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Arsenal beat holders Wigan on penalties to reach FA Cup final

Arsenal's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is mobbed by his team-mates after his penalty saves. Picture: PA Arsenal's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is mobbed by his team-mates after his penalty saves. Picture: PA

Saturday, April 12, 2014
7:59 PM

Wigan Athletic 1 Arsenal 1 (aet, Arsenal won 4-2 on pens)

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Arsenal players react after Santi Cazorla's winning penalty against Wigan. Picture: PAArsenal players react after Santi Cazorla's winning penalty against Wigan. Picture: PA

Arsenal needed a penalty shoot-out to finally unlock Wigan’s grip on the FA Cup and keep alive their own hopes of winning the trophy.

The Gunners were on the verge of crashing out in Saturday’s semi-final at Wembley Stadium after Jordi Gomez netted a 63rd-minute penalty to put the holders ahead.

But centre-back Per Mertesacker rescued his side with an equaliser eight minutes from time – and, although extra time yielded no further goals, it was Arsenal who converted all their spot-kicks in the shoot-out to secure a place in the final against either Hull City or Sheffield United.

Arsenal almost took the lead in the fifth minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross picked out Yaya Sanogo, whose header was parried at point-blank range by Scott Carson.

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker celebrates his equaliser. Picture: PAArsenal's Per Mertesacker celebrates his equaliser. Picture: PA

The return of Aaron Ramsey – making his first start since Christmas – appeared to breathe fresh life into the Gunners midfield and the former Cardiff man was at the heart of their best moves.

Carson raced out to clear as Oxlade-Chamberlain gave chase to Ramsey’s ball over the top, while Ivan Ramis snuffed out another chance that the Welshman set up for Sanogo.

However, the striker’s best opportunity came three minutes before half-time when he got round the back to meet Nacho Monreal’s pass, but took a poor first touch and Carson came out to block.

Wigan came more into contention as the first half wore on, with Callum McManaman thumping a shot just wide and Marc-Antoine Fortune forcing a save from Lukasz Fabianski.

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker brings down Callum McManaman for Wigan's penalty. Picture: PAArsenal's Per Mertesacker brings down Callum McManaman for Wigan's penalty. Picture: PA

The Championship side continued in the ascendancy after the break – and, when Mertesacker’s lunge felled McManaman inside the penalty area, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.

Despite a lengthy delay for Nacho Monreal to receive treatment, Gomez kept his nerve to fire the penalty past Fabianski and spark celebrations among the Latics fans.

Sanogo squandered another opportunity soon afterwards, bundling a cross from Ramsey over the bar – and there was an irate reaction among the Arsenal crowd when Lukas Podolski, rather than the young Frenchman, was withdrawn to make way for Olivier Giroud.

Yet the Gunners piled on the pressure and both full-backs came close to equalising within the space of a minute.

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (left) and Wigan Athletic's James McArthur battle for the ball. Picture: PAArsenal's Aaron Ramsey (left) and Wigan Athletic's James McArthur battle for the ball. Picture: PA

First Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross picked out Bacary Sagna, whose header was clawed away by Carson, then Kieran Gibbs nodded the ball past the keeper – only for the stretching Stephen Crainey to hook it off the line.

But Arsenal finally levelled with 82 minutes on the clock as the Latics half-cleared a corner and Oxlade-Chamberlain played it back to the far post, where Mertesacker stooped to head home.

The German defender might have secured victory when he headed over from a corner late on, while Giroud tested Carson with a low effort, but the extra 30 minutes could not be avoided.

Although Wigan substitute Nick Powell blazed a chance over, it was the Gunners who came closest to breaking the deadlock as Ramsey again set up Sanogo, whose shot on the turn was tipped wide by Carson.

Only the woodwork denied Oxlade-Chamberlain with a crashing drive 10 minutes from time, while substitute Kim Kallstrom’s late attempt was charged down.

That meant the tie had to be decided on penalties and Mikel Arteta, Kallstrom, Giroud and Santi Cazorla were all successful, while Fabianski denied Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison to send Arsenal into the final.

Arsenal: Fabianski; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal (Gibbs 62); Arteta, Ramsey (Kallstrom 113); Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski (Giroud 68); Sanogo.

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