It wouldn’t be an Arsenal FA Cup final if it didn’t feature an early Arsenal collapse on set plays, refereeing controversy, some tactical genius, a typically beautiful Arsenal goal to win the game, and a last minute error to nearly lose. But in the end Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup 3-2 over Hull City, in extra time, and lift Arsenal’s first trophy in 9 years.
Arsenal started slow, perhaps a bit shocked that Hull came to Wembley ready to play and not simply park the bus. The Tigers exploited Arsenal’s complacency and scored on literally their first chance of the game. Elmohamody looked to beat Gibbs for pace but the Arsenal fullback got in a good block and the result was a corner. From the corner, Hull had clearly worked up a plan to fire the ball to the top of the box but the shot was going well wide until James Chester got a heel on it and deflected the ball past Fabianski.
Arsenal’s pain was doubled a few minutes later when Gibbs gave away a foul and Huddlestone’s free kick wasn’t cleared before finally falling to Hull’s Curtis Davies. The Hull defender looked offside and replays confirmed the mistake but Lee Probert and his sideline officials missed the call and Davies scored the easiest goal of his life.
From there, Arsenal looked shocked as Hull started to pressure Arsenal high up the pitch. Another set play and Alex Bruce, the son of a manager, hit a looping header that required Kieran Gibbs to head off the line. Arsenal could have been down 3-0 inside 20 minutes but for that save.
Arsenal took the fight back to Hull a bit and after Bruce chopped down Cazorla 5 yards from the box, Probert awarded Arsenal their only call of the day. It was the only call we needed, however. Cazorla and Podolski tricked Hull’s MacGregor into thinking Podolski was going to take the free kick and he took a step to his right before realizing his mistake. By then it was too late and Cazorla’s rocket bent back his fingers and nestled into the top corner.
Arsenal were back in the game and Hull’s manager Steve Bruce (Bruce the Elder) clearly told his team to set the brakes on the game. Time wasting, feigning injury, and every manner of dark arts were employed to kill off the game. It was clearly a tactical mistake to think that Hull could see out 80 minutes of football through such Allardycian methods.
To their credit, for most of the match Hull did win nearly every battle. Winning the aerial duels, winning all the 50-50 challenges, beating off tacklers, and winning the ball back in dangerous areas. But Arsenal kept huffing and puffing and nearly got the game level when Gibbs chested down a long diagonal only to miss his shot entirely.
The teams went in at half time with Hull City in command 2-1, winning the physical battles, showing more grit than Arsenal, and needing to just see the game out.
Surprisingly, Arsenal came out in the second half a little slow and far too relaxed. But instead of trying to capitalize on Arsenal’s complacency Hull tried to get a restart, throw-in or free kick on every possession. It was time wasting straight from the 18th century.
Then in the 60th minute Arsene Wenger took off Plodoski and put on Sanogo. It was a huge gamble to play a player so raw that if he were sushi he would be live fish eggs.
But Sanogo was exactly what Arsenal needed. He injected pace, urgency, a second big body for Hull to worry about, and more importantly… desire. A Suarez-like hunger, minus the cannibalism.
Arsenal had already been denied a clear penalty when Giroud was hauled down by Tom Hundredstone and Probert again swallowed his whistle when Jake Livermore clearly intentionally handled a cross that probably would have resulted in a goal. But almost in spite of Probert, Arsenal kept fighting and getting into dangerous areas and Hull were starting to lose their grip on the game.
Within what seemed like seconds after Arsenal were denied the Livermore handball, Ramsey played a smart ball to Cazorla wide open in space down the right. The Spaniard cut back and Chester (I think?) clearly stuck out a leg and with major knee-to-knee contact put Cazorla on the ground. Stonewall penalty denied.
Arsenal were incensed but kept fighting. The ubiquitous Sanogo earned Arsenal a corner (which replays show Probert got wrong) and on the ensuing free kick Arsenal won the header and the ball fell to Koscielny who had smartly peeled off his marker. The Frenchman turned and fired into the goal despite the Hull keeper doing his best to break his ankles.
2-2 and it was game on. Both teams played in panic mode and sloppy passing along with sloppy defending were the hallmark of the end of regulation. Arsenal were creating all the best chances and Gibbs should have won it when Sanogo’s cross found him wide open in front of goal but the Arsenal defender improbably blazed over the net.
We all knew it was going to extra time and that if it went to extra time Arsenal would almost certainly win due to superior physical conditioning. Sure enough Arsenal created a host of great chances only for each one to go begging. It was starting to look like penalties when Wenger made his second controversial change: hauling off Özil and Cazorla for Rosicky and Wilshere. Many wanted Ramsey off instead of Cazorla but as they say “Arsene Knows.”
The change worked almost immediately. Arsenal were now taking shots at will with Ramsey cracking some great chances from distance.
Perhaps sensing that the long shots were a bit speculative, Ramsey worked his way forward and after a neat exchange with Giroud — in which the Frenchman backheeled the assist to Ramsey — unleashed an inch-perfect short-side shot for Arsenal’s third.
It was a goal befitting the contest. Arsenal had fought back from 2-0 down and were 3-2 up on a goal of the season candidate.
Still, it wouldn’t be an Arsenal win without a last minute pants-shitter and sure enough Mertesacker Terryied up a clearance, fell over and played in Hull’s Aluko. Fabianski came flying out of his box for absolutely no reason other than sheer panic and Aluko easily dribbled around him, took a shot on an empty net, and probably because of the angle, the ball went just wide. Gibbs was there and may have cleared had the ball been on target but instead he whiffed.
That was all she wrote though. Arsenal finished the game nearly getting a fourth goal off Rosicky’s pace going forward.
As the final whistle blew, the stadium erupted, and the gods rained down tears of joy. The Arsenal had overcome stiff opposition, a referee who didn’t want to call anything, a 2 goal deficit, and their own proclivity for errors and won their first trophy in 9 years.
And it’s fuckin’ excellent.