Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw 13-times FA Cup winners Arsenal shock Manchester City 2-0 on Saturday to ensure the Gunners reached a fourth FA Cup final in seven years.
Arsenal had lost their previous seven games against City and so the Gunners started the this semifinal as overwhelming underdogs. However, after surviving a spell of pressure at the start of the game encamped in their own half, they grew into the match and were the more dangerous of the two teams. Aubameyang missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock following a clever pass from David Luiz, but the Gabon international then converted moments later with a clever finish with the outside of his left boot following a deep cross from Nicolas Pepe.
City, looking to avoid their first defeat in 23 domestic cup games, increased the tempo in the second half in search of an equaliser. Arsenal weathered the pressure, and Aubameyang ran free on the break to double their advantage with a clever finish following Kieran Tierney’s lofted pass.
In the end, Arsenal defended stoically and despite City’s possession, Mikel Arteta’s side held on for a priceless win, and a 21st FA Cup final.
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Arsenal defended well in the 2-1 league victory over Liverpool in their previous match and they did well to weather several storms at Wembley. After an early spell on the back foot, the Gunners grew into the game and pressed City, but they also looked the more dangerous of the sides, with more of a cutting edge. They defended heroically in the second half, too, concentrating well with City dominating possession.
Arteta will, however, have been cursing his back line at times as they constantly put themselves under pressure by losing the ball in and around their own area. They were often architects of their downfall and invited pressure on themselves. In the second half, they dropped deeper and deeper as City went in search of an equaliser.
8 — Arteta, who captained Arsenal to an FA Cup victory six years ago, made five changes from the team that beat Liverpool, including dropping Rob Holding, who had played so well days earlier. The starting XI looked to be struggling in the opening exchanges but they hassled City and disturbed their passing game, limiting Kevin de Bruyne in particular. In the end, they harried City enough and were clinical on the break.
GK Emiliano Martinez, 8 — The Argentine surprisingly had little to do in the first half, but he was alert to the danger when City ramped up the pressure in the second. He showed good hands to save from Benjamin Mendy and then strong wrists to keep out Riyadh Mahrez. Flawless when called upon.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 — The defender was caught dwelling on the ball at times and on one occasion was dispossessed by Raheem Sterling, putting the Gunners under pressure. Luckily, Granit Xhaka was on hand to block. However, at the other end, he came close with an excellent header that was pushed over the bar by Ederson. He was involved in a VAR decision midway through the second half, but he was adjudged to have tackled Sterling fairly.
DF David Luiz, 8 — So often the villain, on this occasion Luiz was sensational. He once carved open City’s defence to thread a pass to Aubameyang, who shot straight at goal, and generally looked good on the ball while winning everything in the air. He also made an incredible block when Sterling was shaping to shoot. Superb.
DF Kieran Tierney, 7 — The Scot made some impressive runs down the left but also defended well in the second half when Arsenal were under intense pressure. His pass started the move that led to Arsenal’s first goal, and then his lofted pass led to Aubameyang’s breakaway for Arsenal’s second.
MF Hector Bellerin, 6 — The full-back was quiet but effective, looking to stifle City’s midfield at every opportunity. He helped protect the back three and stuck to his task immensely.
MF Dani Ceballos, 7 — The Real Madrid loanee was dispossessed early on as City started the stronger of the two sides, but he grew in confidence in front of the back three. He worked tirelessly and kept Arsenal compact alongside Bellerin and Xhaka.
MF Granit Xhaka, 8 — The former captain did a great job of protecting the back three in the first half and was often found clearing the lines for the Gunners inside their own box. He then made a great block from De Bruyne. A really solid performance.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7 — He showed good pace to defend on a couple of occasions and also looked good going forward, combining well with Tierney. His final ball was sometimes lacking, though; a good example was when he beat Kyle Walker impressively but blazed his cross over the box. Worked tirelessly all evening.
FW Nicolas Pepe, 6 — The former Lille star’s cross led to the opening goal, finding the far post and Aubameyang unmarked. He had a quiet game beyond that, with much of the it played behind him.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 — Arsenal looked to their No. 9 to keep possession to ease the pressure, and he often dropped deep to collect the ball. He was confident in possession and linked play well.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 — The Gunners’ talisman scored two goals to win it. He had the first big chance of the game when he avoided Aymeric Laporte and latched onto Luiz’s pass, but he shot straight at Ederson. He then made amends shortly afterwards when he slotted home with his studs with his 24th goal of the season following Pepe’s cross. In the second half, he finished through Ederson’s legs when released by Tierney. Clinical.
FW Joe Willock, N/R — The 20-year-old came on with 19 minutes remaining, and although he couldn’t quite get his foot on the ball, he helped out when legs were tiring.
MF Lucas Torreira, N/R — The midfielder came on at a key moment when City were throwing everything at Arsenal, and he managed to keep his concentration to play his part.
DF Saed Kolasinac, N/R — When Arsenal legs were tiring, Kolasinac came on to add some energy and a bit of muscle to the back line. The game was already won, but he did his job.
DF Rob Holding, N/R — The centre-back, who played in the 2017 final, was probably disappointed not to start considering he’d handled Sadio Mane so well in midweek, but he shored up Arsenal’s defence in the last five minutes.
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