Arsenal show true character to beat Chelsea 2-1 and win 2017 FA Cup Final
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal have won the 2017 FA Cup Final after beating Chelsea 2-1 in a tremendous game that will live long in the memory at Wembley this afternoon.
It has been a long, hard, fractious season but Arsenal finally showed the true grit associated with the great teams of the past from this wonderful old club to win the old trophy – Arsene Wenger’s record breaking seventh success.
An early goal from Alexis Sanchez put the Gunners ahead during a frenetic first half. Diego Costa equalised in the second half but moments later Aaron Ramsey scored the winner for the Gunners – for the second time in his career to send Arsenal fans into raptures.
The first all-London Wembley FA Cup Final since 1982 showed passionate football fans coming together with the city of Manchester in perfectly observing a minute’s silence for the victims of that utterly dreadful and cowardly act.
In the scheme of things it was a small gesture by every single person in the 90,000 capacity stadium – but one that resonated around the globe for the solidarity shown by football fans after the heartbreaking events in the northern city of ours.
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The silence was as poignant as the ear-splitting roar milliseconds after referee Anthony Taylor blew to end the show of respect was a signal that this country – and our way of life stands defiant against terror.
The noise was as loud as anything this correspondent has heard during each and every Arsenal FA Cup Final witnessed since 1993.
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180 seconds later it was – if not exceeded – then at least matched by the eruption of joy coming from the 30,000 Arsenal fans assembled here at Wembley.
The reason being livewire Chilean Alexis Sanchez slotted home to put the Gunners 1-0 up. There was controversy as referee Taylor appeared to disallow the goal initially before consulting with his linesman after vehement and prolong protests from Wenger’s men.
The confusion came from Aaron Ramsey standing in an offside position when the ball was played through by
But the crucial fact was the Welshman wasn’t interfering with play and Taylor confirmed the goal – to deep, deep joy from the massed ranks of the travelling Gooners. Included in that number were the 60 fans who took at open top double decker bus from outside the cult Arsenal pie shop Piebury Corner on the Holloway Road in North London to Wembley. Some of the Grampian Gooners woke at 4am to make the long trip south.
Their loyalty – along with the dedication of every other Arsenal fan - in this fabled ground today was rewarded by that goal.
It was as frenetic a start as anyone could remember in an FA Cup Final. On 13 minutes Sanchez fired over from 30 yards and moments later Costa was blocked by a collective of Arsenal defenders led by captain Per Mertesacker.
Arsenal almost scored a second after Mesut Ozil lifted the ball over an onrushing Courtois but clever reactions from Gary Cahill prevented the ball from entering the next as he back-heeled it away off the line.
On 20 minutes Arsenal hit the post twice in a matter of moments as first Danny Welbeck with an angled header saw the ball thud off Courtois’ far post, before Ramsey following up hit the woodwork from inches out when it seemed easier to score.
It was vaguely reminiscent of Martin Hayes hitting the post from centimetres out 29 years ago. The missed chances that were accruing couldn’t help but remind fans of a certain vintage that Arsenal – despite dominating the 1988 League Cup Final against Luton Town, succumbed to two late, killer blows.
As Arsenal through Welbeck couldn’t force the ball over the line in another attack on 28 minutes, after Courtois initially blocked his effort with Cahill then clearing off the line - the thought grew with every Chelsea attack that Wenger’s brave men needed a second to consolidate their lead.
Granit Xhaka then fired a low left footed volley from outside the box through a crowded area, forcing a neat parry from Courtois.
Surely something would have to give soon. With seven minutes to half time Pedro was well-placed in the Arsenal box, but fired over high and wide.
The second half started with the same intensity and Ospina was soon called into action as he parried away a low Victor Moses shot after the wing back who has excelled this season drove into the Arsenal box.
Nemanja Matic was then replaced by former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas on the hour – to a huge round of boos from the Gunners fans. The reaction is not so much to do with their former favourite playing for Chelsea – more the perception of how he’s behaved against their heroes since returning to London.
Two minutes later Hector Bellerin fired a low angled drive at the Chelsea goal, only for Courtois to block and gather.
There was high drama on 68 minutes as Moses was booked for diving after being marshalled by Oxlade-Chamberlain – as referee Taylor immediately reached for his pocket to award Moses second yellow of the game.
Could ten man Chelsea rally? We were to find out moments later as Diego Costa worked the ball past Rob Holding in the box to fire past Ospina’s despairing dive and into the goal to make it 1-1.
It was a pivotal moment. But for Arsenal. Written off all year for a lack of character they steeled themselves for one last effort for themselves, their brothers-in-arms on the pitch, and their fans.
Olivier Giroud, who had come on for a tiring Danny Welbeck moments earlier drove down the right flank and crossed into surprisingly empty box. Ramsey made sure he made contact with the cross and angled the ball home to make it 2-1 – sending Arsenal fans into raptures in the process.
Bellerin then nearly made it three with a low shot across goal but it flew narrowly past Courtois far post. Ozil then hit the post after a late break on 87 minutes. It was agonising for both sets of fans.
Could Arsenal hang on against the might of the ten-man Premier League champions?
Yes, was the answer.
After a long and fractious season Arsenal finally showed true character to hold on and win the FA Cup. It was testament to their fighting qualities as much as their attacking verve – and whatever you think of the manager a victory he fully deserved in charge of this grand old club.
One team in London – there is tonight – and it’s The Arsenal.
Arsenal: Ospina, Mertesacker, Sanchez (Elneny), Ramsey, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Coquelin), Holding, Monreal, Welbeck (Giroud), Bellerin, Xhaka,
Chelsea: Courtois, Alonso, Kante, Hazard, Pedro (Willian), Moses, Costa (Batshuayi), Matic (Fabregas), Cahill, Azpilicueta, Luiz
Referee: Anthony Taylor