Arsene Wenger, the man harangued so many times this season proved his critics wrong as he pulled a masterstroke to beat a harassed City who didn’t have luck on their side and looked confused by Wenger’s forward thinking 3-5-1-1 formation.
The Gunners did it the hard way coming back from a goal down to win the match 2-1 and condemn Manchester City to a trophy less season under manager Pep Guardiola.
In all honesty City were hard done by in this match with goals not counting, twice hitting the woodwork, not getting a deserved penalty but Wenger deserved a bit of a break as his team have now made the final in 3 of the last 4 years.
Alexis Sanchez scored a dramatic extra-time winner as Arsenal came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 in this the second FA Cup semi-final of the weekend at Wembley.
The Chile international struck from inside the six-yard box in the first period of extra time as the Gunners booked a final date against London rivals Chelsea.
In a controversial match, Sergio Aguero had a penalty appeal turned down and a goal disallowed by referee Craig Pawson, who also rejected Sanchez’s demands for a first-half spot-kick.
Manchester City striker Aguero did score for the 12th time in as many games to put City ahead just after the hour mark, but Nacho Monreal hit back with his first goal in over two years poking in a great volley from 8 yards.
Luck just wasn’t on the side of Pep’s men as Yaya Toure and Fernandinho both hit the woodwork for City as Arsenal put a spanner in the works as City had won their last eight FA Cup semi-finals. Aguero had a penalty claim turned down by Pawson, having gone down under slight contact from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
To be fair Oxlade-Chamberlain after playing in a right back/right wing position as one of the back three struggled at the beginning in an unfamiliar role but rallied brilliantly to put in a man of the match performance.
Guardiola’s men then suffered more frustration, Aguero forcing Leroy Sane’s curling left-wing delivery over the line at the far post, only for the officials to rule the Germany winger’s delivery had crossed the line before reaching the striker, it was a brave decision by the linesman and was very close either way.
Manchester City almost won the game when Toure unleashed a stunning 20-yard volley that was tipped brilliantly onto the post by Cech. Certainly the save of the day by the former Chelsea shot stopper who will now face his ex employees at Wembley next month.
It was simply not going to be City’s day as the woodwork denied City again in the closing stages as Fernandinho’s header from eight yards crashed against the crossbar from Kevin De Bruyne’s corner. It was a thunderous header that Cech and his defence just watched in trepidy that shook the whole goal and every Gunner’s fan in the crowd.
Wenger brought on Danny Welbeck for Giroud and the England striker beat Nicolas Otamendi before flashing an effort narrowly wide as the game moved into extra time. However he had other options and should have passed.
Rob Holding was the first to squander a big chance in the additional period, sending a free header over the bar from six yards, but Arsenal did strike after the clock had ticked over to 100 minutes.
Welbeck missed Koscielny’s knock-down from a corner but Sanchez pounced to take a touch and fire in from close range, the Chile international starring in an FA Cup semi-final again having netted twice against Reading in 2015.
Aguero had hobbled off for City just before that goal, with Fabian Delph coming on, meaning De Bruyne moved into a centre-forward role, but Arsenal were on top with Welbeck missing the target from a good headed chance.
Guardiola threw on Kelechi Iheanacho for the second period and City embarked on a late charge, but the Nigeria international missed the target with a header, with De Bruyne also shooting off target and Arsenal substitute Hector Bellerin brilliantly blocking a Delph effort as Wenger’s men held on for a famous victory.
Ecstatic manager Arsene Wenger said with a wry smile “People questioned us, we went through tough times. You can be divided or united and we have shown the right response.”
Wenger, 67, has been under the cosh this season, more than at any other time in his 21-year reign at Arsenal, with the Gunners lying in seventh place in the Premier League and on the receiving end of a 10-2 aggregate thrashing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The Frenchman is out of contract at the end of the season and has been offered a new two-year deal, although he is yet to announce whether he will continue.
Some sections of Arsenal fans have called for Wenger to go in recent months, but the manager was pleased to see his side rally after falling behind to Sergio Aguero’s opener.
He deserved that bit of luck against City and he got it.