Arsenal 3 (Cazorla 17, Koscielny 71, Ramsey 109) – 2 Hull City (Chester 4, Davies 8)
It was just one of those nights you dream about. All the tension, excitement, nerves, joy unravelled into one tornado of emotions. A tornado that has been blistering ever since that Patrick Vieira penalty kick against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup Final against Manchester United.
A tornado that, with its force, has tested the patience, loyalty and times sanity of the Arsenal faithful. A tornado that has lynched the club with heavy defeats, a barrage of morose afternoons, a glut of horrible injuries, a pack of disloyal players, and nights filled with pain. But in that one moment, the tornado vanished within a moment, as the final whistle blew on an overcast evening at Wembley, as Gooners across the world jumped in unision, to celebrate the famous red and white ribbons draped around the ancient grail, so treasured by them.
It had been a long hard wait all week. With the Premier League formalities completed the week previously, it was a real test, as I fluttered my week through work, with little on my mind apart from the big game over the weekend. The day in itself was pretty nerve wrangling. Waking up, wearing my new Arsenal away jersey to work. (Yes, we bloody darn work on Saturdays). Making my way to a pub filled with Gooners to the brim, chanting at the top of my lungs an hour before the game, the works.
The squads were soon out making their way out on to the Wembley turf. There were no surprises in the Arsenal side. Fabianski kept his place in goal, the defence maintained its stability, with Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs. In midfield, it was Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil and Podolski, and the lone Giroud upfront.
And, before you knew it, Boom! Hull thumped into a shocking lead, leaving behind an intensely exasparated atmosphere among the Arsenal faithful. Barely 4 minutes had past on the clock, when Ahmed El-Mohomody got a corner off a deflection by Gibbs. Out of nowhere, a ball was played in and James Chester poked home the opening goal. It was shellshocking, and faces turned red.
And before breath could be revived, Boom! Another goal by the Tigers. This time, it was Curtis Davies. Arsenal failed to convincingly clear a free kick from the despicable figure of Tom Huddlestone. Davies finished off the move by slotting the ball past Fabianski even though replays suggested he was offside. It seemed like the world was concocting to end. Arsenal down 2-0 in a match they just couldn’t lose.
Only 8 minutes had past, and it seemed like Arsenal had crumpled on the big stage again. The next few minutes were nervy as Arsenal could barely hold on to the ball, and Hull were looking dangerously, er, dangerous. They should have been up 3-0, when Alex Bruce’s looping header was cleared off the line by Kieran Gibbs. Had it gone in, it would definitely have been game over!
In the 17th minute, Bruce conceded a foul on Cazorla, as Arsenal looked to go further high up the pitch. Both Podolski and Cazorla lapped up to take the free kick. And this carried away the attention of Hull keeper Allan McGregor who thought Podolski would take the dead ball. Instead, it was the Spaniard Cazorla, who unleashed a beauty of a free kick as Arsenal managed to pull one back. Arsenal 1 Hull 2. 17 minutes played.
After having watched Steve Bruce jump up and down with his belly, it was some relief to watch him instruct his troops with a rather stern face, as Hull prepared to sit back. Hull seemed happy to give Arsenal the possession, break their rhythm of play, by needlessly wasting time, concede free kicks out of nothing, hoof the ball up field among some of other anti football measures. Hull, though, were thoroughly committed and continiously harried Arsenal for the ball.
They refused to give an inch, and Arsenal’s passage lines seem cut, forcing the players to take some long shots. Kieran Gibbs had a shot, from long range, having first chested the ball. At half-time, it was Arsenal 1 Hull 2, and the Tigers were definitely putting on a commendable fight.
The second half was no different, as Arsenal failed to come out of their shell. Hull looked increasingly committed with every passing minute. Hull were resorting to more time wasting in the form of free kicks, throw-ins and injuries. The much needed change for Arsenal came in the 60th minute, when an ineffective Lukas Podolski came off for Yaya Sanogo, who has failed to score a goal so far in Arsenal colors.
That said, he was the very change Arsenal required, despite it being a massive risk. The French striker, was more direct, used his presence to good effect, as he tried to ramp up Arsenal’s toothless attacks. He, along with Giroud, were proving too much for Hull to handle at the back, as Arsenal employed long ball tactics, yes they did, to find a way back into the game.
Arsenal were denied two clear penalties when, first Huddlestone bought down Giroud like a cut off willow, and then another despicable footballer Jake Livermore used his hands to prevent a ball that seemed destined to land in the back of the net. Arsenal were slowly looking more likely to score.
Arsenal were furious, when a third clear penalty on the afternoon was denied, as Ramsey played in Cazorla on the right. The Spaniard cut back, and forcing James Chester into a clear penalty but again the protests were waved away negatively by Lee Probert. Sanogo was looking increasingly a major figure upfront, as he was at the centre of everything creative Arsenal were doing. He earned a shady corner for Arsenal, which shouldn’t have been in the first place.
Laurent Koscielny was using his thin frame to make himself look bigger in front of Allan McGregor. The ball somehow landed at his leg in a sea of players, and the Frenchman somehow turned and poked the ball home leaving McGregor no chance. It was absolute pandemonium back here, and for a moment it looked like the building could collapse under the weight of 400 jubilant Gooners. Arsenal were back, with 20 minutes left.
Both sides at this stage looked a bit more cautious at the back, knowing the next goal would seal the deal. And it was Arsenal, who took the more attacking initiative, and should have really won the game in regulation time. A Sanogo cross came in, and Kieran Gibbs was in a great position to net home the winner. But, probably the nerves got the better of him, and he blazed over the post.
Extra time came calling, and both sides had 30 minutes to win the match and avoid the pain of a penalty shootout. Hull by now were looking extremely tired, and almost conceded a third goal, when Olivier Giroud could only head against the post off a Ramsey cross. The end of the first half of extra time, and Arsene Wenger decided to ring in the decisive changes as Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere came on for Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil respectively. It was now or never, literally.
Ramsey was taking some shots from distance, some on target and some off, as Arsenal upped the ante. The moment was near. Arsenal worked their way into Hull’s final third. Ramsey played in Giroud, the Frenchman found some space, and backheeled the ball back to Ramsey, who took the shot in his stride and crashed it into the back of the net, to literally life the roof off at Wembley and all the Arsenal pubs across this wide world.
It was a beautiful finish. Maybe, it was an ordinary goal, but it was a momentous enough one. I went absolutely crazy. But, having known Arsenal for a decade now, it was time to shut up and start biting nails nervously, praying to the dear lord that Arsenal wouldn’t switch on the self destruct button. Except they did.
I nearly shit my pants as Aluko came barging forward after a poor clearance from Mertesacker. Out of nowher, our goalkeeper was in the midst. Like literally. Fabianski came out of thin air, completely missed his target, was made to look like an idiot, as Aluko retained his compsure, and shot towards the net, with Koscielny and Gibbs covering, a couple of Hull players advancing behind them. The ball scrambled across the post, and Gibbs stayed away from even touching the ball. You know, it could have gone anywhere had he made a touch.
The referee called it a day as the rains started pouring in like a typical Bollywood drama. Arsenal’s players collapsed in joy, Hull’s in disbelief, Wenger grinned pumping his fists. I shed tears of joy, whilst shouting at the top of my voice, as the pub got into a collective, but disjointed rendition of “By far the Greatest Team the World has Ever Seen!”.
The players were going beserk, like they didn’t know how to celebrate. Yes, it’s been that long. The famous Red and Whites made up their way the famous stairs. Thomas Vermaelen collected the captain’s armband, lifted the cup for the Gunners, and without much ado, handed it over to Arsene Wenger, who drew the loudest cheer of all. The smile was for everyone to see.
The weight had been lifted. As Podolski chased the Frenchman around, you could see a man finally let go off the huge trophyless tag he has carried so unenviably over the past 9 years.
It was mad. It was tense. It was absorbing. It was crazy. It was obnoxious. It was nailbiting. It was Arsenal, all over. You just can’t get enough of this team!
Arsenal FC. FA Cup Winners 2014.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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