Arsenal faced Reading in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley and it needed an extra time goal from Alexis Sanchez and a howler from Fedirici for them to win the game and make it 2 finals in a row.
Arsene Wenger surprisingly started with Danny Welbeck rather than Olivier Giroud and also brought in Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy in the place of Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal while as expected it was Wojciech Szczesny in goal instead of David Ospina.
The game started in a predictable fashion, with Reading putting men behind the ball with 2 banks of 4, while Arsenal tried to carve a space and create chances. For most part, it was Arsenal attacking and Reading defending, but there were not a lot of clear cut chances created. The first proper chance that Arsenal had came as early as the 7th minute when Per Mertesacker directed a header from a corner towards goal, but was well saved by Federici. There were a couple more chances with an Ozil free kick and a Cazorla shot, but there wasna t any real danger. On the other end, Reading did manage to get the ball into the goal, but it was rightly ruled offside.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 39th minute when Mesut Ozil played a clever ball in through the Reading defence to find Alexis Sanchez in the box. The Chilean striker had still a bit of work to do but he managed to take a shot at goal to open the scoring for Arsenal. Reading were left flat but half time came at the right time for them.
Reading regrouped after the break, and were by far the better team in the second half of the match, with Arsenal seemingly happy to see out the game with just the one goal. But Reading found the equalizer in the 54th minute, when a clever cross from Progrebnyak found McClearly whose shot took a deflection off Gibbs and went past Szczesny. Despite the equalizer, Arsenal did not seem to pick up their game and could never really find their higher gears. Arsene was forced into a substitution to bring on Gabriel for Mertesacker because of an injury he sustained.
The game may have been calling out for the pace of Theo Walcott, but Arsene chose to bring on the inform Olivier Giroud in place of Danny Welbeck and almost immediately Arsenal looked a lot better. Ramsey had a great chance in the 84th minute, but the ball came off the post, denying him the winner. They could not find the second goal to win the game and the match moved on to extra time.
Extra time was another see-saw battle with Reading showing more spirit than Arsenal and the gunners found it hard to find their rhythm. Arsene introduced Theo Walcott to inject some pace on the wings and he was a good outlet to clear the ball out of defence. The winner finally came thanks to a howler from Fedirici, who let Sancheza s shot spill between his legs and crawl into goal. He was left shattered and was inconsolable after the game as Arsenal celebrated a second appearance on the trot in the FA Cup final.
After the game, Arsene said, a It was a difficult game against a very resilient, well-organised, physically very strong side. They were a committed Reading team who were comparable to what we faced last year against Wigan Athletic. We have improved a bit because we needed the penalties last year but it meant we got through.
We had a lot of possession – I think we had 23 shots on goal and 72 per cent possession – but it was still difficult to find space because they defended very well. I was surprised how strong they were in the challenges. In the second half they became even stronger in the challenges and we suffered a little bit then, and lost some balls that wea re not used to losing. In the end we were a bit lucky because their goalkeeper made the mistake and I can understand that. He kept them in the game as well for long periods.a
Arsenal set a record of most FA Cup final appearances with 19 counting this campaign, Arsene said, a The records show that we are consistent and that is most difficult. I believe that we now need to focus on our next game. We come back here in the final, we have time to prepare and overall the final is a 50/50. If we can beat that record we will be very happy. The final is 50/50 so leta s hope we have all our players available to come back in a good shape.a