Penalty shootout denies Wigan
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
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.”
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