Arsenal threw predictions and punditry aside to beat Chelsea today in the finals of the Emirates FA Cup.
Wembley Stadium was sunny, lively and boisterous. Over ninety thousand fans all over the world came over to the storied global city of London to what many predicted will be the most one-sided FA Cup final in recent history.
Many were the reasons adduced for that sentiment. And they were not without solid grounds.
Arsenal had been poor during the season. Finishing fifth on the last day of the season, Koscielny and Gabriel gave way to red card and injury respectively.
Having failed to qualify for the ‘customary’ Champions League, the already boiling argument over Wenger’s continued stay at the Emirates took a new dimension. Most fans said since the French failed in clinching his usual ‘trophy’, he should exit immediately.
Winning the FA Cup was the only way to pacify and win skeptics over. But it wasn’t looking good.
Wenger made some curious changes with Per Mertessacker who hadn’t played close to a year coming in for suspended Laurent Koscielny and David Ospina replaced reliable Petr Cech in goal. While the case of the former is arguable, the latter was a surprise that analysts on Twitter questioned immediately.
However, on the field of play and from the blast of the whistle, Arsenal looked super determined. They played with pace and pressed Chelsea high up the field.
In the fourth minute, talisman and ‘weight bearer’ Alexis Sanchez combined with Aaron Ramsey to intelligently beat the offside trap of Chelsea to score the first goal. The red side of Wembley roared in approval. It was all they deserved!
It could and should have been more save for brilliant defending (twice) from Gary Cahill. At the end of the first half, it was glaring that the round was Arsenal’s.
Meanwhile Per Meterssacker and David Ospina had the game of their lives with the German playing like a colossus who never missed action one bit.
It was like a reverse in the second half as Chelsea came into the game with Costa, Hazard and Matic running things for the league Champions.
The influential Diego Costa put Chelsea on equal footing with now dominant Arsenal in the 76th minute to set one side of Wembley into temporary silence.
The quietness wasn’t for long!
New entrant, Olivier Giroud ran to a loose ball on the right side of Courtois goal and pulled out a sumptuous cross for the onrushing Aaron Ramsey to slam in a delightful header into the bottom corner. Chelsea’s equalizer had only lasted two minutes and a few seconds.
From that moment, the Gunners played like they have already won it. Ozil could have scored a third too to cap an excellent evening but struck the base of the post late on.
In four years, Arsenal has succeeded in winning the FA Cup three times. That is not bad; at all!