Aaron Ramsey was decisive as he scored late on to give Arsenal a record 13th FA Cup crown in a 2-1 win over 10-man Chelsea.
Arsenal celebrated a record 13th FA Cup success as Aaron Ramsey once again grabbed the winner at Wembley, securing a 2-1 victory over 10-man Chelsea and potentially going some way to restoring supporters’ faith in the under-fire Arsene Wenger.
Ramsey scored his side’s third and crucial goal in the 2013-14 showpiece against Hull City and was the hero again on Saturday, cancelling out Diego Costa’s goal a few minutes earlier to secure the win and make Wenger the FA Cup’s most successful manager with seven final victories.
Another Wembley triumph arguably vindicates Arsenal’s reported decision to offer Wenger – out of contract at the end of this term – a new two-year deal despite a season of criticism.
Arsenal’s Premier League campaign was a major disappointment as they finished fifth, but they were significantly more impressive in the first half, as Alexis Sanchez gave them an early – if slightly contentious – lead before Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Ramsey all went agonisingly close to adding more.
Chelsea struggled immensely to cope with Arsenal’s intensity and impose themselves, with the Gunners arguably producing their best 45 minutes of 2016-17.
Antonio Conte’s men made a marked improvement after the break and became the dominant force, but Victor Moses’ second booking and subsequent red card for appearing to dive left Chelsea with a mountain to climb in their bid to prevent Arsenal winning a third FA Cup in four years.
Costa then equalised for Chelsea with 14 minutes to go, seemingly putting the Premier League champions into the driving seat, but Ramsey popped up shortly after to deflate their counterparts and Arsenal held on to lift the trophy.
Arsenal’s electric start brought a deserved early goal, controversial though it was.
Sanchez charged down N’Golo Kante’s clearance on the edge of the area and ran on to the loose ball, getting there just ahead of the offside Ramsey and finding the bottom-right corner, with referee Anthony Taylor eventually allowing the goal to stand despite his assistant raising his flag against the Welshman.
Ozil went desperately close to a second when released into the box in the 16th minute, chipping a delicate finish over the approaching Thibaut Courtois, but Gary Cahill was there to clear off the line.
Chelsea then had another lucky escape. Welbeck headed a corner on to the post and Ramsey did exactly the same from a tight angle on the rebound.
Respite for Chelsea came in the form of a Costa half chance that was thwarted by David Ospina, but Arsenal came back again just before the half-hour mark – Welbeck playing a one-two, bundling the ball past Courtois and seeing Cahill block his goal-bound effort.
A resurgent Chelsea looked bright at the start of the second half, with Kante and Moses both testing Ospina within five minutes of the restart.
Conte’s side remained the dominant force, but Arsenal looked threatening on the break.
Hector Bellerin went close just after the hour, seeing a controlled effort palmed away by Courtois after a rapid counter.
And shortly after, Arsenal received a major boost. Moses darted into the right side of the Arsenal area and appeared to dive, with the referee subsequently dismissing the Nigeria international for a second yellow card.
Nevertheless, Chelsea had seemingly ensured the game would go to extra-time when Costa sent a deflected shot past Ospina in the 76th minute.
But Ramsey latched on to Olivier Giroud’s cross with a fierce header shortly after, burying it beyond the helpless Courtois.