Arsene Wenger hailed the “special” talents of his match-winner Alexis Sanchez – but admitted Arsenal had luck on their side to overcome Reading.
The Gunners needed extra-time to see off their Championship opponents in The FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, with Sanchez’s brace either side of Garath McCleary’s leveller eventually sealing a 2-1 win and a second consecutive Final appearance.
“He has made a fantastic contribution this season. He looked to struggle a little bit to get into the game but he has that stubborn resilience and that individual potential that allows him to always create something special. He gave that again today,” said the Arsenal boss of his Chilean hitman.
Reading 1-2 Arsenal
The FA Cup Semi-Final
5.20pm, Saturday 18 April
Wembley Stadium Connected by EE
“It was a difficult game against a very resilient, well-organised, physically very strong side. They were a committed Reading team who were comparable to what we faced last year against Wigan Athletic.
"We have improved a bit because we needed the penalties last year but it meant we got through,” he continued.
“I was surprised how strong they were in the challenges. In the second half they became even stronger in the challenges and we suffered a little bit then, and lost some balls that we’re not used to losing.
"In the end we were a bit lucky because their goalkeeper made the mistake and I can understand that. He kept them in the game as well for long periods.
“What was missing was a bit of speed in the combinations in the final third and maybe sharpness. The spirit and the concentration was there. We lacked a bit of sharpness to create more clear-cut chances maybe.”
Arsenal and Manchester United are currently level with the record for FA Cup wins, tied on eleven apiece, and Wenger said it would be an added incentive to put another into the club’s collection and edge in front of the Red Devils.
“The records show that we are consistent and that is most difficult. I believe that we now need to focus.
“We come back here in the Final, we have time to prepare and overall the Final is a 50/50.
"If we can beat that record we will be very happy. Let’s hope we have all our players available to come back in a good shape.”