Friday 19 January 2018

Ramsey grabs his chance to end Arsenal's barren spell

Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 (After extra time)

Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring Arsenal’s winner in the FA Cup final with Kieran Gibbs
Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring Arsenal’s winner in the FA Cup final with Kieran Gibbs
The Arsenal squad celebrate after the FA Cup Final
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal celebrates with his players as he lifts the FA Cup after the FA Cup
Sone Aluko of Hull City tries to go round Lukasz Fabianski of Arsenal
Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal shoots past goalkeeper Allan McGregor of Hull City
Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal is blocked Liam Rosenior of Hull City

When Arsenal were filled with hope at the beginning of the season, much of it centred on Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey had scored 13 goals before Christmas when injury took him out of the side as Arsenal's season fell apart.

At Wembley yesterday, Ramsey put it back together, scoring the winning goal in extra time and ensuring Arsenal had their first trophy since 2005.

Hull City had scored twice in the first ten minutes as Arsenal again showed their capacity to make a mess of things. By the interval, they had pulled one goal back before Laurent Koscielny equalised in the second half to take the game into extra time.

In the first half, this would have seemed like a victory in itself. Stephen Quinn and David Meyler started for Hull, part of a tireless midfield which dominated Arsenal for 45 minutes, reducing Mikel Arteta in particular to the periphery, while Paul McShane came on in the second half as Arsenal went on the attack.

Without the cup-tied Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, Hull packed their midfield. Arsenal's strong finish to the season ensured that they were favourites, but that seemed to overlook their serial failures in big games.

Hull hadn't overlooked it during their blistering start to the game when it seemed that all those old Arsenal weaknesses would be exposed.

Steve Bruce said later he believed that somebody's name is always on the Cup and "at one stage today, I thought our name was on it." In extra time, Arsenal went on to shatter his belief system.

In the first half, Hull's approach allowed them to break up Arsenal's midfield play, but Wenger's side also seemed stunned by their opponent's attacking intent.

They were even more troubled by their set-pieces. Within minutes Hull had their first corner and Quinn floated it to the edge of the box where Tom Huddlestone found space. His scuffed shot made its way to James Chester who deflected it towards goal and it bounced away from Lukasz Fabianski and into the net.

Hull had the lead, but they immediately wanted more. Wenger would complain, with some justification, that Hull had stolen a few yards when they were awarded a free-kick but the real complaint should have been how easily Arsenal were unsettled by Huddlestone's dangerous ball.

When it broke free, Quinn did well to play it back into the box from the left and Alex Bruce headed against the post. Curtis Davies was following up and finished well from a tight angle. Arsenal appeared stunned by the knowledge that reaching a final did not automatically mean victory.

It took 15 minutes for Arsenal to start to play when Ramsey got on the ball and released Santi Cazorla who was brought down by Bruce.

Cazorla stood over the ball 30 yards out and to the left of Hull's goal. The straightforward thing would have been to curl it over the wall to Allan McGregor's right, but Cazorla went for the far post. McGregor had anticipated the wrong thing by stepping to his right and he couldn't get across to his left in time to stop the shot.

The game now fizzed with energy. Mesut Ozil fresh-aired from six yards and Hull threw men in front of the ball as Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski all attempted to score.

Quinn had an excellent first half, but he had grown perhaps too much in confidence as he messed around with the ball 30 yards from goal. Giroud robbed him and drove into the box but he pulled the ball back behind Podolski.

The second half began with Arsenal on a relentless search for an equaliser. Giroud and Cazorla both appealed loudly for penalties, with some justification, after challenges but referee Lee Probert seemed unable to give one, no matter how clear cut.

The tackles from Hull got later and Wenger, as he had against Wigan in the semi-final, ended up with Yaya Sanogo and Giroud up front with Arsenal trying to compete physically.

As if to demonstrate their new intent, Arsenal equalised from a set-piece 19 minutes from the end. They were fortunate to be awarded a corner but Bacary Sagna attacked Cazorla's ball with intent and it bounced loose to Koscielny who swept it into the Hull net.

Arsenal should have won it in the 90 minutes when Sanogo, who had made a difference, got the ball across the goal to Kieran Gibbs. He had time and space eight yards from goal but somehow he shot over.

Hull were hanging on – McGregor tipped a Giroud shot wide – but they managed to get to extra time, although they would have happily skipped to penalties.

Wenger sent on Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky – extra time against a tiring Hull was perfect for Wilshere

In the second period, Arsenal continued to advance and when the ball came to Giroud in the box, he flicked it towards Ramsey who has shown no hesitation in front of goal all season. That wasn't going to change at Wembley and he flicked the ball past McGregor with his right foot.

Arsenal's wait looked over, but there was always a danger they could self-destruct and when Hull's substitute Sone Aluko skipped by Fabianski, who had come charging 40 yards out, an equaliser seemed inevitable. But Aluko tried to score immediately from a tight angle when he might have been better heading towards goal and finding a team-mate. Aluko tried one more long- range shot but Fabianski held on.

Arsenal's season had found true meaning in the final minutes of the final day.

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