Arsenal 1 Wigan Athletic 1 aet
(Mertersacker 82, Gomez 60 pen) Arsenal win 4-2 on pens

Arsenal reached the FA Cup final for the first time since 2005 after a dramatic 4-2 penalty shoot out win in their semi-final against holders Wigan at Wembley stadium on Saturday. Santi Cazorla slotted home the decisive penalty, adding to the earlier successes of Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom and Olivier Giroud from twelve yards for the Gunners. Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison had seen their spot kicks saved by Lukasz Fabianski and although Jean Beausejour and James McCarthur scored their penalties, Cazorla’s penalty straight down the middle and beyond Scott Carson saw the Gunners prevail. With the scores level at a goal each in normal time after Per Merterscaker gave away a penalty for hacking down Callum McManaman on the hour mark, Jordi Gomez sent Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way from the games opener. With Arsenal piling on the pressure in search of the equaliser, and with eight minutes of normal time remaining Mertersacker got his header on target for a 1-1 scoreline. Neither team could get the winner in extra time and it would be Cazorla’s kick which would see Arsenal in the FA Cup final.

Having seen his emotions and under pressure side come through a severe test on all fronts, Arsene Wenger was in praise of Fabianski and his goalkeeping which saw the Gunners prevail in the penalty shoot out.

” He did very well. I think he’s a good goalkeeper and he has shown that again today. During the game, even on the penalty they scored he went the right way. He’s quick and in the penalties of course he put us in quite a comfortable way and into a good position,” said Wenger.

Arsenal will be desperate to lift the FA Cup in May when a win over either Hull City or Sheffield United will see Wenger lift his fifth FA Cup, which could prove to be a springboard to future success, and especially with Arsenal having come through a scrappy affair which presented different challenges here.

” It’s important mentally that we didn’t go out tonight. If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight, it’s quite worrying. I believe we have a good team, we have many players out and this morning Oxlade-Chamberlain was still not sure to be available, Gibbs was not available, plus all the other players who are out. We have a good squad but recently we were missing too many players,” continued Wenger.

Wenger started with Yaya Sanogo in place of Olivier Giroud. Say what you like about the 21 year old striker, but in his tenth ever Arsenal first team outing, he acquitted himself well enough in the lone striker role, asking questions of the Wigan rearguard, and with only Carson denying the France striker at key stages of the game.

That theme became evident as early as the fifth minute when Carson produced a point blank save from Sanogo’s header with Oxlade-Chamberlain lending width to the attack.

The Latics had never lost in their two previous Wembley outings and through Callum McManaman in particular were full of running. Arsenal had another chance to grab the opener when Bacary Sagna side footed narrowly wide after Thomas Vermaelen headed on from Cazorla’s corner after 26 minutes. Three minutes later and Gomez fired over Fabianski’s bar as Wigan sensed their chance of another cup upset.

Five minutes before the break and the lively Oxlade-Chamberlain was impeded. Up stepped Lukas Podolski with a free kick which flew just wide of Carson’s upright. The willing Sanogo then broke through, and with a bobbling ball, Carson saw a chance to come out to thwart the striker with his legs

Wigan got the game’s opener in a move which the experienced Mertersacker will want to forget. McManaman teased his way through and as he went by Mertersacker, the Arsenal defender struck out a leg to give away a penalty. Despite over three minutes of waiting as Nacho Monreal received treatment for an injury in the build up play Gomez struck the spot kick past Fabianski to give Wigan the lead.

The Gunners never panicked, rather they upped their tempo and saw Sanogo fire over from Aaron Ramsey’s pass. Sanogo needed help up top and Wenger elected to bring on Giroud for Podolski. The move wasn’t met with universal approval by sections of the 50,000 Arsenal fans, but this way the attack options enabled a better balance.

It was the Gunners now determined to get the leveller as first Oxlade-Chamberlain fired at Carson from 25 yards and then Sagna headed onto Carson’s post. Sanogo then flicked on for the advanced Gibbs whose thunderous header was in, until Carson clawed the ball for a save which Stephen Crainey the cleared off the line.

With eight minutes remaining, Arsenal drew level. Sanogo did well to keep the attack alive and his pass to Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the England man scuff a shot but one which saw Mertersacker angle his giant frame low to get his header in to draw the Gunners level. Cue massive celebrations and then further Arsenal chances as Oxlade-Chamberlain set up Giroud, who shot a little too close to Carson, and with their last chance of normal time, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s corner almost saw Mertersacker grab the winner but his header went over Carson’s bar.

Thirty minutes of extra time saw the Gunners attack for a second goal. Sanogo went close but couldn’t stretch his leg far enough to latch onto Ramsey’s cross and moments later, Wigan had Carson to thank after his reflex save to deny Sanogo from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s centre.

As energy levels dropped and more was needed in the games final moments, Oxlade-Chamberlain latched onto Sanogo’s pass and thundered a shot which beat Carson, but agonisingly came back off the post and cross bar juncture.

So came the penalties and as Fabinanski saved Wigan’s first two spot kicks, it was left to Cazorla to score his decisive penalty which sees Arsenal reach the FA Cup final on May 17th.