Arsenal reach FA Cup final
LONDON (AP) – Arsenal avoided FA Cup embarrassment against second-tier club Wigan today, coming from behind against the holders and winning a penalty shootout to reach the final where the London club will be looking to end a nine-year trophy drought.
After extra time ended 1-1, Arsenal’s players scored all of their penalties and Lukasz Fabianski made two vital saves in a 4-2 shootout victory over Wigan in this meeting of the fifth-place teams in the Premier League and League Championship.
Wigan went in front in regular time from the penalty spot at Wembley Stadium. Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker conceded the spot kick that Jordi Gomez converted but the German made amends by heading in the equaliser that sent the game into extra time.
“In the first half we were a bit timid,” Mertesacker said. “A lot of people questioned (our character) recently but how we came back today we proved a lot.”
A year after winning their first major trophy by beating Manchester City and then again in this year’s semi-finals, Wigan couldn’t produce another upset against a Premier League power – much to Arsene Wenger’s relief.
“It was important mentally,” the Arsenal manger said. “If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight, it would have been quite worrying.”
With the second half of his 18-year reign defined by the lack of silverware, Wenger desperately needs to collect a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup success when Arsenal return to Wembley for the final.
Arsenal will discover tomorrow whether they will face Premier League side Hull or third-tier club Sheffield United on May 17.
It could be a bittersweet end to the season, though, with Arsenal at risk of missing out on the Champions League after 16 successive years. Just before kick-off at Wembley, Arsenal were dislodged from the fourth Champions League place by Everton, which beat Sunderland 1-0.