Wigan 1 (Gomez (pen) 63) – 1 Arsenal (Mertesacker 82)
Caldwell – Saved 0-0
Arteta – Scored 0-1 Arsenal
Collison – Saved 0-1 Arsenal
Kallstrom – Scored 0-2 Arsenal
McArthur – Scored 1-2 Arsenal
Giroud – Scored 1-3 Arsenal
Beausejour – Scored 2-3 Arsenal
Cazorla – Scored 2-4 Arsenal
Arsenal win 2-4 on penalties
Ah! The nerves. I have never faced such jitters in such a long time. The last time I was so nervous was the Carling Cup Final in 2011. So much hinged on this game. So, so much. A chance to get into the final of one of the 4 major tournaments we compete in every season, and a chance to break the 9 year jinx.
And, it could have been all so different, couldn’t it? Having been thrashed 6-0 by Chelsea days earlier, couple of dissapointing home draws with Swansea and Manchester City, and a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Everton had all set the Arsenal fans go beserk, with the Gunners’ best title challenge in a while coming to an abrupt end.
But, on the sunny side, the cup run looked promising, with Arsenal getting easy games in the first two rounds, namely Sp*rs and Coventry. Then came Liverpool, a week after being taken apart 5-1 at Anfield. A good response, in the least, with Arsenal knocking the Reds out with a steely 2-1 win. Arsenal were handed another Premier League club, but the Gunners turned on the style with a classy 4-1 win. And now, the defending champions Wigan, who knocked out Manchester City in the previous round, having already beaten them in the final last year.
Wigan is that kind of side you really don’t know what to expect from. On some days, they play like they could compete with the top dogs of English football, but the next weekend they would play like a Port Vale. They had retained a string of players from their Premier League relegation, namely captain Emerson Boyce, midfielders Jean Beausejour, Jordi Gomez and Calum McManaman.
Arsene Wenger started with Lukasz Fabianski in goal, Vermaelen kept his place in defence, and there were starts for Chamberlain, Sanogo and Ramsey. Former England goalie Scott Carson came to Wigan’s rescue when he saved a header from Sanogo off a Chamberlain cross. He came to the fore again saving further shots from Chamberlain and Sanogo.
But, Wigan are the defending champions. Even if they play a division below Arsenal. And we are Arsenal. We like to make it hard for ourselves, and make our fans look like miserable bastards. Calum McMananaman, the Butcher of Huyton was skinning Monreal alive. Nacho Monreal, a Spanish international. Spain, the strongest international side on the planet.
Arsenal had a chance when Bacary Sagna’s effort at the far post off a Mertesacker flick on was, well, woeful. And, then, calamity. Arsenal, being Arsenal, conceded a penalty, when Mertesacker recklessly lunged into McMananman. Wigan had to wait until Monreal could be taken off to be replaced by Gibbs, but it didn’t deter Jordi Gomez. 1-0 Wigan.
After that it was a case of nerves, as Arsenal’s disjointed passing took on Wigan’s steely resolve. Wenger, surprisingly removed Podolski, much to the dismay of Gooners, including me, keeping the average Sanogo on. Olivier Giroud came on as Arsenal desperately hoofed some balls up field to the tall French duo in search for an equalizer.
It would however come courtesy a tall German, as Mertesacker bundled the ball home from close range, and you could sense a palpable sense of relief. Extra time was well, boring, and the penalties made me a nervous wreck. My heart was in my mouth, and that little Pole, Lukasz Fabianski, that beautiful bastard, set me and millions of Gooners across the world wild, and Arsenal entered the final!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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