A double from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured Arsenal European football for next season, steering the Gunners to a record 14th FA Cup triumph after a 2-1 victory over 10-man Chelsea in the final at Wembley.
Chelsea started the game in the ascendancy, with Christian Pulisic becoming the first American to score in a FA Cup final when brilliantly giving Chelsea the lead with just six minutes on the clock.
After the first-half drinks break, Arsenal looked like a different side, and got themselves level from the penalty spot, with Aubameyang winning the penalty before getting up to slot home his 29th goal of the season.
The goal that won the contest was worthy of the grandest of stages, with Aubameyang brilliantly skipping past Kurt Zouma before clipping a lovely finish into the net in the 67th minute, with Mateo Kovacic’s somewhat controversial red card making Arsenal’s task of earning Mikel Arteta his first silverware as Gunners boss all the more easier.
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Right from the off, it was clear that defences were not going to come out on top in this final played in the surreal surroundings of an empty Wembley, with Chelsea causing Arsenal all sorts of problems early on.
Looking to end a poor run of just one win in 13 FA Cup matches against Arsenal, Pulisic’s brilliantly taken opener after a fine, flowing move put Chelsea in strong early position, with several chances coming and going for the Blues to add a second.
The Gunners needed a regroup, and the drinks break provided that, with Arsenal looking a different side after a chat with Arteta. The equaliser soon followed, with Aubameyang too quick for Azpilicueta, who hauled down the Arsenal striker to concede a penalty, expertly put away with the Gunners’ leading marksman.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores the winner at Wembley
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The second half lacked the intensity of the first and it looked like a moment of magic was going to be needed to settle the contest, and in Aubameyang, Arsenal had that world class showman to produce the goods. The footwork to fool Zouma was exquisite, and the finish sublime in the extreme.
Chelsea did not really look like getting back into the match, but Kovacic's second yellow card, which on second viewing looked a little harsh given Granit Xhaka appeared to make a meal of it, effectively ended their fight, as Arsenal snatched that last Europa League spot for next season, at Wolves' expense.
Give Aubameyang what he wants to convince him to stay. Can you put a price on Aubameyang's value to Arsenal? As his contract negotiations rumble on, the Arsenal skipper gave one, final example of just how important he is to Mikel Arteta's rebuild. The Spaniard needs players to build his revolution around, and Aubameyang is the most important player at the club. If it is about money, just give him what he wants - he is worth every penny.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Dani Ceballos
Aubameyang will get the headlines, but Ceballos controlled things from midfield, orchestrating Arsenal attacks from deep, while offering effective defensive cover. He is another who has emerged as a very important player to Arsenal, one they will also want to keep.
Arsenal: Martinez 7, Holding 7, David Luiz 7, Tierney 7, Bellerin 7, Xhaka 8, Ceballos 8, Maitland-Niles 8, Pepe 6, Lacazette 6, Aubameyang 8... Subs: Sokratis N/A, Nketiah 6
Chelsea: Caballero 6, James 6, Azpilicueta 5, Zouma 6, Rudiger 6, Alonso 6, Jorginho 6, Kovacic 5, Mount 7, Giroud 6, Pulisic 8... Subs: Christensen 6, Barkley 6, Hudson-Odoi 6, Pedro 6, Abraham 6.
4’ - SAVE! Great start to this. Mason Mount carries the attack to Arsenal, has options either side, but goes for the curler, forcing a fine save from Emiliano Martinez in the Arsenal goal.
6’ - GGGOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!!! Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea. Brilliant finish from Christian Pulisic as Chelsea take an early lead! What a start from Chelsea! Super move, with Mount threading the ball across for Olivier Giroud, who flicks the ball into Pulisic. The American still has plenty to do, but shows great footwork to skip past his man before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
27’ - PENALTY TO ARSENAL! Azpilicueta is all over Aubameyang, hauling the Gunners skipper to the ground. Anthony Taylor points to the spot.
28’ - GGGOOOOAAALLLLL!!! Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea. Penalty is given and, cool as you like, Aubameyang makes it 1-1.
47’ - CLOSE! Brilliant from Pulisic once more, as he single-handedly takes the attack to Arsenal, but shoots just wide at the end of a fine run.
49’ - Oh no! Catastrophe for Chelsea as Pulisic limps off! He seemed to pull his hamstring as he pulled the trigger. An awful sight for Chelsea fans.
67’ - GGGOOOAAALLLL!!! Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea. Super finish from Aubameyang as Arsenal take the lead. ust to underline his importance to this club that bit further. Great pass from Pepe across for Aubameyang, but it is all about the skipper's footwork to skip past Zouma before clipping a sublime finish past Caballero.
73’ - RED CARD! Second yellow card for Kovacic and he is off. Did not look to be much in that to be honest. Xhaka seemed to make the most of the foul.
Christian Pulisic's withdrawal was key
Image credit: Eurosport
- Mikel Arteta has become the first person to both captain and manage Arsenal to victory in an FA Cup final.
- Arsenal have won each of their last seven FA Cup final appearances since 2002 – no team has had a longer run of successive final triumphs in the competition.
- Chelsea have lost three of their last 10 FA Cup final matches, with all three defeats coming against Arsenal.
- Mikel Arteta is the first Arsenal manager to win a major trophy in their first season in charge of the club since George Graham in 1986-87.
- There was just one shot on target from either side in the second half, which was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s winning goal.
- At 31y 44d, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is Arsenal’s second oldest goalscorer in an FA Cup final, after Bob John against Newcastle in 1932 (33y 80d). He also became just the second Arsenal player to score an FA Cup final brace, after Reg Lewis in 1950.
- Since his debut for Arsenal in February 2018, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 70 goals in all competitions, more than any other Premier League player in that time.
- Christian Pulisic’s opener was the first ever FA Cup final goal scored by an American player. It was also Chelsea’s second earliest ever cup final goal (5 minutes), after Roberto Di Matteo v Middlesbrough in 1997 (1 minute).
- Mateo Kovacic became the sixth player to be sent off in an FA Cup final, with the last two of them being Chelsea players (also Victor Moses v Arsenal in 2017).