yards from the Palace goal. He shifts it on to his right foot and tries a shot, which takes a deflection and goes out for a corner from which nothing comes.
20 min: Attacking down the inside right flank, Valencia and Macheda link up well just outside the Crystal Palace box, with the Ecuadorian winger dinking the ball over the top,from where it drops beautifully for Dimitar Berbatov. He extinguishes his cigarette, buttons up his raffish crushed velvet overcoat and volleys wide from eight or nine yards. Should have done better.
22 min: More great play from Zaha, the Crystal Palace striker who's an early contender for man of the match. This time he picks up the ball on the right, cuts inside and shoots wide from a narrow angle.
24 min: "I don't think Jonathan Wilson needs any help selling his book," writes PJ Connolly. "Amazon is out of stock. Either you caused a stampede tonight or the tactics fella is already arranging crisp £50 notes into stacks and pushing them around a gigantic golden Subbuteo pitch, imagining it's the 1983 Widzew Łódź European Cup semi-finalist's."
25 min: Sean Scannell advances on the Manchester United after being picked out by an excellent pass from Zaha. He shapes to shoot and then lets fly, but Jonny Evans blocks and puts the ball out for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
26 mins: If Crystal Palace were even remotely intimidated by the prospect of tonight's match at Old Trafford, they're hiding it well. They've had the lion's share of possession tonight and have used it fairly productively, getting forward and creating several half-decent scoring opportunities.
28 min: United finally manage to spray the ball wide to Antonio Valencia and he gallops down the right flank before drilling it into the centre. His delivery is a mite too high for Federico Macheda, who had leapt a couple of yards inside the box in a bid to get his head to it.
29 min: Fabio and Zaha have been having a right old ding-dong in the opening half-hour, from which the Brazilian has emerged second best. He finally gets booked for a trip on the Crystal Palace striker, having spent the past 20 minutes persistently fouling him.
31 min: Ouch! Down by his own corner flag in the Manchester United left-back position, Mame Biram Dioup gets penalised for a foul throw. It's a fair cop; it was a really lazy effort. The camera cuts to the dug-out where Sir Alex Ferguson looks most unimpressed.
33 min: Sean Scannell, who boasts a similar barnet to Steven Pienaar (he used to be quite a promising footballer), goes down injured after a collision with Antonio Valencia, allowing Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman to summon a few of his charges to the touchline to issue some instructions. After getting to his feet, Scannell hobbles to the touchline and then limps back into the action.
36 min: Park gives the ball away just outside his own penalty area and it's promptly passed out wide to Scannell, who cuts inside and shoots from just inside the penalty area. His effort fizzes wide.
38 min: Manchester United substitution: Possibly as a result of its owner having been given the runaround by Wilfrid Zaha, Fabio's hamstring goes twang and the Brazilian limps off looking forlorn. He's replaced by Ezekiel Fryers.
39 min: Jonny Evans plays the ball through the centre, along the deck to Dimitar Berbatov. A period of sustained passing around the hinterland of the congested Crystal Palace penalty area ensues, but United fail to find an opening and are steadily forced backwards.
40 min: Valencia crosses from the right, sending the ball fizzing just inside the edge of the Palace penalty area, where Macheda and Berbatov get in each other's way, allowing the visitors to clear.
44 min: Manchester United break on the counter-attack, with Antonio Valencia galloping down the right flank, cutting inside and sending in another cross, this time to the far post. Mame Biram Diouf sends an acrobatic volley over the bar.
44 min: Crystal Palace substitution: Sean Scannell, one of their best players this evening, has succumbed to the knack that was bothering him earlier and has had to limp off. He's replaced by Jonathan Parr, a young Norwegian.
44+2 min: Zeki Fryer sends a deep cross in from the left touchline. Under pressure from Antonio Valencia, Federico Macheda and his own defender Dean Moxey, Palace goalkeeper Lewis Price does well to pluck the ball from the air on the edge of his own six-yard box. Moxey lands in a heap and stays down, but eventually picks himself up and is able to continue playing.
Half-time It's been a reasonably absorbing first half, despite neither goalkeeper having had much to do. Dougie Freedman will be the happier manager by far; his Championship players have been mightily impressive against Manchester United's second stringers.
Second half: Crystal Palace get the second half started and there have been a couple of changes. Crystal Palace substitution: Dean Moxey off, Darren Ambrose on. Manchester United substitution: Dimitar Berbatov has been replaced by Ravel Morrison. Oh Dimitar ... still, at least his hair will be dry.
47 min: Diouf picks up a pass from Zeki Fryers, manages to keep it in play on the left touchline and plays it back inside to the replacement left-back, who'd continued his run. His attempted cross is blocked.
49 min: Darron Gibson gives to Diouf, continues his run and picks up the return pass before attempting a shot on goal from distance. Do you really need me to tell you it didn't trouble Lewis Price in the Palace goal. It was awful, even by Gibson's wayward standards, with the ball skidding diagonally across the six-yard box before eventually trundling well wide.
50 min: Sloppy defending from Anthony Gardner allows Antonio Valencia to bear down on Palace's goal with the ball at his feet. As Price rushes out to narrow the angle, the winger clips the ball past him and watches in horror as it rolls agonisingly wide of the far post. The goalkeeper got a touch - corner for United.
54 min: After good build-up play from Darron Gibson, Ravel Morrison is given the opportunity to shoot from distance. He stings Price's palms, but the shot was straight at the goalkeeper. Second-half possession stats: Manchester United 75%-25% Crystal Palace.
55 min: ""Looks like not many emails tonight, Barry," writes Mike Boulton, who is correct. "Does this mean the Grauniad's readership is largely made up of public servants who are all down the pub for a post strike drink?"
56 min: Well, I suppose if they're public sector strikers, you can be sure they all downed their placards at 5pm on the dot. You wouldn't catch them doing any free overtime, even on a picket line.
57 min: "You'd think that some of the United players would be busting a gut to impress the manager, seeing that their chance of getting regular Premiership football has disappeared with Bruce's sacking today," writes Ian Burch, to the sound of a cymbal-crash.
59 min: With Federico Macheda breathing down his neck in the Palace left-back position, Jonathan Parr has an anxious wait for Lewis Price to dash off his line and grab the ball. Palace's goalkeeper does so, but only just in the nick of time.
60 min: Morrison fires off another shot, a diagonal effort from right to left. The angle is narrow, but his aim towards the bottom left-hand corner is true - Lewis Price sticks out a right foot and blocks with another fine save.
61 min: Bizarre - now it looks as if Rafael Da Silva has done his hamstring. Coincidence, or a twin thing?
64 min: Manchester United substitution: Rafael Da Silva off, Paul Pogba on. The versatile and obliging Park Ji-sung moves to right-back, while Pogba slots into the centre of midfield.
GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Crystal Palace (Ambrose 65) That is an astonishing strike from Darren Ambrose, who picks up the ball about 45 yards from goal, wafts a smidge to his right and dispatches an unstoppable right-footed surface-to-air screamer into the top left-hand corner. That was incredible! If a better goal than that has ever been scored at Old Trafford, I'd love to see it.
66 min: Wow! Just ... wow! What a goal to have on your showreel, and what a place to score it. I'm not sure how Ambrose did that - the ball didn't seem to be travelling with much velocity when it left his foot, but seemed to gather pace in the air before screaming into the corner. Amos had no chance. You could probably have had five or six goalkeepers in there and they wouldn't have saved it between them.
PENALTY FOR MANCHESTER UNITED! Or pelanty, if you're Chris Waddle. Macheda gets dragged to ground in the area by Patrick McCarthy and Chris Foy blows his whistle and points straight to the spot.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Crystal Palace (Macheda 67pen) Having won the penalty, Macheda decides to take it. He takes a half-step, sends Price the wrong way and slots the ball into the bottom left-hand corner. It's all square again at Old Trafford.
70 min: Pogba squanders possession in midfield, allowing Jonathan Parr to launch a counter-attack down the inside left. He gallops forward and sends in an inviting cross, but despite Jermaine Easter's best attempts to make up the requisite ground, Parr was too zippy for him and he's unable to get on the end of the cross.
73 min: "Having worked in the public sector for 17 years I can tell you there is no way we'd be carrying any placards without a full risk assessment being done first," writes a self confessed cowardly doctor who would like to remain anonymous. "And 5pm? It's like the Marie Celeste in my hospital in the management offices from 4.30pm onwards."
73 min: Crystal Palace substitution: Jermaine Easter off, Glenn Murray on. A former Brighton striker, Murray missed a penalty for Palace against Millwall at the weekend.
75 min: "Because there aren't many email tonight, I'm delighted to inform you that your fellow countryman, Robbie Keane, scored the only goal for LA Galaxy against Indonesia Selection earlier tonight in Jakarta," Pangeran Siahaan. "The only let-down was that Keane didn't confess afterwards that playing in Gelora Bung Karno stadium was one of his boyhood dreams. I know he wept down inside."
76 min: Both sides have used all their substitutes at this stage, which means that if this goes to extra time, the 22 men currently on the pitch will play out the extra half-hour. One of those men is Mame Biram Diouf, who picks up a pass from Darron Gibson on the left flank, cuts inside and sends a diagonal shot from distance flying out of the stadium. Good grief ...
80 min: If I had to bet on it, I'd wager on there being one more goal in this match in the next 10 minutes ... possibly more. Having run their hearts out and chased shadows for much of the second half, a few of Crystal Palace's players are starting to look a bit leggy. Palace's engine-room, Stuart O'Keefe is quite obviously suffering from cramp and on the verge of seizing up, but he's trying to run it off.
83 min: Palace win a corner, which is cleared spectacularly, but only as far as Parr on the left touchline. He plays it down the line, it's crossed into the penalty area and Palace win another corner.
84 min: The corner's sent into the mixer, Amos comes off his line to get it, but doesn't get near it. Luckily for him, the ball heads out over the touchline for a United throw-in.
84 min: A mistake from Gibson allows Zaha to advance on the United penalty area, but he's robbed of possession before he can find an opening.
86 min: "Ambrose's shot must have been taken from miles away because the commentators on the radio reached that high peak of screaming, when you're just waiting for them to confirm the goal, but there was this very unusual pause, making the listener lean forward towards the radio, wanting more," writes Steven Hughes. "It was probably akin to the rapt nation hearing Edward VIII jack it in in 1936."
87 min: Palace substitute Glenn Murray catches Chris Smalling with a boot to the head as the pair tussled for a 50-50 ball. It was accidental and the damage appears to have been minimal.
89 min: Ravel Morrison tries a shot from well outside the penalty area, but doesn't quite get hold of it and sends his effort horribly wide. Federico Macheda has a go at him for being selfish.
89 min: Glenn Murray gets the hopes of minute-by-minute reporters everywhere hoping to avoid extra time up by shooting a diagonal effort into the side-netting.
90 + 1 min: There'll be three minutes of added time. Then another half hour, which I think it's safe to say we could all do without.
90+2 min: Manchester United ping the ball around the edge of the final third, but Zaha robs possession back for Palace.
90 + 3 min: Peep! Peep! Peep! It's all square at the end of normal time. There'll be another half-hour and then - possibly - penalties.
ET1: Right, we're off ... but I missed a bit because I was having a go at self-promotion's Jonathan Wilson on Twitter. Park has a shot from distance for Manchester United, but his 20-yard effort flashes wide of the right upright.
ET2: Zaha picks up the ball on the left touchline and curls in a cross that's headed clear.
ET3: "Didn't Man Utd pay a load of dosh for some geezer called Bebe?" asks Robin McGrother. "Where is he?" As far as I know, he's currently recuperating from knee ligament damage, having suffered a long-term injury shortly after being farmed out on loan to some Turkish club or other.
ET5: Gibson does his trademark "thing", picking the ball up on his left foot, shifting inside to his right and then unleashing a shot from distance. Unlike what happens when he usually triies his trademark "thing", this effort fizzes just inches wide of the upright after taking a nick off a defender. Nothing comes from the ensuing corner.
ET7: It's Antonio Valencia's turn to try his luck. Wide.
8 min: A brilliant bit of skill from Zaha, who totally bamboozles Park with a soft-shoe shimmy, gets kicked on the shin and wins Palace a free-kick wide on the left.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-2 Crystal Palace (Murray 98) Palace go ahead as a result of the free-kick won by Zagha's sublime footwork. Ambrose lofted in a beauty from the left flank to the edge of the six-yard box, where Murray got in front of Jonny Evans and headed home from six yards out.
ET10: Darron Gibson goes close again, this time putting his boot through to the ball and sending his low drive flashing wide of the left upright.
ET11: Macheda fails to adjust his feet properly and pokes a close-range effort wide. Moments later, Crystal Palace win a free-kick over 40 yards from the United goal. Ambrose takes it quickly, chancing his arm with a shot on goal that United's players weren't expecting. His effort is another rocket, which Ben Amos does well to prevent from flying in the bottom left-hand corner.
ET14: Manchester United are pressing and probing on the edge of the final third, but Crystal Palace's players are defending doggedly, refusing to give them an inch. That's quite an effort considering how knackered they must be.
ET15: Peep! It's half-time in extra time. Looking at a replay of Palace's goal, it seems that Glenn Murray was offside when the free-kick was sent into the United penalty area.
ET16: There's no dilly-dallying at the changeover, with both sets of players eager to get home quickly and watch tonight's episode of Frozen Planet, which they've no doubt recorded.
ET19: Darron Gibson gets booked for a trip on Glenn Murray, just inside the Crystal Palace half. For all their huff and puff, Manchester United haven't done much in the opening minutes of the final quarter-hour and that foul seems to have been borne of frustration.
ET21: "Clearly the public sector Gods have punished you for your comment on 56 mins by sending this game into extra time," writes Michael Garton, who is probably right.
ET23: The ball's played through the centre for Park Ji-sung to chace, but Palace skipper Patrick McCarthy slides in and clears with a magnificent tackle. He's been immense tonight, despite giving away the penalty from which Manchester United scored.
ET24: There are few things more amusing than being accused of being one-eyed by somebody who is so blinded by bias that they don't even have the luxury of being able to see through even one eye.
"I came to your live updates looking for an impartial take on the game,"writes Frank Ecclestone, who is going to be embarrassed when this is brought to his attention in the cold light of day. "What a horrible mistake. I expect you're sat there in a United shirt surrounded by your lentil-eating colleagues - the most one-sided drivel I've ever read." Eh?
ET28: Lentils, though - tee-hee. Never heard that one before [*minute-by-minute reporter rolls eyes skywards*]. In the face of relentless pressure from Manchester United, Crystal Palace's players are putting their bodies on the line, with Anthony Gardner throwing himself in front of shots twice in quick succession as United lay siege on the visitors' goal.
ET30: Valencia drives United forward and takes a shot, that is blocked. the ball breaks kindly for Park, but he's robbed of possession. Palace hack the ball clear, but United pour forward again. Diouf tries a shot and Nathaniel Clyne blocks. That surely is that ...
Peep! Peep! Peeep! After a heroic rearguard action in the second half of extra time, Crystal Palace have won. They've clung on to beat Manchester United and advance to the last four of the Carling Cup, where they'll meet one of Cardiff City, Manchester City and Liverpool. I suspect Sir Alex Ferguson will be furious with his side for embarrassing him tonight.
I'll hang on here to bring you the semi-final draw. Because I'm good like that. While we're waiting here's an email: "Ecclestone might be onto something," writes Steve Curley. "I've suspected you of being biased against lentils for some time now. It's about time the truth came out." You're right Steve, I've never liked lentils and to be honest I'm delighted Crystal Palace won tonight. Who wouldn't be, apart from Manchester United fans ... and Charlton fans. It's always nice to see the big boys slip on a banana-skin and as a longtime resident of south London, they're my local ... um, "big" team.
This, from Andy Gracie: "What about a quick mention for the fantastic Palace fans?" he asks, about the travelling 5,000 who did their club proud tonight, completely out-singing the home crowd for 120 minutes.
Semi-final draw coming up very shortly ...
Carling Cup semi-final draw
Manchester City v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Cardiff City
Great stuff; we'll have a Championship side in the final of the Carling Cup. The first legs of the semi-finals will be played on 9 January, with the second legs to follow on 29 January. Thanks for your time and your emails, that's me done for the evening.