Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are honing in on their first major trophy since 2005 as they advanced to the 2014 FA Cup Final today, outlasting current cup holders Wigan Athletic on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes at a mostly packed Wembley Stadium. The Arsenal triumph snaps Wigan’s fantastic run in the FA Cup over the past 2 campaigns, reeling off 10 wins (and 1 draw) in their past 11 FA Cup fixtures before their loss today. The victory puts the Gunners in the final for the first time since their 2005 cup win over Manchester United, a result that also came via penalty kicks.
Make no mistake about it though, the day’s work was tough sledding for Arsenal, who fell behind on 63 minutes when Jordi Gomez slotted home a penalty past starting keeper Lukasz Fabianski after Wigan’s Callum McManaman was brought down in the box by the gargantuan Per Mertesacker. The goal came following a rather dismal first-half in which neither side procured many chances on goal and even those that were directed goal wards were handled easily by Arsenal’s Fabianski and Wigan’s Scott Carson respectively.
After Gomez’s goal though, the action and volume level inside Wembley began to liven up with Arsenal pressing for an equalizer before the end of the 90, an equalizer they found with 8 minutes to spare courtesy of Mertesacker, the man at fault for Wigan’s goal. The German defender went down low and headed past Carson off of Kieran Gibbs’ scuffed effort following a goalmouth scramble to knot the game up at 1 apiece and force an extra 30 minutes of football.
The extra half-hour of football proved to be fruitless in terms of goals scored, so penalty kicks were called upon to determine the first of this year’s FA Cup finalists. The shootout itself was truly over after just 2 spot kicks apiece, with Arsenal dispatching both of theirs through Mikel Arteta and Kim Källström while Wigan saw their hopes of a repeat triumph dashed with Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison both having their efforts saved from 12 yards out. Even though James McArthur and Jean Beausejour went on to score both of Wigan’s remaining penalties, it was too little too late for the Latics as Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla scored Arsenal’s remaining two as well with Cazorla’s deciding the match and knocking Wigan out of the cup for the first time since then League 2 Swindon Town did back in early 2012, while the Gunners and Arsene Wegner have their eyes now firmly set on a major trophy for the first time in nearly a decade.