FABI­AN­SKI

Penalty shootout de­nies Wi­gan

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP SEMI-FINAL - By Chris Dunlavy To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

ut­terly un­able to find a way through or round the massed blue ranks.

It was then, no sur­prise to hear the red half of Wem­b­ley get up­pity and just af­ter the hour, their mur­mur of dis­con­tent be­came a full blown howl of ou­trage.

Cal­lum McMana­man had trou­bled Na­cho Mon­real all evening and eas­ily brushed the French­man aside wide on the right. The young winger then cut into the box where he was stupidly hacked down by Merte­sacker for the most bla­tant of penal­ties.

Gomez, a hero from the spot against Man City, was forced to wait fully three min­utes to take his kick as medics treated the in­jured Mon­real, but if Ar­se­nal had hoped the de­lay would faze him, they were badly mis­taken. The Spa­niard took just a cou­ple of

it was

BRAVE Wi­gan’s valiant de­fence of the FA Cup ended in heart­break as Ar­se­nal came back from a goal down to tri­umph on penal­ties.

A sec­ond-half spot-kick from Jordi Gomez looked to have sealed a re­turn to the fi­nal for Wi­gan, only for Per Merte­sacker’s late header to take the game to ex­tra time.

And af­ter misses from subs Gary Cald­well and Jack Col­li­son, Santi Ca­zorla swept home the de­cid­ing penalty to send Ar­se­nal to the fi­nal.

“I couldn’t ask for any­thing more than they gave me,” said proud Wi­gan boss Uwe Rosler. “Not just to­day but through this whole run.

“To­day we played one of the best teams in the coun­try in Ar­se­nal. We forced them to play long and that is all credit to my boys.

“You can ask a lot of fa­mous play­ers in this coun­try why they are miss­ing penal­ties. I don’t blame any­one.You need a lit­tle bit of luck and we didn’t get it. On paper, we are walk­ing out of here as losers. But in our minds we are win­ners.”

If Ar­se­nal’s play­ers were feel­ing the bur­den of nine tro­phy­less years, it didn’t show in their swash­buck­ling early at­tacks. First Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain linked with Aaron Ram­sey and burst into the area, only for his touch to desert him at full tilt.

Then the Eng­land winger – a whip­pet-quick men­ace through­out – hooked a bril­liant ball into the six-yard box that was met at its apex by Yaya Sanogo. A goal looked in­evitable, but Scott Carson stretched out a hand and Ivan Ramis hacked the re­bound to safety.

Things didn’t get much bet­ter for Sanogo; the young French striker tripped over Santi Ca­zorla’s in­tel­li­gent through-ball, blasted over from the edge of the box and then went clean through only to see his shot saved by Carson and re­bound off his own face for a goal-kick.

Lit­tle did the Gun­ners re­alise then that they’d al­ready had their best spell of the game. Sti­fled by James McArthur and starved of pos­ses­sion by the won­der­ful Jordi Gomez, the Pre­mier League side looked in­creas­ingly dis­jointed, steps be­fore clock­ing a pic­tureper­fect penalty into the bot­tom cor­ner. Cue delir­ium in the east end of Wem­b­ley and that now fa­mil­iar beam of pride from Lat­ics owner Dave Whelan.

At that point the Gun­ners were in dis­ar­ray and when Wenger elected to re­move Podol­ski in­stead of Sanogo, their fans erupted in a cho­rus of de­ri­sion. Yet as the old say­ing goes, Arsene knows.

With just eight min­utes re­main­ing, Sanogo bril­liantly con­trolled a cor­ner be­fore lay­ing off to Cham­ber­lain on the edge of the box. His shot was a harm­less bob­bler, but Merte­sacker crept in at the back post to nod home, seal per­sonal sal­va­tion into the bar­gain.

Hav­ing twice hit the post in the build up to the cor­ner – through Bacary Sagna and then sub Kieran Gibbs – de­served.

Though Wi­gan had glimpses in ex­tra-time – the best a header from Jack Col­li­son – it was largely an Ar­se­nal siege. Giroud and Sanogo both saw shots saved be­fore Cham­ber­lain smashed a how­itzer against the bar.

And when it came to penal­ties, the Pre­mier League side showed their class with Mikel Arteta, Kim Kall­strom, Olivier Giroud and Ca­zorla all find­ing the net.

“I don’t know if people have ques­tioned our char­ac­ter re­cently,” said Gun­ners de­fender Merte­sacker. “But the way we came back to­day, I hope it an­swered them.We showed great char­ac­ter. It meant a lot and we are com­ing back here to win it now.”

just about

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

TIME TO DREAM: Jordi Gomez gives Wi­gan the lead from the penalty spot

SCRAP­ING IN: Ar­se­nal goal­keeper Lukasz Fabi­an­ski and team mates cel­e­brate win­ning the penalty shoot-out

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