Arsenal’s often tumultuous season ended on a high after the Gunners beat Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley, thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, to lift the FA Cup for a record 13th time and deny the Blues the double.
Chelsea went into the game heavy favourites yet Arsenal had clearly not read the script and dominated the first half to such an extent they will surely have been disappointed to have gone in only 1-0 up at half-time.
Perfect start for Arsenal
The Gunners took just four minutes to open the scoring with quite possibly one of the FA Cup final’s strangest goals and also one that came accompanied with a healthy dose of controversy.
Sanchez, who else, was the goalscorer with the Chilean clearly handballing it in the build up as he tried to flick it in to Aaron Ramsey, in an offside position. The Chelsea defence appeared to stop, but Sanchez carried on and rolled it past Thibault Courtois. Initially it appeared as though the goal had been ruled out but referee Anthony Taylor, after consultation with his assistant, allowed it to stand.
It almost got worse for Chelsea some 10 minutes later as Arsenal broke with Mesut Ozil’s shot coming off Courtois and bouncing towards goal, only for Gary Cahill to backheel it off the line.
Minutes later and another chance, Danny Welbeck heading a Sanchez corner onto the post, the ball rebounding off Aaron Ramsey and hitting the post again before going out for a goal kick. So good for so much of the season, Chelsea just simply could not get going.
Their sluggishness continued with only Diego Costa offering a vague threat and just after the half hour mark the Blues were clearing off their own line again as Cahill hacked away Welbeck’s effort before minutes later Granit Xhaka forced Courtois into another decent save with a volley from the edge of the box.
The champions belatedly came into the game as the first half finished and emerged looking stronger after the break, N’Golo Kante forcing David Ospina into a save within minutes of the restart.
Eden Hazard then finally flickered into life, beating Nacho Monreal before crossing for Diego Costa but Per Mertesacker got across to not just win the ball but also claim the goal kick. The German giant in imperious form on just his first start of the season.
The chances kept coming though, Ospina saving from Victor Moses and then suddenly Arsenal were on the break, Sanchez picking out Bellerin brilliantly but his cross was poor allowing Courtois to claim.
With an hour gone Antonio Conte opted to make a change sending on Cesc Fabregas for Nemanja Matic but it was Arsenal again who ought to have scored next, a quick break ending with Welbeck teeing up Bellerin who sidefooted rather tamely at Courtois.
Chelsea down to 10 as Moses sees red
Things got even worse for Chelsea, Moses handed a second yellow after going to ground under pressure from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, this time an excellent decision by referee Taylor.
The cup was surely heading to north London now but minutes after sending on Willian for a clearly furious Pedro, Costa levelled it up for the 10 men.
The Blues worked the ball nicely, the Brazilian then picking out Costa who chested the ball down and fired goalwards, it took a nick off Mertesacker and Ospina might have done better, but Chelsea didn’t care and suddenly it was all square.
Could Arsenal respond? Olivier Giroud trotted on for Welbeck and from the kick off the ball was fired towards the substitute who crossed for an unmarked Ramsey who stooped to head the ball home and put Arsenal back in front.
There was still time for more drama, David Luiz headed wide before Bellerin fired across goal and just wide after a fine run.
With just minutes to go Costa then thought he’d equalised again after bursting through but could only fire straight at Ospina, the Arsenal response was instant Ozil breaking upfield, turning Azpilicueta inside out before firing against the post.
Arsenal held on though to claim the win, deservedly so after a great team performance. It’s been a difficult season in many ways for the Gunners, and particularly Arsene Wenger, but he has now led the club to seven FA Cup wins, more than any other manager in history.
Arsenal: Ospina 7, Holding 8, Mertesacker 9, Monreal 8, Bellerin 6, Ramsey 8.5, Xhaka 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Coquelin 5), Alexis 9 (Elneny), Ozil 7, Welbeck 7.5 (Giroud 7).
Unused subs: Cech, Walcott, Iwobi, Perez.
Chelsea: Courtois 8, Azpilicueta 6, David Luiz 6, Cahill 7, Moses 3, Kante 5, Matic 5 (Fabregas 6), Alonso 5, Pedro 6 (Willian 7), Diego Costa 7.5 (Bastshuayi 6), Hazard 5.
Unused subs: Begovic, Ake, Zouma, Terry.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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