by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 12 2014)
A plucky display from the cup-holders ended with Arsenal edging out Wigan Athletic 4-2 on penalties. Lukasz Fabianski saved the first two penalties from substitutes Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison to leave the Latics chasing miracles that Scott Carson could not deliver. Arsenal scored all four through Mikel Artreta, Kim Kallstrom, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. Jean Beausejour and James MacArthur netted for Wigan.
A dire first half required half an hour before either goalkeeper witnessed a shot and that came from close range, but an impossible angle from Bacary Sagna who cleared the bar. With three minutes of the half remaining Yaya Sanogo at least required Carson to make a save when through on goal with just the keeper to beat. Carson saved with his legs, but the French striker should have done better. He had been denied after 5 minutes when his header from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross was superbly saved by Man of the Match Carson.
Wigan stuck to a game plan to harry Arsenal’s cultured football out of their stride and feed on the scraps. It nearly paid off after 33 minutes when Callum McManaman – a revelation last year – embarrassed Thomas Vermaellen by the touchline on the right of the area. His cross was cleared by the one Arsenal player to distinguish himself Per Mertesacker.
Wigan defended resolutely and deservedly took the lead after 63 minutes. McManaman jinked his way into the penalty area and was plainly fouled by Mertesacker. With no clear advantage emerging referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. An injury to Nacho Monreal resulted in the player being stretchered off and replaced by Kieron Gibbs, delaying the spot-kick.
Jordi Gomez was unfazed as he dispatched the penalty past Fabianski with consummate ease. A famous upset was on the cards. The Latics defended resolutely, as Josh McEachran was replaced by Collison. Shortly afterwards Wenger substituted Lukas Podolski, bringing on Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman posed a great threat than his compatriot Sanogo, but Wenger and Arsenal needed a goal and inspiration.
Wigan manager Uwe Rosler makes a big call after 70 minutes, replacing the dangerous McManaman with Manchester United’s loanee Nick Powell. Wigan continue defending resolutely, but Arsenal know that they need a goal to save their season and probably Wenger’s job.
With less than ten minutes left Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inviting cross resulted in Sagna finally beating Carson, but not the post. The pressure continued as Gibbs was thwarted by a save from Carson and an incredible clearance by Stephen Crainey. The pressure finally bears fruit as Gibbs’ volley was headed in by Mertesacker. Collison and MacArthur pick up late bookings before extra time is needed after 5 minutes injury time.
5 minutes into the first period of extra time Aaron Ramsey’s teasing cross gets the better of Caldwell, but Sanogo fails to connect. A couple of minutes later Oxlade-Chamberlain put Sanogo through, but his shot was magnificently tipped over by Carson.
Five minutes into the final period of extra time Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot ewas tipped onto the bar by the exceptional Carson and cleared. A rare foray into Arsenal’s half saw Powell fashion an excellent chance on the left of penalty area after beating Arteta and Vermaelen, but he pulled his shot wide of Fabianski’s far-post. Penalties followed and the Premier League outfit held their nerve to proceed to the final on May 17th.