Arsenal (1) 2 Manchester City (0) 0
FA Cup Semi-Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London HA9 0WS
Saturday 18th July, 2020. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac, Matt Macey, Matt Smith, Bukayo Saka.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (19 mins, 71 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 29%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Forget everything else that has gone on before. Forget the form guide. Forget the injury doubts and the media speculation as well. This happens to be our thirtieth FA Cup semi-final, and as we know from experience (sometimes bitter) as Arsenal supporters, pretty much anything is possible here at Wembley Stadium tonight. All we can hope for is that the chaps make a first-class account of themselves, play well, and do enough to take us back to this stadium in a few weeks for the final itself. Let’s go!
Manchester City got the better of the early exchanges, and our defence were constantly changing shape from three to four to (and even five) at the back to accommodate the imminent danger as it arose. Under pressure, Shkodran Mustafi dithered and lost the ball in the six-yard box and we were extremely lucky not to be a goal down after just eight minutes. Alexandre Lacazette did manage to get the ball in the City net after twelve minutes, but unfortunately the whistle had already hone for offside; just three minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran onto a ball from David Luiz, and was unlucky not to score when Ederson saved the shot with his feet. After eighteen minutes, a Nicolas Pépé cross from the right found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored casually with a right foot shot. The match started to settle down now, and after the drinks break, Manchester City put us under pressure again and our defenders managed the clear their lines time and time again. Nicolas Pépé and Alexandre Lacazette were playing extremely well, and their enthusiasm and skill were inspiring the rest of the team in this half. Our confidence was there for everyone to see with accurate passing and clever off the ball running, and Shkodran Mustafi was unlucky not to score when his powerful header was tipped over the bar by Ederson five minutes before the break. In the dying minutes of the half, Ainsley Maitland-Niles really should have scored when faced with a certain goal, but Ederson simply caught the ball, which was a chance missed rather than one saved on City’s part.
Funnily enough, the second half started the same as the first with City applying pressure on our goal; Raheem Sterling came close to equalising three minutes after the restart, and as in the first half, our defenders were immense in keeping City away from our goal. Emiliano Martínez made a world-class save from Riyad Mahrez to keep us in the match, and time and time again our defenders managed to keep the City strikers away from our goal magnificently. On the hour, a Kevin de Bruyne free kick went inches wide; but our goalkeeper had it covered anyway, and it looked far more dangerous than it was. Amazingly, we actually had the better of a VAR decision when Raheem Sterling claimed a penalty after a clean tackle by Shkodran Mustafi, and still the defence held despite intolerable pressure from the City strikers. After the customary drinks break, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran on from a ball from Kieran Tierney, ran forty yards and coolly slotted the ball through Ederson’s legs to grab our second of the night. Joe Willock replaced Nicolas Pépé two minutes after the second goal, and although City threw the kitchen sink at us, still our defence held firm. Lucas Torreira replaced Alexandre Lacazette with twelve minutes of the match remaining, and despite more wild shooting from the City players, our line held. Shkodran Mustafi went down with an injury for which he went off the field for treatment, and thus he was substituted by Sead Kolašinac, and Rob Holding replaced Ainsley Maitland-Niles with two minutes of the match remaining. Because of the Shkodran Mustafi injury, seven minutes’ injury time had to be played, and despite some tired legs, both the defence and the result stood.
This was a proud result for everyone associated with our club; a truly, truly magnificent performance by our heroic team of players, and with twenty-nine percent possession as well! Our defence was composed, concentrated, strong and united, and cometh the hour, cometh the man. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was ice cool in his execution of the goals, and it has to be said that every man knew their part tonight, and were well drilled, and in doing so thoroughly earned the right to be back at Wembley to play either Chelsea or Manchester United on 1st August. Can’t wait! Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Aston Villa at Villa Park, Trinity Road, Aston, Birmingham B6 6HE on Tuesday, 21st July at 7.45pm(Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.