Gunner glory: FA Cup hero Aaron Ramsey is swamped by teammates after scoring the deciding goal in extra time at Wembley Stadium. Photo: AFP
Arsenal 3 Hull City 2
No longer is it 3283 days and counting; no longer is it a nine-year weight that has grown heavier and heavier. Arsenal has its trophy. But after such a long, painful wait it was inevitable this dramatic, raucous FA Cup final went all the way into extra-time. Defeat was cruel on Hull, who could not hold on to its two-goal lead, but ultimately a deserved triumph for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.
There had been an air of dangerous inevitability and assumption about Arsenal in the days leading up to this final; a sense perceived, perhaps unfairly, that the win would be simply claimed and the trophy quest ended. It was not about booking victory parades - as of course it had to provisionally - but about claiming superiority.
After all Arsenal could not, surely, let another one slip away and especially against Hull, in the first final in its history, comfortably beaten twice in the Premier League, and depleted without its two January signings in strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long.
Hull looked defensive with three central defenders but what a trick that proved to be as all three of those centre-halves were involved as Steve Bruce's side scored two precious goals inside an astonishing, stunning opening eight minutes.
The first came as Ahmed Elmohamady sprinted down the right with his cross deflected for a corner. Stephen Quinn took it, swinging the ball deep to Tom Huddlestone on the edge of the penalty area only for the midfielder to miscue his volley. It was squirting wide but the ball ran to James Chester who adjusted his feet to divert it with a smart side-footed shot back across Lukasz Fabianski and into the net. There was disbelief - from all sides of the stadium - and then the celebrations began. Wenger turned on his heels, shaking his head.
He was stunned into angry protests soon after as, extraordinarily, Hull scored again. Once more Arsenal was chaotic, disorganised and lacking any impetus. A disputed free-kick came in, it was headed back by David Meyler and retrieved by Quinn who worked his way to the byline and crossed. The ball was met by Alex Bruce whose header beat Fabianski and came back off the post - and there was Curtis Davies to steer it home from an acute angle. The celebrations this time were instant and even more exuberant.
Arsenal was reeling and almost fell even further behind from another corner. Again it was met by Bruce who headed it back across goal with Fabianski rooted only for Kieran Gibbs to clear off the goal-line. Another goal then and the capitulation would have been complete and the contest over before it had even begun. The recriminations would have been deep.
How Arsenal needed a response. How it then found it. A free-kick was earned 23 metres out and Santi Cazorla stepped up to arc a powerful right-footed effort around a Hull wall which fell away. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor appeared to react late and he was clawing at air as the ball struck the net.
Suddenly the dynamics of a final that was threatening to engulf Arsenal in further trauma had changed. Doubts now surrounded Hull. It made for the most open, unpredictable, chance-laden and, error-strewn final. It was entertaining, but defences were most definitely not on top and it was all the more glorious for that. Both sides sensed goals with Arsenal trying to capitalise on the supremacy it established with Cazorla's strike and its superiority in terms of talent.
Hull were hemmed back, pushed deep, unable to clear cleanly. Corners were accrued and wasted by Arsenal with Olivier Giroud shooting into the side-netting and an Aaron Ramsey effort blocked. But eventually Hull, with Jake Livermore snapping into tackles, found a response and began to push back and Huddlestone drove fiercely over from distance.
Half-time was reached and Hull deserved its advantage. It appeared simply to want this more but the issue would be whether it was physically able and mentally prepared to continue to press and harry and push high up the pitch.
Its intent remained the same even if it was quickly breached when Mesut Azil found space down the left and cut the ball back. No Arsenal player was there with Lukas Podolski arriving late and Giroud continuing to struggle to match the pace of the encounter.
Huddlestone drove another shot over as a reminder that Hull would not easily be cowed. It was becoming increasingly tense with Bacary Sagna demanding more movement ahead of him while Giroud implored the referee for a penalty when he went to ground as Huddlestone threw his arm across him. The angry demands were waved away. Huddlestone was perhaps fortunate.
Shortly afterwards the Hull midfielder was cautioned as he brought down Cazorla and Wenger sensed it was time to try to press his side's advantage, introducing another striker in Yaya Sanogo. The ineffective Podolski gave way.
From a corner Laurent Koscielny rose but headed wastefully wide; from another the ball appeared to strike Livermore's arm while the Arsenal fans began to accuse Hull of time-wasting. There was 25 minutes to go and that tension was rising.
Again Arsenal demanded a penalty. Again it was waved away. Davies challenged Cazorla as the Spaniard cut inside. The ball bounced off him but the follow-through brought down Cazorla. Lee Probert was unmoved and Wenger was furious.
Driven by desperation and a sense of injustice Arsenal came forward again and, finally, it did score. Another corner was earned as Sanogo's near-post flick was deemed to have deflected off a defender - but it had not. It proved a crucial decision. The ball came in and Sagna's powerful header ricocheted off Giroud dropping for Koscielny who turned it beyond McGregor from close range.
Hull looked beaten and the chances racked up with Gibbs skying over from only six metres. The chance came as Sanogo's raw strength held off defenders and he rolled the ball across. Gibbs even had time to control it. He had time to tee it. But over it sailed.
Arsenal agonised yet again when the ball dropped to Giroud on the edge of the box and his drive was superbly turned away by McGregor as it threatened to bounce beyond the goalkeeper. The Scot was stretching once more soon after only for Sanogo's shot to veer narrowly wide.
Extra-time brought more opportunities as Giroud met Aaron Ramsey's cross only for his superb diving header to cannon off the bar. Like Giroud, Ramsey's influence was growing and he exchanged passes with Cazorla then swerved his shot into the side-netting.
Finally the breakthrough came and Ramsey claimed it. Again Hull could not clear and Giroud cleverly back-heeled for the Welshman to prod first-time past McGregor.
But it was not quite over Sone Aluko beat Fabianski to the ball as he charged from goal and from the tightest of angles, outside the area, shot. The ball swung across goal and oh so narrowly wide.
The Sunday Telegraph