Arsenal 4 (Walcott 40, Sanchez 50, Mertesacker 62, Giroud 90) – Aston Villa 0
Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
It was a glorious day at Wembley again. 12 months after some emotionally palpable scenes when Arsenal nicked Hull City 3-2 to win their first piece of silverware in nearly a decade, they repeated the trick again. This time, more emphatically, in a game devoid of drama. Arsenal steamrollered their opposition into submission as they became the most successful club with their 12th triumph in the oldest association football tournament in the world.
Aston Villa, who have a creditable 7 FA Cups to their name, haven’t won the competition since 1956-1957, and were seeking their first piece of silverware since 1995-1996 when they won back to back League Cups. But, it just wasn’t meant to be their day.
With build up to the big game surrounding Arsene Wenger’s team selection issues over whether to choose David Ospina, who has played most of the Premier League games in the second half of the season or Wojciech Szczesny, who has kept in the cup games and whether to choose Theo Walcott, who fired a hat-trick against West Brom last weekend or Olivier Giroud, who has chalked up 18 goals this season. The manager decided to choose Szczesny in goal, and Walcott up front, in an otherwise settled squad.
Aston Villa, who had impressively beaten Liverpool 2-1 in the semi-final, had their manager Tim Sherwood mulling over his own team selection dilemma’s. Belgian striker Christian Benteke, who scored important goals, key to Villa’s survival in the Premier League, led the line, while Charles N’Zogbia was chosen ahead of Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has been a handful in the past for Arsenal defences. Young revelation, Jack Grealish, who has impressed with his performances for Aston Villa this season, started on the wing.
Arsenal knew they couldn’t afford the mistakes that saw them conceding two early goals in the opening 8 minutes, in last season’s final against Hull. The opening minutes were calm and composed as Arsenal dominated possession, sprinkling the ball around confidently. In the 8th minute, Arsenal had the first real sight of goal, when Cazorla was in some space inside the box, but failed to spot Walcott at the far post. Moments later, Laurent Koscielny had a free header, but he really should have done better than putting it over.
The Frenchman had another chance in the 15th minute, when he met an Alexis cross, but Shay Given managed to save it, as he was too close to the defender. Hector Bellerin then found Aaron Ramsey at the near post, but the Welshman couldn’t convert this chance. He was found again, this time by Mesut Ozil. He controlled the ball well, but his effort went over the bar, having struck a Villa defender on it’s way.
Arsenal were continuing to dominate the game, and after some neat interplay between Monreal, Cazorla and Ozil, Walcott was presented with an open chance, but was only denied by a desperate goal line lunge by left back Kieran Richardson. Walcott didn’t have to wait much longer, however, to send the Arsenal section of Wembley into raptures.
By now Walcott had moved wide left, with Alexis playing more central. Francis Coquelin plaed a lovely cross field pass to Walcott, who fed Monreal on the overlap, and crossed into Alexis, who managed to put the ball into some space behind Villa’s defenders. Walcott was quickest to react and his left footed volley crashed into the back of the net, past Shay Given. Arsenal were leading 1-0, and it was relief to eyes after all the profligacy of the first half.
Aston Villa didn’t seem to have any kind of change in pattern of play, as Arsenal continued to boss their fellow Premier League finalists. Mesut Ozil, and especially, Santi Cazorla were having a field day, dictating the terms of play. And, 5 minutes into the second half, Alexis Sanchez did what he has been doing all season. Scoring goals. Spectacular ones.
He collected the ball from 25 yards out, created some space, and unleashed an unstoppable shot, grazing the top post, leaving Shay Given with absolutely no chance to save. It definitely was one of the bets goals to be scored in the FA Cup Final. Arsenal didn’t rest after this, and created more chances, keeping Republic of Ireland international keeper Shay Given a very busy man. Walcott, Cazorla and Ramsey, all drew saves from the keeper.
12 minutes after Alexis’ wonder strike, Arsenal were handed the easiest of all goals. After Walcott failed to finish, having been put through by Ozil, earning a corner. Mertesacker shouldered this home, cheekily celebrating his strike, as the German had nearly sealed a successive FA Cup triumph. Villa had 30 minutes to muster a response of any sort, but Arsenal’s midfield, marshalled by Francis Coquelin was having none of it, as the Midlands side struggled to keep pace with the Gunners.
Walcott was sent clear once more, but skewed his effort wide, as Arsene Wenger rolled in the changes, removing Walcott and Ozil, and replacing them with Giroud and Wilshere. In the final 10 minutes, Aston Villa had two appeals for a penalty, both of which were turned down. First, Agbonlahor was taken down by Francis Coquelin, as he seemed to make his way towards goal. Jack Grealish, who had a quiet afternoon, was then bought down by Hector Bellerin, after he turned the Spaniard at the edge of the box. Both penalties were close calls, but it just wasn’t Aston Villa’s day.
Arsenal quadrupled the lead, when Olivier Giroud netted from close range off an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross. It was a well deserved victory, and while last season’s FA Cup win was extremely dramatic, this season’s was a walk in the park.
Two FA Cups in 12 seasons, and it seems like the Wengerball is set to roll again! Let’s definitely hope so!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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