KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Arsenal’s long wait for a trophy is over after an extra-time strike from man of the match Aaron Ramsey crowned a 3-2 comeback win over a Hull side who had shocked the Gunners by racing into a two-goal lead in the first eight minutes.
Arsenal had not won silverware since the FA Cup in 2005 and they had not won a Wembley final since 1998; their last three FA Cup triumphs had all been accomplished in Cardiff while the home of the English game was being rebuilt.
Yet while manager Arsene Wenger can thank Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Welshman Ramsey for the goals he may look back in time and consider how the final – and perhaps even his managership – was saved by a goal-line clearance from Kieran Gibb in the 12th minute. Without that intervention Arsenal would have been 3-0 down and perhaps beyond redemption.
The Tigers savaged the Gunners first after only three minutes when a long and wide right-wing corner from Steven Quinn was driven at goal by Tom Huddlestone and diverted by James Chester inside keeper Lukasz Fabianski’s right-hand post.
Four minutes later Hull were two-up and it was another of their central defenders who was celebrating. This time Hull attacked down the left and when Alex Bruce’s header ricocheted back off Fabianski’s left-hand post Curtis Davies was in place to slide an angled shot inside the far post.
Arsenal would have been in even more serious trouble in the 12th minute had Kieran Gibbs not stretched his neck to head off the goal line from Bruce, son of Hull manager Steve Bruce and fully justifying his selection in both attack and defence.
That rescue, however, offered to prove a critical turning point. Arsenal, five minutes later, pulled one goal back with a magnificent swirling free kick from Santi Cazorla after the Spanish midfielder was tripped by Bruce.
This was not merely a cup final now, this was a real cup tie with urgency, pace, commitment and aggression all over the pitch from both teams in front of a crowd of 89,345.
Not, however, from all the players. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s record signing last August, looked like a little boy lost. Instead it was Cazorla and Ramsey who had to shoulder all the responsibility in midfield. Olivier Giroud’s leaden touch at the centre of attack was another problem.
Of the two managers it was Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger who blinked first and made the first substitution. Off came Lukas Podolski – certainly not the poorest of the Gunners in the first half – and on came Yaya Sanogo to join Giroud in the centre of attack.
Arsenal would have been further encouraged by the sight of Bruce limping out of the action and having to be substituted. Then Caxorla might have had a penalty after appearing to be tripped and they duly pulled level after 70 minutes when Laurent Koscielny swivelled to score from close range in a goalmouth melee after a corner.
Sheer effort had earned Arsenal a return on terms. Sanogo was proving a handful for Hull’s tiring defence and when he squared across the box Gibb should have put them ahead. Instead he blasted his shot high over the bar.
Hull’ effort now was largely about containment. Arsenal had several more penaltyclaims waved away by referee Lee Probert and keeper Allan McGregor saved sharply to left and right. Fabianski, at the other end, by contrast, had been virtually unemployed since those dramatic early minutes.
The match pattern remained unchanged in extra time. Arsenal continued to exert all the pressure as fatigue nagged at Hull’s legs. Giroud should have headed Arsenal in front after Hull gave away possession but the ball snapped away off the crossbar.
Arsenal brought on fresh legs for the second half of extra time in Tomas Rosicky for Cazorla (who had worked himself to a standstill) and Jack Wilshere for Ozil (who had been little more than a name on the teamsheet).
Within minutes they were also ahead, Ramsey stabbing a low shot past McGregor’s left hand from a neat backheel by Giroud. The omens were now with the Gunners who had never lost this season in a game in which Ramsey scored.
A mix-up between Per Mertesacker and the advancing Fabianski almost handed an unlikely equaliser to Sone Aluko but when the final whistle came Arsenal had earned their success . . albeit the hard way.
Arsenal: Fabianski – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Ramsey – Cazorla (Rosicky 106), Ozil (Wilshere 106), Podolski (Sanogo 60) – Giroud.
Hull City: McGregor – Chester, Bruce (McShane 65), Davies – Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Rosenior (Boyd 102) – Quinn (Aluko 74) – Fryatt.