Coventry City were the real winners after being robbed against Manchester United - Andy Turner

Coventry City fans celebrate after Ellis Simms scores

Coventry City missed out in the cruellest of ways as Manchester United scraped into the FA Cup final on penalties despite throwing away a three-goal lead against Championship side in what many saw as an epic semi-final at Wembley.

In another thrilling contest, United came out on top in a penalty shootout they were losing at one stage. A quite remarkable contest only got that far because Victor Torp’s effort in injury time in extra time for the Sky Blues was ruled out for offside by video assistant referee Peter Bankes.

But after Brad Collins saved United’s first kick, from Casemiro, Andre Onana denied Callum O’Hare, arguably then unsettled Ben Sheaf with some verbals before the Coventry captain missed, allowing Rasmus Hojlund to win it. Here we take a look at some of the big talking points from a hugely proud and memorable day for Coventry.

READ MORE: Coventry City firmly back on the map of English football after stunning comeback against Man Utd

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Super subs make their mark

Mark Robins admitted that the players who didn’t make the starting line-up against Manchester United were hugely disappointed but by ’eck they made up for it when they eventually got onto the hallowed turf at Wembley. Luis Binks, Fabio Tavares and Victor Torp went on just after the hour, playing a significant part in turning things around, while Jay Dasilva followed shortly after and Matty Godden in extra-time – both keeping the City’s attacking verve going to the end.

Binks threw himself into some proper front foot, aggressive defending when he replaced Liam Kitching, taking the ball and man with one notable tackle on Bruno Fernandes on the edge of his own box while Tavares, not for the first time in recent weeks, provided an attacking spark and assist for Ellis Simms to get City back in the game. Torp, too, went agonisingly close to glory with a stunning trademark shot was denied by a brilliant save from Onana before steering the ball past the Cameroonian goalkeeper in the last minute, only for the goal to be chalked off in the cruellest of ways for a marginal off-side decision via VAR. Those players, Robins said, will get more of a chance to show what they can do in the remaining games of the season.

Sign him up

That is significant for Tavares and Binks, in particular, given that both have faced uncertain futures at the club. Young Tavares came back from a year out with injury and understandably took time to get going again, but he’s returned with renewed vigour and determination to prove that he’s got enough quality to be a regular squad player and impact sub, in the first instance, with the ability to push for more game time next season. Just a few weeks ago many wondered if he might go out on loan, some even questioning if he had a future with the Sky Blues but the lad has shown the hunger and ability to fight for an opportunity, and is currently taking it with both feet.

Binks is another who, given his lack of game time, many were beginning to write off. But the young centre-half showed no fear whatsoever on the big stage and arguably deserves a run in the side between now until the end of the season and an opportunity to earn a full-time contract. He’s done pretty well whenever he’s played but just 13 Championship starts and three from the bench amid 21 overall in all competitions is not enough during a season-long loan. Binks wants away from his parent club Bologna and if the money is right he could just be the perfect fit for Coventry’s development model.

Future looking bright

Ellis Simms is another success story and prime example of a player benefitting from City’s expert coaching under Adi Viveash. The esteemed first team coach helped transform Viktor Gyokeres into the beast of a striker that he is today and now Simms is following the same path. Like Gyokeres, the former Everton prospect took time to get going but he is now looking a real handful on the pitch, using his strength, aggression and determination to bully his way through defences, coupled with outstanding finishing ability, as he showed with his exquisite first touch goal against United. His 15th goal in his last 14 matches takes him to one away from the magic 20 for the season with four games to go, and top of the FA Cup scoring charts this season. Robins described City’s fightback as “swashbuckling” and Simms certainly played with a swagger. He will only get better and fans can look forward with great confidence to next season when, along with Haji Wright, City will have a potent strike force as a terrific starting point. Throw in the arrival of Ephron Mason-Clark and a few more choice additions in the summer and the future really is looking exciting.

Robbed of greatest FA Cup comeback

Coventry’s disallowed late winner showed exactly why VAR is despised so much by football fans up and down the country. The Sky Blues are not used to the video technology, having benefited from it just once this season when Simms’ opener against Wolves was given after several minutes of scrutiny in the quarter-final. But City were on the wrong side of it in the most cruellest of situations when they were robbed of what would have gone down as arguably the greatest FA Cup come-back in the competition’s history. As it stands, it will rank pretty highly and live long in the memory for years to come but that’s no consolation for the incredible 36,000-strong Sky Blue Army who, for a few short moments, celebrated like they’d won the Cup. For the young fans experiencing new highs with the club, it was heart-breaking to see that euphoria taken away from them by such a marginal decision.

One can’t help thinking either that the decision would have had a damaging effect on the players’ mentality going into the penalty shootout, knowing that they had gone so close to winning the game in open play and then having to face the lottery of spot-kicks.

The real winners on the day

Coventry City may have been knocked out by mighty Manchester United but there was only one winner on the day. The Sky Blues players showed the country, if not the world, that they are playing for a club back on the up while United were left embarrassed by the way they gave up a 3-0 lead after seemingly coasting to victory at Wembley Stadium.

But what was really embarrassing was Antony’s disrespectful cupping of his ears to City’s players after the final match winning penalty went in, the Brazilian showing a complete lack of respect and poor sportsmanship towards his Championship opponents.

The Sky Blue Army was the other big winner on the day, completely dominating the noise generated at the national stadium where they showed what it’s like to support a club that’s experienced hard times and now relishes the good. The incredible support didn’t go unnoticed in the press room at Wembley which was packed with national journalists and pundits, so many of whom commented on how impressed they were with Coventry’s fans.

It’s easy to support a successful team and with that comes expectancy and complacency. But when you have been at rock bottom, been in the doldrums for years and then climbed your way back up as Coventry have over the last seven years under Mark Robins, you appreciate everything so much more.

And that’s why the City fans stayed long after the final whistle as United’s faithful slipped away, knowing full well that they’d got away with one; the Coventry fans celebrating a wonderful day out and occasion that epitomises everything the football club is these days – at one with the manager, players and staff, and knowing that even better times are ahead.

The next step is returning to the Premier League and whether that comes next season or in the next few years, City’s day will come when they’ll be playing the likes of United again on a regular basis and coming out on the right side of results.

* A footnote to the occasion, a City supporting friend took his Man United supporting 12-year-old son to the game, both sitting in the Sky Blue end. At the end of the game the lad turned to his dad and told him that, having had slightly divided loyalties in more recent years, he’d decided to change his allegiances and support the Sky Blues from now on. Now that’s a result!

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