ALEXIS SANCHEZ was the man of the hour as Arsenal secured an extra-time 2-1 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final.
The Chilean took advantage of some lax defending to send Gunners fans wild and set up an all-London finale against Chelsea next month.
Arsenal now hold the record for most FA Cup final appearances with 20 – one ahead of Manchester United and six ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool.
City started strongly and looked to dominate possession as Arsenal’s new-look five-man defence stayed deep outside their area.
But it was the Gunners who found the back of the net first when Laurent Koscielny found the back of the net in the 21st minute.
However, the strike – which came from a free-kick- was correctly ruled out for offside.
Sergio Aguero then felt he should have been given a penalty when he clipped his own heels while under pressure from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And a short while after Raheem Sterling saw his goal disallowed after the ball was deemed to have gone out of play, but replays showed the effort should have stood.
Arsenal tried and failed to appeal for a penalty just before half-time when Jesus Navas gave Alexis Sanchez’s shirt a tug in the box.
But Wembley finally saw a goal stand in the 62nd minute when Aguero chipped Petr Cech for his 30th of the season following a lovely long pass from Yaya Toure.
However, City’s celebrations were short-lived when Nacho Monreal levelled the scores ten minutes later.
The wing-back arrived from deep to drive a shot in with his weaker foot, giving the Gunners a much-needed boost.
Yaya Toure went close in the 78th minute when his effort was deflected onto the post by Petr Cech’s fingertip save.
City then hit the woodwork again when Fernandinho’s powerful header cracked the crossbar.
Danny Welbeck spurned a glorious chance to grab a late winner and the game header into extra time with nothing to separate either side.
But it was Arsenal who got the crucial goal in the 100th minute when Sanchez was able to fire home as the ball dropped kindly to him following a goalmouth scramble.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS AND LOLS
- All the talk had been about Gabriel Jesus making a miracle recovery to play – yet the Brazilian ace did not even make the bench in the end.
- Neasden born Raheem Sterling would have been particularly disappointed not to be picked to start – having talked about his love of playing at ‘home’ before the game.
- He got his chance thanks to the early injury to David Silva. The Spaniard could be a huge miss with the Manchester derby looming on Thursday.
- It is four years since City last reached an FA Cup semi final at Wembley – in the meantime the Gunners have won the competition twice.
- Pep Guardiola said Wembley has been a special part of his life – having won the European Cup there as a player and a manager. It’s fair to say he won’t remember the first half with the same kind of affection.
- Sergio Aguero’s second half opener was his 166th goal for City – putting him level in second place with Tommy Johnson on the all-time list.
- He now needs just 12 to catch Eric Brook at the top of the pile – will he stick around next season to beat it though?
- Alexis Sanchez is on Guardiola’s summer shopping list – luckily for him his former Barcelona boss knows all about him and won’t judge on this game.
- In stark contrast to Aguero, Monreal hardly ever scores. His equaliser here was only his third ever goal for the Gunners.
- Yaya Toure has been a Wembley hero for City on four different occasions. When his volley hit the post soon after the equaliser maybe they feared it would not be their day.
Arsenal next five fixtures
Leicester (H): 26 Apr – Prem
Tottenham (A): 30 Apr – Prem
Man Utd (H): 7 May – Prem
Southampton (A): 10 May – Prem
Stoke (A): 13 May – Prem
Man City next five fixtures
Man Utd (H): 27 Apr – Prem
Middlesbrough (A): 30 Apr – Prem
Crystal Palace (H): 6 May – Prem
Leicester (H): 13 May – Prem
West Brom (H): 16 May – Prem
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Arsenal: Cech 6, Gabriel 7, Koscielny 6, Holding 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Bellerin 6), Ramsey 6, Xhaka 6, Monreal 8, Ozil 7, Sanchez 8, Giroud 6 (Welbeck 7)
Subs not used: Gibbs, Walcott, Iwobi, Martinez, Coquelin
Goals: Monreal 71’, Sanchez 110′
Booked: Sanchez, Xhaka
Man City: Bravo 6, Navas 7, Kompany 6, Otamendi 6, Clichy 6, Fernandinho 7 (Fernando 6), Toure 8, Silva 6 (Sterling 6 [Iheanacho 5]), De Bruyne 6, Sane 6, Aguero 7 (Delph 5)
Subs not used: Zabaleta, Kolarov, Caballero
Goal: Aguero 62’
Booked: Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Delph, Sane, Otamendi
Star Man: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Man-of-the-match Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: “I’m delighted. We set out today to get to a final. Our league form hasn’t been good enough but this is one for the fans, we’ve given ourselves every opportunity to win it.”
Danny Welbeck: “Everyone gave their all, it was a great performance. We dug deep and got a winner in the end. The season has been a bit sticky, we’re not where we want to be in the league, but it’ll be good to go to Wembley and win the final.”