Arsenal snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to win a record-equalling 11th FA Cup, as they beat Hull City 3-2 in an enthralling encounter at Wembley Stadium.
It had been 3,283 days since Arsenal last lifted silverware.
And Wenger’s men will be breathing an enormous sigh of relief tonight as goals from Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and an extra-time winner from Aaron Ramsey rescued the Gunners - and cancelled out early strikes from James Chester and Curtis Davies that had given Steve Bruce’s men the lead inside eight minutes.
Arsenal 3-2 Hull City (AET)
The FA Cup with Budweiser
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Saturday 17 May 2014
The game began at a barnstorming pace and some had barely taken to their seats as Chester sent the Hull fans into delirium - and Bruce punched the air in delight.
Stephen Quinn floated a corner into the path of Tom Huddlestone on the edge of the box, the former Spurs man hooked his volley into the path of Chester - who stuck out a foot and turned it past Lukasz Fabianski and into the bottom corner off a post.
Just as Manchester City had a year earlier, Arsenal had taken to the Wembley field as overwhelming favourites – and like City 12 months ago seemed to be shell-shocked by their opponents’ drive, determination and positivity during the opening exchanges.
And if they were pinching themselves after Chester’s opener, moments later the Hull faithful were positively in dreamland as captain Davies made 2-0. Centre-back Bruce got on the end of another set piece and Fabianski could only parry the header onto the post and back into the path of Davies - who rifled home.
Arsenal’s big day was threatening to unravel.
With less than 15 minutes gone it could have been 3-0 and game over for the Gunners. Again it was a set-piece, and again it was Bruce causing carnage in the box – this time his looping header was cleared off the line by Gibbs. Arsenal were on the ropes and Hull were seeking what would have surely been a knockout blow.
But as the occasion threatened to get away from Wenger’s men, up stepped Cazorla to haul the Gunners back into the game with an expertly curled right-footed free-kick from the edge of the box.
Allan McGregor got a fingertip to the Spanish midfielder’s effort – but it had too much whip and flew in high to the goalkeeper’s right. Cazorla turned towards the Arsenal bench and punched the sky with determined delight. Game on.
But the newfound vigour was short-lived and Arsenal failed to make the momentum count. Half-time came and went. So too did the first 15 minutes of the second half. It was not until the hour-mark had passed that Wenger’s men seemed to sense the enormity of the occasion.
Koscielny glanced a header just wide when he should have done better, and substitute Yaya Sanogo went close with a near-post flick.
The mood of the Hull fans shifted from jubilant to jittery. The sudden wave of tension transferred to the pitch. And moments later the 28-year-old Koscielny atoned for his earlier miss by bravely poking home a loose ball in the box, as Bacary Sagna’s header bounced off Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman was injured in the process but it was a pain worth experiencing as it proved to be the catalyst for Arsenal to bring to an end the nine years of hurt since they last lifted The FA Cup on the 21 May 2005 – but not before extra-time and Ramsey’s dramatic winner.
On 109 minutes, with Hull players dead on their feet and awaiting penalties, the Welsh international latched onto a clever backheel from Giroud to poke home his 18th – and without doubt most crucial goal of the season to win the Cup for the Gunners.
It may yet prove to be the most important of his career.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): 21 Lukasz Fabianski; 3 Bacary Sagna, 4 Per Mertesacker, 6 Laurent Koscielny, 28 Kieran Gibbs; 8 Mikel Arteta (c), 16 Aaron Ramsey; 19 Santi Cazorla, 11 Mesut Ozil, 9 Lukas Podolski; 12 Olivier Giroud.
Substitutes: 22 Yaya Sanogo on for Podolski 61, 7 Tomas Rosicky for Cazorla 105, 10 Jack Wilshere for Ozil 105.
Substitutes not used: 1 Wojciech Szczesny, 5 Thomas Vermaelen, 17 Nacho Monreal, 20 Mathieu Flamini.
Goals: Cazorla 17, Koscielny 71.
Manager: Arsene Wenger.
Hull City (5-3-1-1): 1 Allan McGregor; 27 Ahmed Elmohamady, 5 James Chester, 4 Alex Bruce, 6 Curtis Davies (c), 2 Liam Rosenior; 14 Jake Livermore, 8 Tom Huddlestone, 7 David Meyler; 29 Stephen Quinn; 12 Matty Fryatt.
Substitutes: 15 Paul McShane on for Bruce 67, 24 Sone Aluko on for Quinn 75, 17 George Boyd on for Rosenior 102.
Substitutes not used: 22 Steve Harper, 3 Maynor Figueroa, 10 Robert Koren, 20 Yannick Sagbo.
Goals: Chester 4, Davies 8.
Bookings: Huddlestone, Meyler, Davies.
Manager: Steve Bruce.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire FA).
Assistant referees: Jake Collin (Liverpool FA) and Mick McDonough (Northumberland FA).
Fourth official: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire & Rutland FA)