Alexis Sanchez’ extra-time strike was the difference between Arsenal and Manchester City in an entertaining FA Cup semi-final at Wembley this afternoon.
Sergio Aguero had initially put the Citizens in front in the second-half with a delicate chip over onrushing goalkeeper Petr Cech after a devastating counter-attack.
However, just 10 minutes later, a great cross from the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was converted in at the back post with a superb volley from Nacho Monreal to send the match into extra-time.
It was then left to Sanzhez to steal the show by converting from close range and book a third FA Cup final for Arsenal in four years.
Here are five things we learned from the Gunners 2-1 victory.
Manchester City desperately unlucky
City will feel aggrieved not to have won the match after a number of incidents went against them. A challenge on David Silva from Gabriel resulted in the influential play-maker having to come off in the early stages. Additionally, Yaya Toure could have easily scored in the second-half when a great shot from outside the box drew a superb fingertip save from goalkeeper Petr Cech. Just a few minutes later, a Kevin De Bruyne corner was met by a powerful header from Fernandinho that crashed off the crossbar.
Poor refereeing decisions marred the game
It was a game to forget for referee Craig Pawson who made a few terrible decisions that cost both Manchester City and Arsenal. Firstly Aguero should have won a penalty when a clumsy challenge from Oxlade-Chamberlain resulted in the Argentinian going down in the box. Sanchez could have also won a spot-kick when he was tugged down by Jesus Navas but the referee only waved play on. Perhaps the biggest error, though, was Pawson’s disallowance of Sterling’s goal after wrongly judging Leroy Sane’s cross beforehand to have gone out of play.
Wenger’s gamble in fielding a back-three worked
A few questions were raised before the game when Wenger revealed he was going to stick with the same back-three that he played against Middlesbrough last week. Even though they won the game 2-1 against Boro, they looked defensively vulnerable on occasions which was worrying considering they are the league’s lowest goal scorers. However, it was a much more assured display from Arsenal this afternoon and even though there was still errors that need to be adjusted, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rob Holding’s performances gave Wenger reason to be optimistic for the future using this formation.
Arsenal hold psychological advantages in top-four race
The defeat would have hurt Manchester City and their quest to qualify for the top-four could now be in jeopardy. Even though they are currently sitting in fourth-place in the league, Arsenal are seven points behind them with a game in hand and will feel like they could perhaps gate-crash the Champions League spots by the end of the season. The Gunners do have difficult fixtures coming up against the likes of Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United but they will be lifted by today’s result in which many people were too quick to write them off.
Pep Guardiola will finish the season trophy-less
It is now certain that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will finish a campaign without any silverware for the first time in his career, a fact he will be disappointed by. The former Barcelona manager was brought in to improve the team but it seems like he is taking the club backwards. Under Manuel Pellegrini last term, City won the League Cup, reached the Champions League semi-finals and finished fourth in the Premier League. If the Citizens fail to qualify for Europe’s elite competition than surely Guardiola’s first season in charge will have fell way below expectations.
Arsenal: Cech 7, Gabriel 7, Koscielny 7, Holding 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Bellarin 6), Ramsey 7, Xhaka 7, Monreal 7, Ozil 7 (Coquelin 4), Sanchez 8, Giroud 7 (Welbeck 6).
Subs not used: Martinez, Gibbs, Walcott, Iwobi.
Man City: Bravo 6, Navas 6, Kompany 6, Otamendi 6, Clichy 6, Fernandinho 6 (Fernando), Toure 6, De Bruyne 6, Silva 4 (Sterling 6) (Iheanacho 5), Sane 6, Aguero 7 (Delph 6).
Subs not used: Caballero, Zabaleta, Kolarov.
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