Aaron Ramsey scored 12 minutes from time to win the FA Cup final for Arsenal in a pulsating 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Saturday.
In a lively battle between north and west London at Wembley, Chelsea – who trailed 1-0 to Alexis Sanchez’s controversial opener – looked down and out when Victor Moses was sent off on 68 minutes for picking up a second yellow card for diving.
However, Diego Costa sensationally levelled for the 10 men on 77 minutes, only for Ramsey to hit an instant reply for the Gunners just 60 seconds later after a wonderful cross from substitute Olivier Giroud.
The victory ends a disappointing league season on a high for Arsene Wenger, who has now won the FA Cup a record seven times as Arsenal boss – although he is yet to announce whether he is staying on as manager next season.
All the pre-match talk surrounding this clash revolved around Arsenal’s injury issues at the heart of their defence.
With Laurent Koscielny suspended and Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi missing out through injury, Wenger had to field a makeshift back three of Per Mertesacker, who was making his first start in 13 months, alongside Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal.
It was thought that Chelsea would pressurise the Gunners backline early on – but it was Arsenal that looked the more eager to force the running and they were in front inside four minutes, albeit in controversial circumstances.
David Luiz’s clearance was blocked by Sanchez, who used his hands to divert the ball into his path. The Chilean then tried to knock the ball into the path of Ramsey, but he was in an offside position.
With the Chelsea players appealing for handball and offside, Sanchez carried on his run and got there ahead of Ramsey before sliding an effort past Thibaut Courtois. The linesman had flagged for offside but referee Anthony Taylor overruled his assistant after a 30-second deliberation and Arsenal’s players celebrated wildly.
. Chelsea looked shell-shocked and very leggy as Arsenal swarmed around them at every opportunity.
The Gunners were afforded considerable space in the final third, with Danny Welbeck’s movement causing Gary Cahill and David Luiz untold amounts of problems. Mesut Ozil took advantage of the huge gaps in the Chelsea backline on 16 minutes but his chipped effort was back-heeled off the line by Cahill.
The Arsenal pressure was relentless, but they could not find the second goal their dominance deserved. Ozil’s corner was headed onto the post by Welbeck on 19 minutes and somehow Ramsey amazingly followed suit from three yards out – although the angle was tight.
Chelsea continued to live dangerously and Welbeck sprinted in behind on the half-hour, and his effort from a tight angle beat Courtois but not Cahill, who scrambled it off the line.