left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Gunners fire when it matters most

Updated: 2014-04-14 07:14
By Reuters in London ( China Daily)

Arsenal through to Cup final after tense semi win over Wigan

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger breathed a huge sigh of relief after it beat FA Cup holder Wigan Athletic on penalties in Saturday's semifinal to keep alive its hopes of winning a trophy after a nine-year wait.

Arsenal beat spirited Championship (second-tier) side Wigan 4-2 in the shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time and will meet Hull City or Sheffield United in the May 17 final back at Wembley Stadium.

Having not won any silverware since its FA Cup triumph in 2005, Arsenal was made to sweat against Uwe Rosler's plucky Wigan side, which gave Wenger serious concerns that his trophy hoodoo would continue.

"I am relieved because we won ... it is important that, mentally, we didn't go out tonight. If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight it is quite worrying," Wenger said.

"It was a cup game and the difference between winning and losing is very, very small," said Wenger, who has won the FA Cup four times.

"That win today will give us a lift for the rest of the season," said the Frenchman whose side has slipped out of the Premier League title reckoning during the run-in.

"The semifinal is all about winning," said Arsenal midfielder Kim Kallstrom. "It was tough but we did it. We had to stay strong mentally and at 1-0 down it gets tough. We were focused and even though it was on penalties, we will take it.

"We have been struggling in recent weeks but you have to deal with that, it is part of the game."

Wigan took the lead after 63 minutes with Jordi Gomez's confidently struck penalty but Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, who had given away the spot kick with a clumsy sliding tackle on Callum McManaman, redeemed himself in the 82nd by heading past Scott Carson to take the game into extra time.

Wigan's first two penalties were saved by Lukasz Fabianski, leaving Arsenal's Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla to convert the decisive spot kick to send the north London side to the final.

"In the first half we were a bit timid," Germany international Mertesacker told ITV.

"In the second half I think we hit the post twice and had a couple of chances so it was a good comeback. We have great character, even though a lot of people have questioned that."

Defeat was cruel on Wigan, which had dreamt of retaining the trophy it snatched with a last-gasp goal against favorite Manchester City last year, but Rosler was proud of his side.

"Today we faced Arsenal, one of the top teams in the country, and we did very well - missing (out by) eight minutes to win it in normal time," the former City striker said.

"Unfortunately we couldn't hold out, we forced Arsenal long and that is unusual for the way they play.

"I desperately wanted to go to the final but unfortunately it didn't happen."

 Gunners fire when it matters most

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic during Saturday's English FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium in London. Eddie Keogh/Reuters

(China Daily 04/14/2014 page23)