Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as Arsenal came from behind to beat 10-man Chelsea 2-1 and win the FA Cup for a record 14th time at Wembley Stadium.
Chelsea took the lead after five minutes thanks to a brilliantly-taken strike from Christian Pulisic – who became the first American to score in an FA Cup final.
But Arsenal equalised shortly before the half-hour as captain Aubameyang won and then perfectly converted his 28th goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Chelsea lost captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Pulisic to hamstring injuries either side of the interval and fell behind on 67 minutes when Aubameyang lifted a stunning second over Willy Caballero.
Chelsea hopes were extinguished six minutes later when Mateo Kovacic was sent off for a second bookable offence, as Arsenal used their numerical advantage to secure the first trophy of Mikel Arteta’s tenure and a place in next season’s Europa League.
How Aubameyang inspired Arsenal at Wembley
Aubameyang and Mason Mount registered early efforts in a lively start at Wembley, which culminated in Chelsea taking the lead with just five minutes on the clock.
Former Gunners striker Olivier Giroud’s clever flick released Pulisic into the box, where the American skipped past Kieran Tierney before slotting his 11th goal of the season past Emiliano Martinez.
Chelsea remained in the ascendancy as Arsenal took their time to grow, but the Gunners looked to have introduced themselves in spectacular fashion when Nicolas Pepe’s curled strike nestled in the top corner.
The Arsenal celebrations were short-lived though, with Aubameyang caught offside in the build-up, but seconds later the Gunners captain raced onto a ball over the Chelsea defence before being hauled to the ground by Azpilicueta.
The Chelsea skipper was shown a yellow card by referee Anthony Taylor, whose decision to point to the spot was upheld by VAR, and Aubameyang clinically dispatched his fourth goal in two FA Cup appearances this season from 12 yards.
The loss of Azpilicueta to a serious-looking hamstring injury confirmed a torrid couple of minutes for Chelsea, who were under the cosh and thankful to reach the break level having lost all of their early momenta.
Chelsea weathered the loss of Pulisic within seconds of the restart with a dominant spell as they looked to reassert their authority, but a moment of brilliance from Aubameyang fired the Gunners in front for the first time.
Hector Bellerin’s burst forward and a rash challenge from Andreas Christensen diverted the ball into the path of Pepe, his pass found Aubameyang and the Gunners skipper skipped past Kurt Zouma before chipping a sublime second over Caballero.
Kovacic’s second yellow for a foul on Granit Xhaka and subsequent dismissal effectively ended Chelsea’s hopes of overturning Arsenal’s lead, and a late shoulder injury to Pedro in his final game for the Blues was the final act of Chelsea’s capitulation as the cup slipped out of their hands.
Opta stats: Arsenal’s FA Cup love affair continues
- Arsenal has won the FA Cup for a record 14th time, while they’ve also become the first club to beat a specific opponent in as many as three finals in the competition.
- Mikel Arteta has become the first person to both captains and manages Arsenal to victory in an FA Cup final.
- Arsenal has 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 has 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.
What the managers said…
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: “Big games require big moments from big players. Aubameyang delivered that in the semi-final, he’s done it again in the final and that’s why you ask about those players.
“Some people were questioning whether he could do it in big games, but he was a big part in delivering this trophy. We’re so proud to have a player like him in our squad.
“I think [it’s the proudest moment of my career]. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved as I know the difficulties and everything we’ve been through.
“It’s been so tough the last six months for a lot of things that have happened in our lives, but I had only one mission when I came here which was to make the players and the staff believe that we could do it.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard: “We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t play great for us, but we did compete in the game and we had chances. When you give an opportunity like that to Aubameyang, he will finish you off.”
“Aubameyang scores two goals – one being a penalty – and we were very clear with the players about the threat that Arsenal provides with long balls behind you. They play football as well, but they also have a threat of a long ball behind you, particularly in those channels.
“A frustrating part of today’s game was that I showed that a lot to the players and we worked on it, but we allowed him in easily. He’s a top-class player, and the second goal is the sort of speed and quality of a player at this level that wins games like these.”
Man of the Match – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang has been crucial to Arsenal’s development under Arteta and it was fitting the Gabon international’s double sealed his first piece of silverware since taking charge.
Two goals in the semi-final were followed by two in the final as Aubameyang became the first Arsenal player since 1950 to score an FA Cup final brace.
After his exploits at Wembley, if clear that Arteta hopes of pushing on for greater prizes in the future hinges on the Gunners’ ability to keep hold of the Gabon international.
SOURCE: Sky Sports