Arsenal fights back to beat Hull in thriller, captures FA Cup title
MAY 17, 2014 2:36p ET
At the end, Hull’s players lay slumped on the Wembley turf. Their glum manager, Steve Bruce, faced the TV cameras. A stone-faced legion of orange and black clad fans in the east end looked on. Hull, up 2-0 after just eight minutes in this classic FA Cup final, had lost. And at the other end, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger was taking a bath in champagne, arms high in the air.
Arsenal won their first trophy in nine years here Saturday night, downing Hull 3-2 in a classic. The London side had been heavy favorites, and in the end, they would lift their 11th FA Cup, tying Manchester United for the all-time mark. They had erased almost a decade of pain in London, right enough. But the Yorkshire side left as they came in: without a top-tier trophy to their name at all, ever. And for what the Tigers showed tonight, that seemed harsh indeed.
Hull skipper Curtis Davies – his team’s man of the match – summed up the bitterness, saying: “It was a hard game to throw away from 2-0 up but that's what we did. I'd sooner have no plaudits and win, than have the plaudits and not be getting a medal.”
There’s no mistaking that Arsenal were the better team for much of the game. When Aaron Ramsey scored the winner, it capped a sensational 90 minutes of effort that followed on a dismal first twenty. Arsenal probably shouldn’t have even needed that as curious refereeing denied them what looked like two clear penalties. But given that Arsenal also looked as if they were dead and gone after twenty minutes, Hull have a right to feel hard done by. For twenty minutes, they had the giants on the ropes.
“It is a relief and a happiness because we were under pressure to win on [Saturday,] and we did not start well,” said Arsene Wenger. “We were hesitant, we made a demonstration in how to respond in 2-0 down -- and how not to start a Cup final.”
Indeed. The Gunners began the match soaked in flop sweat. Famed for big-game swan dives, the pressure on the London side was intense. So, when James Chester mis-kicked the ball past a very shaky Lukasz Fabianski on Saturday, with barely four minutes gone, Arsenal fans everywhere were left with a nasty feeling of déjà vu. When Davies doubled that lead four minutes later, and from such an acute angle, it looked as if the rest of London would be having a laugh at Islington. And when Kieran Gibbs was forced to head away Alex Bruce’s looping volley just minutes after that, off his own line, well, you can be sure some switched the set off.
“You need a bit of magic when you’re 2-0 down,” conceded a glum but unfailingly gracious Steve Bruce after the match. “And quality gives you that.”
That bit of quality came, in a grim bit of irony, through the manager’s son. Alex Bruce offered Arsenal a way back with a rash foul on Santi Cazorla in the 17th minute, and with one brilliant stroke, the Spaniard tucked the ball into the top corner, past a despairing Allan McGregor. From there, the traffic became strictly one-way. It was indeed a moment of magic, and from there, the Gunners ran amok.
Arsenal began to force Hull into errors, and were unlucky not to make more hay from them. Probert curiously declined to award Arsenal two penalties, one when Davies clearly handled the ball off a corner kick, another when Cazorla was taken down by Jake Livermore. But if Arsenal felt hard done by – and they should have – it did not stop their swarming, storming play.
When Laurent Koscielny leveled it up for Arsenal with twenty minutes to play, sweeping the ball over the line after it pinballed about the box, one wondered not how Arsenal had scored but why it had taken so long. After all, Hull hadn’t been out of their own half, and the Gunners had been peppering them.
The same was true of added time: it felt a question of when, not if. Kieran Gibbs fired over from seven yards when it would have been easier to score; Olivier Giroud agonizingly hit the bar. Aaron Ramsey finally settled matters when Giroud backheeled to him, allowing that yard of space for the Welsh star to pick his spot at the near post. McGregor looked distraught, but in truth, he had kept his Tigers in the game at that point.
“When everyone expects you to win and you are 2-0 down, you are under pressure,” said Wenger. “Cup finals in England are special – you saw that last year as well – and this was an important moment in the life of this team. A loss would have been a major setback.”
“On another day we might have won the Cup,” said Bruce after the match. “But it wasn’t to be. It’s not a time to whinge, but it took magic from Cazorla, but that’s what quality gives you.”
Wenger also addressed one question hanging over the club, ruling out his departure from Arsenal in the post-game conference.
“We can build on this result, and I will continue to serve the team.”