KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice as Arsenal hit back from a goal down to overcome Chelsea 2-1 in the second half of the FA Cup Final behind closed doors at Wembley.
Arsenal, having finished eighth, thus attained the record-extending 14th FA Cup success to ensure European football next season. It was a perfect finish to manager Mikel Arteta’s first season in charge.
The result was a repeat of the 2017 final which Arsenal won 2-1 on goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey..
Arsenal had returned to the final by upsetting holders Manchester City 2-0 in the semi-finals. Chelsea saw off Manchester United 3-1 to leave respective managers Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard within one game of world football’s oldest trophy in their first seasons in charge.
The first chance fell to Arsenal when top-scoring captain Pierre-Emerick glanced a near-post narrowly wide. That prompted a decisive Chelsea riposts.
Pulisic began the move in midfield with a pass to Mason Mount before Olivier Giroud opened the way for the United States international to skip over a despairing defensive tackle and chip the ball over keeper Emilio Martinez.
Nicolas Pepe had the ball in the net for Arsenal after the refreshment break but the assistant’s flag had long been upraised to signal offside and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
Chelsea’s reprieve lasted only one minute. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta allowed Aubameyang to escape and pulled him back just inside the penalty box. Azpilicueta was booked and Aubameyang made no mistakes with his 28th-minute spot kick.
Arsenal took their cue to dominate the rest of the first half, their pace putting uncomfortable Chelsea on the back foot. Chelsea also lost Azpilicueta to injury as they struggled to hold out until the interval.
The Gunners remained in control after the break and Chelsea hit more trouble two minutes into the second half when Pulisic was injured and had to be substituted by Roma-bound Spanish winger Pedro.
Chelsea gritted their teeth and forced their way back into the game but in the 67th minute Arsenal caught them with a high-speed counter-attack from Hector Bellerin. Pepe carried it on and freed Aubameyang to cut in from the left, side-step one defender then clip his second goal beyond Willy Caballero.
Chelsea’s evening went from bad to worse as Mateo Kovacic was sent off after collecting a ‘soft’ second yellow card from a tangle with Granit Xhaka. He thus became the sixth player sent off in an FA Cup Final.
A stoppage-time shoulder injury to Pedro meant that by the end Chelsea manager Lampard had only nine men and all his five permitted substitutes on the pitch.
The match facts
FA Cups: Arsenal 14, Chelsea 8.
Record in all competitions: Arsenal: 77 wins; Chelsea: 65 wins; Draws: 59
FA Cup: Arsenal 10 wins, Chelsea 5. Draws: 6.
Previous major finals:
2002 FA Cup Final: Arsenal 2:0
2007 League Cup Final: Chelsea 2:1
2017 FA Cup Final: Arsenal 2:1
2019 Europa League Final: Chelsea 4:1.
Overall FA Cup wins: Arsenal 14, Manchester United 12, Chelsea and Tottenham 8, Aston Villa and Liverpool 7.
Arsenal: Martinez – Holding, David Luiz (Socratis 87), Tierney (Kolasinac 90) – Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles – Pepe, Lacazette (Nketiah 81), Aubameyang. Subs: Macey, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Smith, Willock, Nelson, Saka.
Chelsea: Caballero – Zouma, Azpilicueta (Christensen 35), Rudiger (Hudson-Odoi 78), Alonso – James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount (Barkley 78)- Giroud (Abraham 78), Pulisic (Pedro 49). Subs: Kepa, Tomori, Emerson, Kante.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.