Arsenal are in the FA Cup Final. Manchester City will rail against the injustice of it all and, in particular, a ‘goal’ by Sergio Aguero that was wrongly disallowed while they also struck the woodwork twice and missed a host of chances.
Arsenal dug deep – as so often they have failed to do – and showed immense spirit as they came from behind with goals by Nacho Monreal and, in extra-time, Alexis Sanchez.
They will meet Chelsea in the final with an unlikely chance of another trophy for Arsene Wenger in a season of such frustration and doubt. Maybe now that contract announcement will be made even if he will not qualify for the Champions League.
For Pep Guardiola a first campaign in which so much was expected will end with a fight to stay in the top four and nothing more. No trophy. Not this year. And that has to represent failure just as Wenger is not expected to qualify for the Champions League for the first time.
The last thing everyone expected was a game littered by fouls – some cynical – with chances at a premium. But that is what unfolded until the encounter opened up gloriously, chaotically and end-to-end in the second-half.
Before that it had been completely dominated by City. Both sides, nevertheless, had penalty claims. Both sides also had ‘goals’ disallowed – with the refusal of City’s strike the one that should have stood.
It came as assistant referee Steve Child deemed that Leroy Sane’s cross had gone out of play but the whole of the ball had not – how could he be sure? – before Aguero volleyed goalwards. Petr Cech beat it out and substitute Raheem Sterling turned in the rebound but it was chalked off. It should have been given. It should have been Aguero’s goal.
The striker also felt he should have had a penalty when the otherwise impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tangled with him but that was less defined as Aguero also clipped his own heels and, maybe, the benefit of doubt should have gone to the Arsenal man as he was attempting to get out of the way and the level of contact was not clear.
But it added to City’s sense of frustration and injustice which had been fuelled when David Silva – who had been prominent – was forced off after a clumsy challenge by Gabriel which referee Craig Pawson did not deem worthy of a caution. Having not yellow-carded Gabriel, Pawson then made it difficult for himself as a number of other challenges went unpunished including one by Jesus Navas, attempting to stop Sanchez from reaching a free-kick which Arsenal claimed should have been a penalty and could also have been given.
The only one of the four major first-half incidents which was indisputable was that Koscielny was offside when he volleyed past Claudio Bravo in a rare foray forward by Arsenal who were almost overwhelmed by City. The possession ratio was 70:30 but it felt even more as Arsenal were forced deep and failed to get any kind of foot-hold.
They continued with the three at the back but it was effectively five with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Monreal forced ever deeper although, finally, into the second-half Arsenal began to provide a sustained threat of their own and Granit Xhaka was presented with an opportunity when a free-kick was squared to him, unmarked and with City defending deep, only to shoot weakly.
At the other end and Nicolas Otamendi had a free header from a corner, but planted it wastefully wide before he made a vital block City almost gifted Arsenal the lead as Fernandinho carelessly lost the ball inside his own area and it appeared Olivier Giroud would have the chance to shoot. Otamendi covered.
Finally there was a breakthrough with Arsenal also needlessly losing the ball, on the edge of the City area, through Aaron Ramsey with Yaya Toure intercepting and lifting a pass forward for Aguero who was suddenly in a foot race with Monreal from inside his own half. There was only one winner in that contest although Aguero appeared to then push the ball too far ahead – only for Cech to hesitate and the striker to lift his shot past him for his 12th goal in 12 appearances.
It seemed that would be decisive but there was redemption for Monreal with another poor concession from Arsenal as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s superb deep cross allowed to run to the wing-back, who was not tracked, and he smartly volleyed the ball home from close-range at the far post. It was his first goal in two years.
City responded and it appeared Toure was set to restore their lead but, this time, there was redemption for Cech who tipped his bouncing volley, from outside the area, against the post. City struck the frame of the goal again – this time Fernandinho rising high to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s corner only for his header to cannon back off the cross-bar.
Arsenal then went close with substitute Danny Welbeck breaking clear of Otamendi only for his curling shot to flash narrowly past the far post – when maybe he should have squared it to Sanchez or crossed for Ramsey. They both were better options.
Arsenal also claimed the first opportunity of extra-rime with Rob Holding heading onto the roof of the net from a corner. And it was from another corner that they scored with Koscielny heading the ball back across goal, Welbeck taking a swipe at it before Sanchez pounced ahead of Gael Clichy to sweep his shot past Bravo. Welbeck could have settled it but headed wide.
It gave City a chance and they should have taken it when they broke three on two only for substitute Fabian Delph’s shot to be deflected into the side-netting. From the corner another replacement – City’s fourth, permitted in the later rounds of the FA Cup – headed wide when he again should have done better. But Arsenal held on and had their extraordinary win.
Our match report will follow shortly
A match that really came alive.
First ever potless season for Pep. And no, the fourth-place trophy doesn't count.— John Brewin (@JohnBrewinESPN) April 23, 2017
Average touch positions (end of extra time)
Full time: Arsenal 2 Manchester City 1
They've done it! A 20th FA Cup Final for Arsenal.
Arsenal not exactly digging in. They just cannot help themselves. Pushing forward. Toure with a long range effort.
Francis Coquelin on for Mesut Ozil.
First hour was a bit forgettable but these two talented, flawed sides have provided excellent entertainment since. Can Arsenal hang on? Sanchez finds Ozil as Arsenal break. Mesut has a little rest on the floor in the penalty area. Nobody is convinced.
Yellow cards flying around at Wembley Stadium
Craig Pawson brandishes his seventh yellow card of the game - Nicolás Otamendi is the latest name in the book for Man City.
End to end to end. KDB flashes the ball across goal. Nobody there to follow it in.
Welbeck breaks and Arsenal have a chance to settle this. But he donkeys it up.
Iheanacho heads just wide from a corner!
Should have scored! Delph! De Bruyne with the run, he plays in Delph. Some of the City fans in the ground think he has scored it. He sure should have. Side netting. Bellerin did well to track back and put him off.
Yaya whacks the ball into the wall and appeals for a handball. Why don't concentrate on the football and leave the officiating to the ref, mmmm?
De Bruyne smuggles it through to Iheanacho. He loses it. Arsenal should clear this easily but make a pig's ear of it. Bellerin gives away the freekick, he did not have much choice.
HT in ET: Arsenal 2 Man City 1
Can the Gunners hold on?
Sterling withdrawn. Kelechi Iheanacho. Guardiola wants longer to talk to his players. The officials tell him to get on with it.
Danny Welbeck has (yet) another chance to wrap this up. He has headed over. Xhaka and Delph both booked for some silly beggars.
Average touch positions (105 + 3 min)
Various bits of housekeeping. Card for Sane for running his mouth. City stroppy. Ox off. Hector Bellerin on.
A goal from Alexis Sánchez for Arsenal makes the score 2-1. Freekick comes in. Welbeck has the chance but fluffs it, he mis-hits the ball and inadvertently tees it up for Sanchez. He shows great composure to control and stab it home.
But one senses the force might be with Arsenal.
Pep plays his hand. Fabian Delph replaced Sergio Aguero. Fernando replaces Fernandinho. Holding gets up for a header from a corner but cannot hit the target.
Welbeck has the ball again. Down by the byline. This time, Welbeck dare not shoot, tries to find Sanchez. Cannot. Sanchez gives him a rollocking anyway. Heh.
Alex O-C has been Arsenal's best player by a country mile. He burns past Sane now and gets off a good cross. Ramsey fails to connect with it.
Damning how after almost a whole season of Pep, City are completely lobotomised by taking David Silva off .— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) April 23, 2017
City look the better bet to me. KDB and Yaya driving them on. Sane lurks. Here's a bright move, the latter getting into a good position down the left.
15 minutes each way
Time on ball (at full time)
Score after 90 minutes: Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Tense stuff! City have seen the ball hit the woodwork twice and had a goal (probably) wrongly but (definitely) understandably ruled out.
With three minutes to be added, it's City who are on the front foot. Arsenal have the whole team back. Ozil, of all people, tackles Aguero in a dangerous position.
End-to-end, exciting stuff. Sanchez breaks, brought down by KDB. Yellow.
Yaya rolls back the years with a gallop into the box. Down. No pen.
Ramsey is furious! Sanchez is furious! Welbeck gets a bit of luck down the right when the ball bounces kindly for him off Otamendi. He tries an ambitious curler with both Sanchez and Ramsey in the middle. They let him know.
Ozil hasnae done much, but here he is down the right... nice ball as he tries to find Welbeck. Oh timely intervention from Navas. Welbz was in.
Danny Welbeck replaces Olivier Giroud
Arsenal living dangerously here. Corner. Here's Fernandino, rises magnificently. Beefy header. Hits the bar.
Yaya! From nowhere, he hits a volley. Cech dives full length and just manages to get a fingertip to it. Onto the post.
Darren Fletcher: "a size smaller on the gloves and that was in. Lucky he got the extra large!"
Martin Keown said after the goal "we have a real game on our hands now." That hasn't actually come to pass.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
Arsenal level it up with a goal from Nacho Monreal: it's 1-1.
And it is all down to the Ox! A really powerful run from him, a brilliant cross from the right. Arriving unmarked, at high speed, is Nacho Nacho man. He meets the ball perfectly with his right foot and volleys it home. Wing-back to wing-back!
Fernandinho has the second yellow of the day, for fouling Xhaka. Xhaka himself, surprisingly, has yet to be booked.
Gabriel gives Sane a whack in the chops, one assumes accidentally.
Great turn and shot from Ozil. Just wide.
Man City break the deadlock thanks to a goal from Sergio Agüero - 0-1.
That will hurt for Arsenal, in many ways. Firstly, they were having a good spell. Second, they were attacking. But Yaya got it off Ramsey, looked up, and played the route one ball forward. Monreal should surely clear this up, and it looks like he will, but Aguero finds another gear and runs onto it. Now there is a heavy touch from Aguero. Cech comes out but Aguero is too quick, or Cech is too slow. The Argentine slots it home. GOAL CITY! 12 in 12 for Sergio.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Heart in the mouth for Bravo when he has to deal with a regulation back-pass. Slips! An Arsenal forward is bearing down on him, Bravo recovers enough to clear. One has the sense that a howler might be the decisive moment in this high-stakes, medium-quality match between two expensive but ultimately unconvincing sides.
Ramsey and Otamendi clash, hard but fair. The former comes off the worst.
Arsenal brighter in the second half, Sanchez running powerfully and dangerously. Hauled down. Freekick. Worked short. Shoddy defending from City, Xhaka allowed a free hit in the penalty area. Weak shot.
Neither side at their best.
City had lots of the ball but didn't do a massive amount with it. Arsenal for their part were slightly cowed. Sympathies with the linesman, who I think probably got that decision wrong. But almost impossible to see at that speed.
Anyhow. That was then. This is now. here come Arsenal, with Sanchez. Holding involved. More direct. Giroud tries to knock it down for Ramsey. Navas obliged to clear for a corner. Kompany got whacked by Giroud. Corner easily cleared.
The second half is underway.
Half time: Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Mainly about these guys, really.
Time on ball (first half)
Arsenal have barely tested the visitors' goal
Arsenal managed just a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes
Average touch positions (half time)
Officials under huge pressure in this match. Deep freekick into the City area, Navas marking Sanchez. Looks to me like he's given him a wee nudge in the back. Ref says no penalty.
Now City have it in the net! But it is ruled out by the linesman.
Linesman flagged that the ball was over the line as the cross 'bent' into the area. A very tight call!
This shot above was blocked, Sterling slapped home the rebound but it was not to be...
Giroud and Kompany have a wrestling match under the high ball. As is often the case, it's the loser of the tussle who gets the decision. Freekick Arsenal. Urch, they are offside from the freekick. That's weak.
Talking of quality players, here is Aguero. Dancing and wriggling through, shoots, into the side netting.
Navas is through... but he is offside. By a country mile. Rather a bitty, scrappy few minutes, neither side's quality players able to get their A-game going.
Man City pinning the hosts back in their own half
The visitors are keeping the Arsenal defence busy so far.
Vaguely niggly game, for all the silky fancy boys on display. Aguero in agony. Koscielny has given him a whack in the small of the back.
City have a freekick 40 yards out and take it short. Slipped through to Sane. There's Oxlade-Chamderlain, tracking him stride for stride. Denies him, but at the expense of a corner.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
First yeller of the afternoon and it goes to Sanchez for an honest, but late, challenge on Fernandinho..
The resulting freekick is half cleared, it drops to Raheem Sterling on the edge of the box and he volleys wide.
Aguero down in the box! Wants a pen! Oxlade-Chamberlain the accused. Ref says no.
Man City enjoying plenty of touches of the ball so far
Man City have had 212 touches of the ball compared to 122 by Arsenal.
A smattering of yellow inflatable bananas in the City end.— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) April 23, 2017
Some good news for Arsenal now, though: David Silva is hurt, and coming off. Raheeeeeeeeem Sterling enters the fray.
Silva got a sore kick in the back of the leg from Koscielny, who was not cautioned. That is, as they say, a right result if you are a Gooner.
Giroud slots it home as Koscienly heads over the defence, but he's a mile off-side. Cheers die in Arsenal throats.
Ozil too quick, too nimble for Vincent Kompany, who fouls him.
I fear for the Arsenal back three. Silva buzzing around.
Save! Ball into the Arsenal area, Silva peels away and heads it... cannot really get power. Sane maybe better placed just behind him? Debatable. Worrying for Arsenal either way. Silva's not exactly Duncan Ferguson, is he? Not sure he should be winning corners with a close range header.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
Arsenal have their first strike at goal
Arsenal respond to the earlier Man City effort with their first shot of the game.
Stan not really the Man
Tempted to answer my own question about Stan Kroenke and what he does for Arsenal. He sits on his asset.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) April 23, 2017
Arsenal now! Sanchez, bright and busy, slips it out to Monreal. Low cross. Danger! Yaya hacks it clear.
Silva with the game's first moment of real quality, given space and time, and he plays a neat ball through for Aguero. Just as he is about to shoot, Kos gets a vital touch to toe it behind for a corner.
The linesman holds up Kevin DB taking the corner, City attempting some elaborate dummy runner thing by the flag. Lino not having it.
Otamendi with a reducer on Ozil.
And here is KDB again, down the right, to the byline. Cross comfortably cut out by Koscielny.
Early chance for the Ox to get a tackle in on Clichy, who is looking to get forward.
And we have our first shot, as Sane muscles forward, slips it to Kevin De Bruyne. Shoots low, and well wide.
Sanchez bustling around that midfield like his life depends on it. He's fouled. City soon get it back though. City look to have time and space in the centre of the park.
Both sides in the correct kit, which is nice.
Stan Kroenke donated $1m to Donald Trump's inauguration fund. Whatever you think about Wenger, what has Kroenke really done for Arsenal?— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) April 23, 2017
Flags and shiny foil things the order of the day
at Wembley. A corner of the pitch bathed in sunshine. Great atmosphere. Would be worthy of a Final.
Great atmosphere. Both of these teams (managers?) badly need a trophy, and this is their sole remaining chance.
Tin foil flags are in fashion. Sounds like a giant rattlesnake. pic.twitter.com/v7bDpyN9QU— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) April 23, 2017
We hope everyone celebrating today has a good one pic.twitter.com/A4FiUgIvnx— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 23, 2017
More tube fun
First Mancini, now this.
Group of 4 lads singing Arsenal songs to each other on the tube, some don't know the words, great banter— JJ Bull (@jj_bull) April 23, 2017
How they may line up
Big task for the Ox today. Presumably Ozil will do his own thing and thus abandon the right wing-back to the tender mercies of the electric Sane down that flank. If Clichy joins in on the overlap I reckon Arsenal have big problems.
Bobby Manc going underground!
Have they... have they decorated the Wembley dressing room floor?
I wonder if the first part of this will
continue to be true.
29 - This will be Arsenal’s 29th appearance in the FA Cup semi-finals – the most of any team in the competition’s history. Experience.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2017
Both teams unchanged
So Arsenal will, one assumes, be sticking with their new back three model.
And in the widely discredited "words" format
Man City: Bravo, Navas, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Fernando, Sterling, Kolarov, Delph, Iheanacho.
Arsenal: Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. Subs:
Tyers here. We've had a one-sided semi up in Scotland, but there's every reason to hope for a good game at Wembley. Team news incoming...
Arsenal v Man City FA Cup semi-final - all you need to know
What is it?
When is it?
Sunday April 23.
Where is it?
At the home of English football Wembley Stadium.
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
BT Sport 1, with coverage starting at 2:30pm.
What is the team news?
Shkodran Mustafi, David Ospina and Lucas Perez are all unavailable through injury, while Danny Welbeck is doubtful. Santi Cazorla and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are out for the rest of the season.
Wenger has hinted that he may stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation that he employed in Monday's 2-1 win at Middlesbrough.
Possible XI (3-4-2-1): Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Monreal; Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud
Gabriel Jesus could make his much-anticipated return from a metatarsal injury, while John Stones and Bacary Sagna are doubtful. Ilkay Gundogan is out for the season.
Possible XI (4-1-4-1): Bravo; Navas, Kompany, Stones, Clichy; Fernandinho; Sane, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling; Aguero
What are they saying?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on his side's chances of beating City.
“I expect to go to the final. I’ve played 11 semi-finals in the FA Cup so that means it’s a great experience and it’s always special. I remember my first one at Villa Park against Wolves.
“It means a lot to our supporters, it’s a special experience.
“We are focused and highly motivated. Maybe not at maximum confidence but it is a good chance to show we want to to go the final.
“It is our only chance of a trophy this season.”
What are the odds?
- Man City win (after 90 mins) - 10/11
- Man City to go through - 4/7
- Draw (after 90 mins) - 3/1
- Arsenal win (after 90 mins) - 3/1
- Arsenal to go through - 6/4
What's our prediction?
City to win 3-1.