Arsenal did it the hard way, but ultimately brought an end to their nine-year trophy drought after coming back from two goals down to Hull City to lift the FA Cup win with a 3-2 win following extra time. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal’s best player throughout the season and whose injury layoff coincided with their collapse in the Premier League title race, fittingly proved the hero with a 109th minute winner.
The pressure was on Arsenal as overwhelming favorites and having waited so long for silverware. Memories still fresh, too, of their last major final when they succumbed to the soon-to-be-relegated Birmingham City in the League Cup three years ago. Despite Wenger’s claims that his side could handle the pressure and wouldn’t take Hull lightly, the opening exchanges suggested otherwise. In their first major final in their 110-year history, Hull came out playing superbly and within eight minutes were 2-0 up thanks to goals from defenders James Chester and Curtis Davies, both resulting from set-pieces with which Arsenal failed to deal.
But Santi Cazorla’s superb free-kick in the 17th minute proved crucial to giving Arsenal a way back into the match. Still, they had to wait all the way until 19 minutes from the end of normal time to break Hull’s impressive resilience when Laurent Koscielny finished from close range. With chances going begging and penalty appeals being controversially denied for Arsenal, the match went into extra time. And it was Wenger’s decision to introduce the fresh legs of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky at half-time in the added 30 minutes that played a big part in them claiming the win without the need for penalties. Wilshere was involved in the defining move before Olivier Giroud’s clever flick set up Ramsey to break the hearts of those from Hull. Regardless, the underdogs, who came agonizingly close to forcing penalties when Sone Aluko's effort went across the face of goal late on, still have every reason to be proud of their part in a memorable final.
And it was a dream start to the showpiece occasion for Steve Bruce’s side and a nightmare one for Arsenal. The first goal came just four minutes in when Arsenal had yet to get to grips with the match. Arsenal failed to take note of Tom Huddlestone on the edge of the box, allowing the former Tottenham midfielder to strike a volley from a Stephen Quinn corner. The scuffed effort was heading harmlessly wide, but Chester reacted quickly to flick it toward the opposite corner of the net, where there was no Arsenal defender on the post, wrong-footing Lukasz Fabianski and putting his side in front.
It was after another set-piece and another Quinn delivery that incredibly led to Hull doubling their lead just four minutes later. This time Alex Bruce got up from a Quinn cross from the left, his header down came back off the post with Fabianski at full stretch and defensive lynchpin Davies produced the finish of a seasoned striker to hammer the ball home from an unfavorable angle.
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Things could soon have got even worse for Arsenal. Yet again Arsenal were exposed from a dead-ball as Bruce sent a lopping header back across goal, but this time it was toward the post that Kieran Gibbs was marshalling and the left-back headed to safety.
It could well have been a defining moment in an enthralling final, especially give that, just four minutes later, Arsenal finally gathered some momentum and pulled a goal back. From more than 25 yards out, Cazorla sent a curling free-kick with real velocity soaring toward goal and in off the fingertips of Allan McGregor. While a superb strike form the Spaniard, the Hull goalkeeper, only recently returned to fitness, will likely feel he should have done better with a shot that was some distance away from the top corner.
Despite seeing their quick start halted, Hull continued to pass confidently. Having already achieved their main goal of securing their Premier League status, they were certainly making the most of the Wembley occasion. But the tide gradually swung in Arsenal’s favor, leaving Hull hanging on to preserve their narrow advantage.
Referee Lee Probert was proving Arsenal’s greatest frustration early in the second half. While Giroud may have gone down easily when Huddlestone riskily put his arm around the neck of the French striker at a cross, a penalty should surely have been awarded when Cazorla turned back inside Jake Livermore inside the box and the midfielder followed through with his challenge and took the Arsenal man down.
Yaya Sanogo had been brought on by that stage to give Giroud some raw but pacy support up front. And while Hull were surviving, an equalizer looked increasingly like being just a matter of time. It was from a corner that it arrived, with a header from Bacary Sagna, in quite possibly his final match for the club, deflecting into the path of Koscielny in the middle of the box, and the defender turned and finished expertly before being clattered by McGregor for his troubles.
The final really should have been settled in Arsenal’s favor without the need for extra time, but Gibbs blasted over with the goal at his mercy following Sanogo’s poke across the edge of the six-yard box. Still, the momentum remained inexorably in Arsenal’s favor going into extra time. Giroud was unfortunate to see his header come back off the cross bar just four minutes in.
With Hull tiring, the introduction of Wilshere and Rosicky caused them to finally crack. Wilshere’s pass ended up arriving at the feet of Giroud, who showed his fine linkup play to back-hell it to the quickly arriving Ramsey, who poked a low shot past McGregor at his near post. Arsenal fans can only wonder how much better their season may have been had the dynamism of Ramsey been available throughout, but his goal means they can now have a reason for optimism for what lies ahead with Wenger and the team having lifted a huge weight off their shoulders.