By Rob Kelly at Wembley Stadium
We have become the most successful club in Emirates FA Cup history after lifting the trophy for a record 13th time with a sensational performance at Wembley to beat Chelsea.
In one of the finest finals in recent memory, the Gunners were magnificent to a man – dominating the first half, soaking up pressure in the second, and eventually battling back from a late equaliser to go back up the other end and win it in style.
The final whistle sparked ecstatic scenes from the fans, the players and Arsène Wenger himself. After this most trying of seasons, how satisfying for him to collect his seventh FA Cup – now officially the mnost successful manager in the competition’s history.
What a moment, what a day, what a final.
WENGER’S THREE BIG CALLS
In the days leading up to the final, Wenger had to contend with a series of selection issues that he could surely have done without.
WHAT A START
When you’re underdogs in an FA Cup final, playing against the Premier League champions, you need to make a fast start – and that is exactly what we did.
Right from the off, we snapped into tackles, passed the ball around slickly and seemed to catch Chelsea by surprise with our intensity. It bore all the hallmarks of that 3-0 win against the Blues in September, when a first-half blitz blew Antonio Conte’s side away.
The Arsenal fans were already in raucous mood when the opening goal came in the fifth minute – sparking jubilant scenes from the red half of Wembley.
GOING CLOSE… TWICE
Now we had our lead, we were determined to build on it – and the sight of three Arsenal players throwing themselves in the way of a Diego Costa shot summed up the fierce commitment we were showing.
This was vintage Arsenal – bright, sharp and determined to leave our mark on this grand occasion.
The next was even closer, as Welbeck rose highest to meet a corner from the right and his glancing header struck the far post, before hitting Ramsey on the follow up before the ball went out.
Still we came at Chelsea, with Welbeck again going close before the half-hour mark and Xhaka’s half volley testing Courtois from distance.
There was no more drama before the interval – but we had seen enough in a fantastic first 45 minutes. Phew.
SOAKING UP THE PRESSURE
Chelsea continued to push on though, and Pedro had our hearts in our mouths when he received the ball on the edge of the area and curled a shot inches beyond the far post.
The hour mark came and went with everything going to plan – although we were having to soak up more pressure than at any point in the first half.
BACK ON TOP
We may have been sitting deeper than before, but we remained a real attacking threat – spearheaded by the excellent Welbeck.
The Blues backline could not keep the effervescent England international quiet, and when our next chance came, it was no surprise that he was at the heart of it.
Welbeck received the ball on the left, cut inside and waited for runners into the box. Ramsey duly obliged, but the pass was deflected into the path of Bellerin, whose first-time effort was well held by Courtois.
The next twist was only just around the corner though, as Moses cut into the box and went down under a challenge by Oxlade-Chamberlain. Penalty? No, the Chelsea man was booked – for the second time on the day – and received his marching orders.
THE BLUES BITE BACK… BUT NOT FOR LONG
Just when it looked like it was going all our way, Chelsea hit back to level matters through Costa.
It was frustrating for the Gunners, who had defended to well until that point but they could do nothing as the ball fell to the Spain international in the area and he prodded the ball into the bottom corner.
Now we had a test of character – how would we respond?
Brilliantly it turned out. On came Giroud for Welbeck, and with his first run he raced on to a ball up the left and cut a superb ball back across goal from the byeline.
Ramsey – famously the matchwinner in 2014 – was charging into the box and he sent a diving header into the bottom corner, right in front of the Arsenal fans who almost lifted the roof off the stadium.
Bellerin came within inches of adding a third with six minutes after bursting through the heart of the Blues defence, but his low shot whistled just wide.
Ospina was called upon moments later to make a stunning save to deny Costa inside the area as the champions searched for an equaliser.
From the next attack, Ozil had the chance to win it after racing clean though – but agonisingly his shot hit the post from eight yards out.
But it didn’t matter – the whistle soon blew and we had won the FA Cup for a record 13th time. And what a way to do it.
- Mertesacker (C)
- HoldingYellow Card
- XhakaYellow Card
- RamseyGoal!Yellow Card
- Coquelin82Yellow Card
- Cahill (C)
- Luiz Moreira Marinho
- MosesYellow CardRed Card
- KanteYellow Card
- Da Silva Costa88Goal!
- Rodriguez Ledesma72
- Borges Da Silva72
Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source