Cup holders out as Gunners on Tigers trail
Written By: Robert Halter
Last year’s F.A. Cup winners Wigan Athletic were back at Wembley again but this time around it was Arsenal looking to book a place in the 2014 final on May 17. In the fourth minute, a pin point right wing cross from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was met with a soaring header by Yaya Sanogo which was kept out by great agility from Scott Carson with a point blank save. On twenty five minutes from a Santi Cazorla corner, the ball was headed down by Gunners captain, Thomas Vermaelen but in front of the left post, Bacary Sagna scooped the ball over. The best that the Latics could conjure up in the first half were half chances as Callum McManaman cut inside the left area and his high rising strike brushed past the crossbar before Marc-Antoine Fortune brought out a save from Lukasz Fabianski with thirty eight minutes played. But Fortune was then guilty of giving away a free kick for a foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain but Lukas Podolski turned his strike past the wall and wide of the right post. With three minutes of normal time remaining in the first half, Podolski floated a ball over to Sanogo but he was stopped in his tracks by brave goalkeeping by Carson, whose strong block averted the danger. But on just under the hour mark, Wigan were awarded a penalty as despite Nacho Monreal being caught by McManaman in the build up play, McManaman charged through into the box and was brought to the floor by Per Mertesacker as referee Michael Oliver awarded a spot kick which was held up as Monreal required treatment before being stretchered off as Kieran Gibbs took over. However, Jordi Gomez kept his nerve to bend the ball into the left side of the net with a well taken penalty to give the Latics the lead. Further changes were made as Wigan took off Josh McEachran for Jack Collison before McManaman was replaced by Nick Powell and the Gunners took off Podolski for Olivier Giroud. On seventy three minutes, a low drive by Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to trouble Carson after a neat lay off by Aaron Ramsey. The woodwork then saved the Latics on eighty minutes as from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross, Sagna crashed a header against the left post but the Latics lead was hanging by a thread as Stephen Crainey hooked the ball off the line after Gibbs header had been pushed to one side by Carson but finally the Wigan resistance broke as the Gunners found the answer to get back onto level terms as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s miss timed cross from the centre of the box was met with a piercing header by Mertesacker which flew into the right side of the net in the eighty second minute. Wigan then subbed Ivan Ramis for Gary Caldwell and four minutes later, Giroud tested Carson but his shot was comfortably stopped as extra time resumed and seven minutes into the first period, a flying save by Carson pushed over a soaring strike from Sanogo, after a ball in from Oxlade-Chamberlain. But the Gunners went closer eleven minutes into the second period as a fierce strike by Oxlade-Chamberlain crashed against the top corner of the crossbar from Sanogo’s lay off. But the Latics responded as from Perch’s cross, an unmarked Collison steered his header wide. The Gunners then replaced Aaron Ramsey for Kim Kallstrom. With extra time drawing to a close, Powell was unable to seize the advantage for Wigan as he snapped at his shot while showing good pace towards Vermaelen before dragging the ball wide of the far post. It was to be left to the lottery of a penalty shoot out. Cadwell’s spot kick was saved by Fabianski and Mikel Arterta then converted for Arsenal, Collison had his penalty saved by Fabianski, Kim Kallstrom , Jean Beausejour, Olivier Giroud, James McArthur and Santi Cazorla were all on target as Arsenal won 4-2 on penalties. The Gunners opponents in the 2014 F.A. Cup final were determined as Hull City beat Sheffield United 5-3 in a Yorkshire derby, as the Gunners next had the Tigers in their firing line.