AL-HABSI

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP QUARTER-FINALS - By Chris Dunlavy

BRIAN McDer­mott re­fused to blame young­ster Jake Cooper af­ter the de­fender’s mo­ment of mad­ness robbed gutsy Read­ing of a shot at Wem­b­ley.

A won­der show from Roy­als keeper Ali Al-Habsi looked to have ground out a de­served re­play and kept the dream of back-to-back semi-fi­nals alive.

But with just four min­utes left to play, Yan­nick Bo­lasie’s pur­suit of a lost cause was halted by a need­less tug from Cooper, whose mis­ery only in­ten­si­fied when Mike Dean pro­duced a se­cond yel­low card.

Yohan Cabaye scored from the spot be­fore sub Fra­zier Cam­bell rubbed salt into the wound late on, send­ing Palace to a first FA Cup semi-fi­nal for 21 years.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed for the play­ers,” said McDer­mott. “They’re gut­ted in the dress­ing room be­cause they’ve put their bod­ies on the line out there. They de­served more.

“Coops has raised his arm. Bo­lasie has gone down pretty eas­ily. But that’s what hap­pens in this day and age. He made the ref­eree make a call and he de­cided to give the penalty.

“Was their lad clever? I don’t know. What I would say is that Jake was ter­rific. He was re­ally, re­ally good and he’ll learn from that. We’ve got some re­ally good peo­ple in that dress­ing room and they’ll pick him up.”

If de­feat was harsh on Read­ing, it was a rank in­jus­tice for the sen­sa­tional Al-Habsi. De­nied a shot at FA Cup glory when he was in­jured on the eve of Wi­gan’s shock tri­umph in 2013, the Omani stop­per was de­ter­mined to make up for lost time.

Time and again the jink­ing feet of Bo­lasie and Wil­fried Zaha un­picked the Roy­als back four.Time and again, Al-Habsi proved a re­doubtable bar­rier.

Yohan Cabaye, a men­ace from ev­ery set-piece, saw one swirling free-kick tipped round the post and an­other plucked from the top cor­ner.

Mile Je­d­i­nak’s pow­er­ful header suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate. Em­manuel Ade­bayor was de­nied from close range, as was Bo­lasie. Al-Habsi even got a de­spair­ing fin­ger­tip to the penalty.

“Ali was out­stand­ing,” said McDer­mott. “He made some fabu-

PICTURSE: Ac­tion Im­ages

HEADS UP: Crys­tal Palace’s Mile Je­d­i­nak in ac­tion with Read­ing's Oliver Nor­wood

PAUL McSHANE

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