Mikel Arteta lifted his first trophy as Arsenal boss as the Gunners came from behind to beat ten-man Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening.
Christian Pulisic got the Blues off to the perfect start as he polished off a great team move in just the fifth minute of the clash. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added another to his impressive season’s record with an equaliser just before the half-hour mark from the penalty spot following a foul by Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta. The former Borussia Dortmund man doubled his evening’s work with a sublime strike with just over 20 minutes remaining.
As Chelsea pushed, their frustration began to show and that all accumulated in Mateo Kovacic being sent off for two bookable offences, which all but ended their hopes of getting back into the clash, giving Arsenal their FA Cup title.
Pulisic gives Blues early advantage
Despite the silence in the Wembley stands, plenty of noise was generated on the turf with a handful of early chances. Aubameyang got on the end of Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross but headed just wide before Mason Mount, who netted in the semi-final win against Manchester United, had an effort parried by Arsenal stopper Emi Martinez.
It did not take much longer for Chelsea to take the lead. Fantastic combination play led to a great backheel from Olivier Giroud towards Pulisic. He then advanced towards goal to chip the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Aubameyang from the spot
Shortly after Nicolas Pepe had an excellent strike ruled out by the offside flag, the Gunners were handed a huge opportunity for an equaliser. Azpilicueta misjudged a bouncing ball towards Aubameyang and with the forward goalside, took him down on his route to goal, with the referee pointing to the penalty spot. The Gabonese took the responsibility himself and scored with his trademark efficiency.
Just as Chelsea had begun the first-half tremendously, they almost did exactly the same in the second. Great skill from opening goalscorer Pulisic saw him race beyond the Arsenal defence but the American appeared to injure himself as his shot skipped wide, resulting in his replacement.
Gunners come from behind
The Blues were not able to seize the advantage again though, instead it was Arsenal who edged ahead through Aubameyang. A lung-busting run from Hector Bellerin saw him get to the edge of the box and following a crunching challenge from Andreas Christensen, the ball fell to Nicolas Pepe on the right. The Frenchman then played it to Aubameyang, who showed sublime skill to feint in front of Kurt Zouma, go past the defender and score with a deft chip.
Chelsea’s task was then made even harder as Croatian midfielder Kovacic was given his marching orders having picked up two bookable offences, one in each half. The final whistle was overshadowed what looked to be a potentially serious injury to outgoing Chelsea man Pedro but Arsenal celebrated as they claimed yet another FA Cup trophy.
The match really did look promising for Chelsea after they took the lead through Pulisic. However, the turning point really was the penalty. Frank Lampard’s men struggled to regain their composure as Arsenal defended stoutly. Injuries and the red card didn’t help the Blues but the difference again proved to be Aubameyang with his brace that secures the Gunners the trophy and a place on next season’s UEFA Europa League.
Arsenal: Martinez (7); Tierney (7) (Kolasinac (N/A), 103′), Luiz (7) (Sokratis (N/A), 88′), Holding (6); Maitland-Niles (6), Xhaka (7), Ceballos (7), Bellerin (7); Aubameyang (8), Lacazette (6) (Nketiah (N/A), 82′), Pepe (6).
Chelsea: Caballero (6); Rudiger (6) (Hudson-Odoi (N/A), 79′), Zouma (6), Azpilicueta (5) (Christensen (5), 35′); Alonso (5), Kovacic (6), Jorginho (6), James (6); Pulisic (7) (Pedro (6), 48′), Mount (5) (Barkley (N/A), 79′), Giroud (5) (Abraham (5), 79′).
Goals: Pulisic (5′), Aubameyang (PEN 28′, 67′)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Yellow Cards: Kovacic (14′, 74′), Azpilicueta (26′), Mount (45+4′), Ceballos (73′), Rudiger (75′), Arteta (75′), Barkley (88′)
Red Cards: Kovacic (74′)
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