Arsenal Edge by Reading, Book Another Ticket to Wembley


It is just never easy is it? 2 Years, 2 Semi-finals, 240 minutes of play, 1 penalty shoot out.  Let’s just count ourselves lucky we’ve been on top both times.  The Arsenal side today  saw a number of changes, a number which I thought walked the line of prudent and too much change very well.  Both fullbacks were changed with Mathieu Debuchy and Keiran Gibbs replacing Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal respectively, while Wojiech Szczesny and Danny Welbeck both retained their “cup spots” in the starting lineup.

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The first 10 or 15 minutes of the match was really open and both sides had some chances. Welbeck and Per Mertesacker both had decent chances squandered, Welbeck by a tight angle and our BFG by an absolutely excellent Adam Federici save.

Reading had their own chance in the 9th when Jordan Obita didn’t quite connect with a shot from outside the box and it went straight at Szczesny.  Had he really gotten behind it though, it could have been quite dangerous.

Alexis Sanchez almost opened the scoring in the 26th after a great though ball saw him in on goal.  Federici saw his move and came to greet him out side the box.  Alexis tried to knock the ball around the Reading keeper, but

he was fouled

he couldn’t quite complete the move and the ball went out of play for a goal kick.

On somewhat of a sidenote I want to touch on Reading’s play throughout the match.  They were extremely physical and outright brutal at times.  A few minutes after the Alexis chance one of Reading’s


players outright elbowed Laurent Koscielny in the face, to which one commentator noted “Center halves don’t need noses anyway, at least not straight ones.”  Anyway while this is not paramount it just bugged me all match and I had to say something…

It was a difficult game against a… physically very strong side.”-Arsene Wenger

Alexis did indeed get his goal in the 40th minute as he put Arsenal ahead exquisitely.  Mesut Ozil played in Sanchez with a ball over the Reading defense and Alexis did the rest.  The Chilean found himself with the ball about 10 yards then deked the closest defender and slotted home the goal right under Federici.

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Mertesacker would go close near half time in the 44th, but the scoreline would go into the break unchanged and Arsenal lead their opponents by a goal to nil.

Arsenal fans could have been forgiven for thinking the tie was all but finished after the first half.  Arsenal enjoyed nearly 75% possession as well as the lead, but Reading’s Garath McCleary had other ideas.

Only 9 minutes from the break the Midfielders would find the equalizer for Reading; Game on. Coming forward through the left side of the box, Pavel Pogrebnyak sent a cross over the box.  The cross fell to the feet of McCleary who sent his shot towards the bottom left corner.  On its way the shot took a slight deflection off of Gibbs and Szczesny couldn’t get a strong enough touch to keep the ball out of goal. A ridiculous use of goal line technology/our eyes saw the goal go in and as much as I like Szczesny and I often defend him, the Pole really should have done better.  Sure the shot did take a slight deflection, but I do think most keepers would have kept that out.

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At this point in the match Reading’s


4-4-2, really stuck and the chances were sparse.  Gabriel Paulista, who came on for the injured Mertesacker, went close twice in the 69th and 73rd and probably should have scored the second, but neither found the back of the net.

The best chance of the 2nd half came via Aaron Ramsey in the 84th and I’ll probably still be wondering how he didn’t score in a weeks time.  Federici continued his fine performance with a double save deep in his own penalty area, but the final rebound fell to the feet of Ramsey about 3 yards out on the left. The Welshman then rifled a shot towards goal, but it hit the post and quite a chance was wasted.

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Just 3 minutes later Reading wasted their own chance in the form of Pogrebnyak.  He was played in on goal and ended up being 1 on 1 with Koscielny.  Koscielny isolated the striker, closed him off from goal and Pogrebnyak was only able to fizzle a soft shot at Szczesny.

Full time at Wembley ended 1-1 and the Arsenal support were having deja vu as the sides prepared for the extra 30 minutes.

Ramsey and Santi Cazorla both went close in the first half of extra time, but Arsenal finally found their luck in the added time of extra time as the Reading keeper gifted them the lead.  It was Alexis once again who got the goal as he came in down the left flank and cut inside toward goal.  He let his shot rip yards  inside the box, but it hit the Reading shot stopper right in the “Waitrose”.  Tragically for Reading, though, Federici could not hold on to the shot.

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The ball then squirmed past him and into the empty net, just over the line.  The keeper did everything he possibly could to save it, but he ended completely powerless.  I honestly feel really bad for the guy. He was the only reason Reading were still in the match and ironically, the reason they’re not in the final.  In extra time it was hard to see where Arsenal were going to get their goal.  The team was moving at a “walking pace” and Federici gave the Gunners their next ticket to Wembley on a silver platter.

In the end the result is all that matters and todays result sees us in the FA cup final.  Though we looked a bit lethargic at times, we did have the majority of chances and also the better quality ones, so we probably did deserve to win.  That being said, all credit to Reading.  They were a side that stifled us at times, got a number of chances and definitely never gave up.  It’s a shame to see a side such as that in the cellar of the championship.

On the day we did have a few standout performers.  Ozil caught my eye quite a few times.  He provided the assist for both goals and was often the impetus for the Arsenal attack going forward. Coquelin continued his fine form and did just what he was supposed to as he slotted in the defense as needed and provided them with cover at other times.  I also noticed his passing distribution was fine on the day.

Finally, while nothing spectacular came from Debuchy, his performance must be heralded.  When a defender doesn’t come to mind at the end of a game that generally means he did his job and even more so when you play 120 minutes in a cup semi-final after missing months out due to injury.

I would have liked to see us have a performance which would carry a bit more momentum into our Chelsea fixture next weekend, but considering they beat United today it probably won’t matter in the end.  At this point the cup should be our focal point.  Until next time and #COYG

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