Arsenal: Ospina, Mertesacker, Holding, Bellerin, Monreal, Ox, Ramsey, Xhaka, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck
Subs: Cech, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Lucas, Walcott, Giroud
Referee: Anthony Taylor
On a sunny spring day with one half of Wembley painted red and one painted blue Arsenal faced their old nemesis Chelsea to contest for the FA Cup. The story of the day was either going to be a double for Chelsea and the end of successful season for them or a positive end to Arsenal’s poor season and Arsene Wenger’s record 7th FA Cup win.
A pall has hung over Arsenal since December. Wenger’s future undecided, Alexis and Özil’s futures undecided, Arsenal getting blown out in Europe, and a losing streak thrown in to see Arsenal drop out of the top four and finish below Tottenham Hotspur darkened those clouds that hung over the club. But sometimes dark clouds can be blown away if even only for a moment, which is exactly what happened when Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the FA Cup.
Arsenal went ahead on controversial circumstances in the fourth minute. Chelsea attempted to break on a counter but a good tackle by Ramsey broke up the play. Alexis tried a chip to Ramsey but it was half-cleared. Alexis attacked the clearance and it looked like the ball may have bounced up and hit him in the hand. The ricochet fell to Ramsey who was now standing in an offside position but Ramsey didn’t make a move for the ball and the referee didn’t call offside. Chelsea had stopped playing thinking that offside was going to be called so Alexis simply walked up and poked the ball into the back of the net.
Referee Anthony Taylor went over to talk to the linesman while Wembley waited in almost silent anticipation. Then Taylor indicated goal and the red half of Wembley celebrated.
Moments later Diego Costa fell over while trying to execute a headlock on Holding. After he threw the Arsenal man to the ground, he tried to donkey kick him. The referee didn’t see anything but Holding pointed to his head and had words with Costa.
If fans were expecting Arsenal to sit back and hold on to the lead they didn’t. Chelsea’s first real shot of the game was blocked and Arsenal countered through Alexis. The Chilean found Özil steaming in on his right for a one-v-one with Courtoise. The Arsenal man waited until the Chelsea keeper went to ground and tried a cheeky chip which Gary Cahill cleared off the line.
The Arsenal action was coming thick and fast. Arsenal nearly scored again on the 18th minute when Welbeck’s header hit the post. Ramsey was there again and probably could have walked the ball into the net. This time the ball took a funny bounce and he could only hit the side netting.
Ospina made a great save with his face when Holding was beaten to a ball over the top to Diego Costa. Costa shot and then after the ball was blocked he crashed into Ospina and with legs flailing kicked the Arsenal keeper in the head. This was the second time that Costa accidentally kicked an Arsenal player in the head, in just 20 minutes of game play.
Arsenal broke on the ensuing corner again through Alexis Sanchez. Alexis found Welbeck steaming in on his left. Welbeck collected, passed back, and made a run. The return pass saw him one-v-one with Courtoise and again the ensuing shot was cleared off the line. Yet another lucky escape for Chelsea.
Chelsea’s best chance of the half fell to Pedro who was through on goal for a brief second but blasted the ball over the net.
As the first half wound down, Monreal clipped Pedro from behind and Taylor gave a foul on the edge of the box. Marcos took the free kick and put the ball a few yards over the bar. Taylor blew half time and the Arsenal went in with just a slim 1-0 lead which could easily have been two or three.
The second half started a bit muted but quickly heated up. Arsenal were sitting back and Chelsea probed. Kante eventually took a shot from distance which took a deflection but Ospina claimed easily. Chelsea got a second shot minutes later as Diego Costa broke through the Arsenal lines but his shot was kicked out for a goal kick.
Everything that Arsenal had been doing well in the first half seemed to blow away in the second. Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to dribble out of possession but was easily tackled in the middle of the pitch. Moses broke and took a wicked low shot which was saved by Ospina.
Holding was given the first yellow card of the game after a Diego Costa dive. This yellow came despite the fact that Chelsea had effected several professional fouls in the first half to stop Arsenal on the counter.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic. Arsenal had a great chance when Alexis picked out Bellerin streaking down the right side. Chelsea were caught out with Özil in the middle but Bell couldn’t get his cross right and Courtoise claimed.
Moses collected Chelsea’s first yellow just a few seconds later after he fouled Welbeck on a counter opportunity. It would turn out to be a huge error on his part.
Antonio Conte brought on Fabregas in the 60th minute to a chorus of cheers and jeers. His first touch was a clearance. His second touch was a failed tackle on Xhaka.
The match was full of action and another fantastic opportunity went begging for Arsenal. Welbeck collected a wonderful throughball, then played back across the top of the box where Bellerin latched on and tried to place the ball past Courtois. The Chelsea man reached out a telescopic arm and saved.
Seconds later, Anthony Taylor had a massive decision to make. Victor Moses cut inside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and dribbled into the 18 yard box. Then he fell over to draw a penalty. Taylor whistled for simulation and then surprised everyone by walking over to Moses and showing him a second yellow and red. It’s rare that a player will get a yellow card for simulation at all, much less a yellow which will see the player sent off.
Despite being down to ten men Chelsea equalized. Costa chested a lofted ball down and past Holding who had overran his marker. Costa took a snap shot and Mertesacker stuck a leg out to block but only managed to deflect the ball past a rooted and weak looking Ospina.
Chelsea were still celebrating when Ramsey put the Gunners back ahead. Wenger subbed on Giroud whose first touch was a cross to Ramsey who headed home with no one marking him. Once again Aaron Ramsey provided the winning goal for Arsenal in an FA Cup final.
Arsenal had just 10 minutes to hold on to the lead and Wenger brought on Coquelin for Ox to shore up the defense. There was some confusion as to where Coquelin would play but he was slotted in to the left wingback position against Chelsea’s Willian. Coquelin received a yellow card within seconds after his introduction after fouling his marker and kicking the ball away. Brainless from the Arsenal man.
Arsenal weren’t through though and continued attacking with every possession. Bellerin had yet another open chance, played in and through on the keeper, he placed his shot just wide. It was end to end stuff and seconds later, Costa had a shot saved from mere inches away. Then Özil and Alexis broke on the other end and Özil faked Azpilicueta and his shot hit the post.
Conte took a huge gamble with three minutes left in the game and took off Costa for Batshuayi. But he wouldn’t make a single lick of difference in this match. Arsenal looked composed down the stretch, intercepting every loose ball and clearing away every Chelsea chance.
Arsenal fans sang to their team as they danced and hugged, celebrating the fact that they have won more silverware than Tottenham this season and nearly every season since the 1950s.
|Shots in the box||11||14|
|Shots outside the box||5||4|
|Passes in the opp final 1/3||148||175|