LONDON: Lukasz Fabianski saved two penalties as Arsenal beat holders Wigan Athletic 4-2 in a shootout at Wembley yesterday to reach their first FA Cup final for nine years.
Having stunned Manchester City in last season’s final, before being relegated from the Premier League, Wigan looked set for another famous Wembley day when Jordi Gomez put them ahead with a 63rd-minute penalty.
But Per Mertesacker made amends for conceding the penalty by heading in an 82nd-minute equaliser and with the score still 1-1 at the end of extra time, Fabianski took centre stage in the shoot out. The Pole, usually a deputy to compatriot Wojciech Szczesny, saved Wigan’s first two attempts, from Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison, before Santi Cazorla dispatched the decisive spot-kick to send Arsenal through.
“I’m relieved, because we were under big pressure, but I expected a difficult game and I was not disappointed,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“We needed to show some character, and some resilience, and as well some nerves, and we did it in a very united and resilient way.”
Victory took Wenger’s team into their first FA Cup final since 2005, when they last won a trophy, and helped ease the pain of being knocked out of the Premier League’s top four by Everton earlier in the day.
They will play the winners of today’s second semi-final between Hull City and third-tier Sheffield United.
Uwe Rosler’s Wigan, meanwhile, must turn their attentions back to the Championship promotion chase, having been thwarted in their attempt to become only the seventh club to retain the FA Cup.
“I couldn’t ask for any more than what they’ve given me,” said Rosler, whose side eliminated his old club Manchester City in the last eight.
“Arsenal are one of the top teams in the country and we did very well. I’m absolutely proud of how they played and what they put in.” AFP