Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice to win the FA Cup final against Chelsea in an empty Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal secured qualification for the Europa League with a 2-1 victory.
After finishing in eighth place in the Europa League – four places and 10 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea – Mikel Arteta’s side were in danger of missing out on European football next season, but Aubameyang had other ideas.
Christian Pulisic, who hobbled off injured in the second half, had put Frank Lampard’s men in front after five minutes but Aubameyang levelled up after being brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta.
After slotting home from the spot midway through the first half, a moment of magic from the Gabon international in the second period put the Gunners 2-1 up, with Matteo Kovacic sent off five minutes later for a, perhaps harsh, second yellow card offence.
Arsenal are the most successful side in the competition’s history and they were good value for their 14th FA Cup success.
It was, however, another sign of how much they rely on their talisman, whose contract has less than a year to run.
Having scored twice in their semi-final win over holders Manchester City, he scored his 28th and 29th goals of the season to round off another fine campaign.
It was a high-tempo start. Aubameyang had the first chance inside two minutes, heading wide after good work from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, before Mason Mount called Emiliano Martinez into action with a bent effort from 20 yards moments later.
Two minutes later, Pulisic put Chelsea in front. A neat lay-off from Olivier Giroud inside the penalty area allowed the American to weave past Tierney before clipping the ball past Martinez. From Arsenal’s perspective it was a very soft goal.
Chelsea appeared the sharper of the two teams and Pulisic – the most lively player in the opening 10 minutes and the youngest scorer in an FA Cup final since a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004 – stung the gloves of Martinez with a crisp drive.
Nicolas Pepe stroked the ball home from distance shortly after the drinks break, but the linesman had long had his flag up after Maitland-Niles was offside in the build-up.
Arsenal’s pain was short-lived. A long ball over the top saw Aubameyang get in behind Azpilicueta, with the Chelsea captain pulling the Gunners striker down in the box before he stepped up and converted coolly from the spot.
Azpilicueta’s afternoon was over just beyond the half hour mark as he hobbled off in tears with a hamstring injury, with Andreas Chrisensen brought into the fray.
Having looked so assured in the opening stages, Chelsea were now rattled. Individual errors crept in under pressure from their opponents as Arsenal began to dominate proceedings.
Immediately after the break, Chelsea lost another key man to a hamstring problem as Pulisic was forced off.
A moment of magic broke the deadlock in the second half.
Aubameyang stood Kurt Zouma up in the box, skipped past him and lifted the ball over Caballero to put Arsenal in front for the first time moments before the drinks break.
Kovacic was sent off five minutes later for a second yellow card offence after a challenge on Granit Xhaka.
David Luiz hobbled off with three minutes to go, while Pedro was stretchered off after a nasty looking shoulder injury in stoppage time, but it was a largely comfortable finish for Arsenal, who once again will be indebted to Aubameyang’s brilliance.
Follow Metro Sport across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more stories like this, check our sport page.
Source: Read Full Article