Having not won a trophy for 9 years, Arsenal are now on the brink of winning back-to-back FA Cups as they narrowly edged Reading 1-2 after extra time, thanks to two goals from Alexis Sanchez. One was a classic goal, while the other was fortuitous due to a mistake by the Reading Goalkeeper, Adam Federici, more of later.
The first chance of the game fell to Per Mertasacker from a corner but Federici saved his header. Minutes later Jordan Obita had a shot from long distance but Wojciech Szczesny comfortably dealt it with.
With a little over five minutes of the half left, Ozil played a slide rule pass to Alexis Sanchez in the Reading box. He controlled the ball, sold Garath McCleary a dummy before picking his spot, as he slipped the ball past Federici to give Arsenal the lead. Until then Reading were coping with the Arsenal onslaughts at their goal but you knew it was only a matter of time before one of the Arsenal players found a killer pass.
Whatever the Reading manager, Steve Clarke said to his team at half time seemed to work a treat. Within ten minutes of the second half, Pavel Pogrebnyak put a cross from the byline into the Arsenal area, which fell to McCleary, who headed the ball goal wards. Although Szczesny saved the ball it was adjudged to have crossed the line and Reading were level. If Arsenal thought the second half was just going to be a procession they were made to think again. Reading were not just here to make up the numbers.
Reading who now had their tails up went looking for a second. At the midway point of the game, Jamie Mackie broke down the left wing and dinked the ball back to Daniel Williams who could not find a shot to match the cross.
Arsenal went down the other end and Gabriel who replaced the injured Mertasacker had his header pushed onto the woodwork by Federici.
With just seven minutes of the game remaining Arsenal broke on a counter attack, however when it seemed certain that Aaron Ramsey would score he somehow hit the post. That kept Reading in the game.
Progrebnyak had a chance to win it for Reading as he took on two defenders but before he could pull the trigger he was dispossessed. It was now end-to-end stuff, as it seemed both sides were trying desperately to avoid extra time.
Laurent Koscielny had a chance to win it right at the death for Arsenal but his header was easily saved. And so the game went into extra time.
With barely a minute left in stoppage time of the first half of extra time, Ramsey hit a shot from distance, which Federici fumbled and just about scrambled to safety.
Football can be cruel sometimes. Sanchez cut in from the left wing and hit a shot, which Federici seemed to have under control but as he went to save it squirmed through his legs like a bar of soap and crept in. Arsenal got a lucky break right at the end of the first period of extra time.
Arsenal should have put the game to bed with 8 minutes of extra time left. Ozil got the ball in the box and should have scored but he opted to play Olivier Giroud in. Giroud’s shot hit the outside of the post and Reading were just about breathing. Reading kept fighting but it appeared the horrible error by Federici had sapped their energy.
In the end Arsenal crept over the line and now have a chance to create history by becoming the team with the most FA Cup final wins. They are currently tied on 11 with Manchester United.
Arsenal were not at their best today but big teams often find a way to win big games. Arsene Wenger and his players would not care one jot how they got to the final.
As for Reading they gave a good account of themselves and the way they played today was a contrast to their woes in the Championship. That would be of no consolation to their manager Steve Clarke who won this trophy both as a player and assistant coach with Chelsea.
Back to Arsenal and despite Wenger having his many critics, he has taken them to yet another cup final. Win that and with a Champions league place to boot the critics might just hold their fire for a while.