Aston Villa matchwinner Fabian Delph was left pinching himself after booking his side’s place in the FA Cup final at the expense of Liverpool.
Former Leeds United midfielder Delph set up Christian Benteke’s equaliser after Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring for the Reds and then rounded off a superb afternoon by sweeping home nine minutes into the second half to secure a 2-1 victory.
Delph’s strike means that Villa will return to Wembley to face holders Arsenal in next month’s showpiece.
“I can’t wait for the final. To walk out as captain is going to be the highlight of my career. I’m happy for the boys,” he said.
The 25-year-old England international reserved special praise for Tim Sherwood for the job he has done since taking over in February when the club looked to be in deep trouble in the drop zone.
Wins over West Brom, Sunderland and Tottenham in the league, as well as the cup run, have subsequently lifted the mood around Villa Park and Delph feels Sherwood deserves a lot of credit for the remarkable turnaround.
“The gaffer (Sherwood) is brilliant. He’s positive with everybody. He doesn’t panic. He’s got a game plan and we stuck to it and there were a lot of young lads in the team,” he said. “Young Jack (Grealish) has come in and done fantastic and we’re just happy. We’re thrilled for the fans.”
Reading manager Steve Clarke insists Adam Federici has the strength of character to overcome his Wembley nightmare.
His error in allowing a low, angled shot from Alexis Sanchez to slip through his legs and roll over the line gave holders Arsenal a 2-1 win in extra-time.
“This is the life of a goalkeeper and Adam Federici is a top goalkeeper, and every chance he will be player of the season for Reading because his performances in the Championship have been crucial,” said Clarke.