FA CUP FINAL: ARSENAL 3, HULL CITY 2
There was FA Cup final heartbreak for former Manchester United player Steve Bruce as Arsenal’s nine-year wait to win a piece of silverware finally ended.
Bruce’s Hull City gave the Gunners an almighty fright, though, as victory was only secured in the second period of extra time.
Arsenal had a mountain to overcame as Hull City had established a 2-0 lead inside the opening eight minutes through goals from James Chester, a former Old Trafford player, and Curtis Davies.
They inched their way with goals from Santi Cazorla and Laurent Kosielny and then snatched a dramatic winner from Arsenal’s player-of-the-season Aaron Ramsey.
Yet at the death, Hull came close to forcing a penalty shootout following one of the most compelling finals for years.
Bruce lamented: “May be we could have taken the game to penalties as we had an outstanding chance at the end.
“Sometimes you know your name is not on it, and it was not our day, but one thing is that we are gracious in defeat and from all at the club we say well done to Arsenal.
“They are a fantastic club and I don’t know why Arsene Wenger gets the stick he receives because he is a top-class manager.
Hull made a dream start taking the lead with little over three minutes played to ignite the final as a spectacle.
Tom Huddlestone’s shot from the edge of the box following a corner was flying well wide until Chester diverted it low past keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
And it got even better for the Tigers who doubled their lead in the eighth minute when Stephen Quinn crossed from the left,
Alex Bruce’s header struck the upright and Davies fired home an angled shot from the rebound only three yards from goal.
Hull might even have added a third goal inside the opening quarter of an hour when Bruce’s header from Huddlestone’s corner beat Fabianski but was headed off the line by Kieran Gibbs.
The electrifying start continued when Arsenal halved the deficit in the 17th minute through Cazorla’s 30-yard free kick.
Keeper Allan McGregor got a touch, but the ball went into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
The goal kick started Arsenal to life as Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski both had goal-bound shots cleared as the Gunners pressed for an equaliser.
The second half remained remarkably open without producing any meaningful scoring chances, though Arsenal had a penalty appeal rejected when Olivier Giroud went down.
Replays showed Huddlestone’s arm on Giroud’s shoulder, but the French striker fell theatrically which probably influenced referee Lee Probert’s decision to play on.
Arsenal had a second spot kick rejected after Cazorla went to ground after a challenge from Curtis Davies, but again it was a spectacular tumble.
The pressure was eventually rewarded as the Gunners made it 2-2 with 20 minutes left when Koscielny turned in a corner headed on by Bacary Sagna from inside the six-yard box.
Kieran Gibbs blazed over from seven yards with the goal at his mercy as Arsenal ought to have completed a remarkable recovery with 11 minutes left.
McGregor then pulled off a fabulous save to turn away Giroud’s superbly-struck volley from outside the box while at the end of 90 minutes substitute Yaya Sanogo had another chance to win the game, but shot agonisingly wide.
Giroud came within inches of giving Arsenal the lead in the first period of extra time when he headed against the crossbar from Aaron Ramsay’s right-wing cross.
Arsenal had other half chances to move ahead and they looked like the side most likely to triumph as the game entered its final stages.
And it was no surprise when they took the lead for the first time in the game in the 108th minute when Giroud’s back heel released Ramsey who shot low to the left of McGregor from 16 yards.
It was by no means the end of the story as Hull substitute Sone Aluko had two great chances in the last five minutes to force a penalty shootout.
Goalkeeper Fabianski strayed from his line but was beaten by Aluko who shot narrowly wide of an empty goal from the left touchline and the same player then forced a decent diving save from the same player’s drive from 30 yards.
Just how much it meant to Arsenal to end their barren spell without silverware was seen by Wenger’s victory jig as he ran on to the pitch to congratulate his players.
Asked afterwards about the win, Wenger said: “The feeling is of relief and happiness because we were under severe pressure to win.
“We didn’t start well and were hesitant, but showed a determination to come back from 2-0 down.
“We waited a long time for that and that is linked with suffering, but it was a great moment at the end.”
Wenger explained that the fightback showed the spirit and togetherness of his players and they knew how to respond to the double setback early in the match.
And he added that the cup win was an important step and platform for this team believing they will come back stronger next season.