Arsenal clinch FA Cup against 10-man Chelsea
Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez got the goals as Arsene Wenger's side ran out 2-1 winners at Wembley20:17 Saturday 27 May 2017, 20:17 27 May 2017
Aaron Ramsey's late header secured Arsenal's third FA Cup in four years against 10-man Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Arsene Wenger silenced his critics for the day at least as his 'makeshift' starting line-up outplayed and outclassed Chelsea for large parts of the game. His side were shorn of three first choice defenders for the game and had no recognised defensive reinforcements on the bench.
A record 13th FA Cup for Arsenal and a seventh for Wenger seemed a long way off before kick-off this afternoon. League champions Chelsea went in search of a domestic double after a record-setting season domestically.
Chelsea have been lauded throughout their campaign for their defensive performances, but today it was Per Mertesacker who stole the limelight at the heart of the Arsenal's rearguard.
Diego Costa was negated for large swathes of today's game as the the combination of Mertesacker and Rob Holding ensured Arsenal protected their first-half lead.
They started by far the brighter of the two sides and took the lead inside the opening four minutes of game. Alexis Sanchez appeared to handle the ball as it ricocheted into the air just outside the Chelsea box.
With no whistle he carried on his run toward goal, collecting the loose ball and volleying past Courtois. Those looking on could have made a case for the handball, or for the fact that Aaron Ramsey attacked the ball after coming from an offside position. Ramsey reailsed just in time to refrain from touching the ball and allowing his Chilean teammate to give Wenger's side the lead.
The goal, the Arsenal's fastest in FA Cup final history, was richly deserved. Arsenal continued to load men forward from midfield. Danny Welbeck up front was a constant menace, but struggled to keep the ball at his feet with a couple of awkward touches running the ball into trouble.
His movement, however, was a dream for Ramsey and Mesut Ozil in the Arsenal midfield.
Chelsea's midfield general N'Golo Kante failed to impose himself as he has in previous games, coming off second in a number of challenges with Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Chelsea's chances up to this point were few and far between, Costa colliding with David Ospina - who began the game ahead of first choice Petr Cech.
Arsenal saw out the first half knowing they could have had more - Welbeck and Sanchez both had golden opportunities to put the game beyond Chelsea in the opening half.
Alexis Sanchez puts Arsenal ahead with his strike inside four minutes. Image: Matt Dunham/AP/Press Association Images
Chelsea came out swinging in the second half and you feared the narrative would be Arsenal's inability to make the most of their chances in the first half.
First came Pedro and then Kante with tentative efforts, but neither really troubled Ospina in the Arsenal net.
Hector Bellerin could have - and should have - doubled Arsenal's lead shortly after. His marauding run, one of many this evening, ended up with him getting on the end of a Danny Welbeck cross, but Courtois was down to make a smart save.
Next came the game's turning point. Victor Moses was down in the box and Arsenal hearts were in mouths when referee Anthony Taylor blew his whistle. He reached to his pocket to produce a yellow card, booking Moses for diving. Shortly before this, Moses had already been booked for his foul on Welbeck and was given his marching orders.
Victor Moses picks up his second yellow card and is dismissed by referee, Anthony Taylor. Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images
With Chelsea down to 10 and Arsenal playing with the quality they had up in midfield and defence, it seemed inevitable that Wenger's men would see out the remaining 20 minutes.
But in true Arsenal fashion, they conceded just eight minutes later. A cross into the box wasn't dealt with and Costa had space to chest the ball down. His scuffed strike had enough pace to bounce past Ospina and Arsenal heads dropped.
The goal prompted Wenger to go all-out in search of victory. On came Olivier Giroud in the 78th minute.
Arsenal were ahead in the 79th.
The Frenchman assumed the role of impact sub and with essentially his first touches of the game, crossed for Ramsey to head home unchallenged with just over 10 minutes to go.
This time, they were able to see the game out. Resolute defending from the faultless Mertesacker and Holding ensured Arsenal would take win back the FA Cup and ease some of the pressure on their manager.
Some sections of supporters remain "Wenger Out", but for today at least they were united in their small slice of history.
You can read today's minute-by-minute report, here.
The very best bits delivered every weekSubscribe now