Football

Arteta upstages Pep as Arsenal beat Man City to reach FA Cup final

FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
ARSENAL MAN CIty
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(Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 19, 71)  

Arsenal ambushed FA Cup holders Manchester City as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a goal in each half to secure a 2-0 semi-final victory at an empty Wembley Stadium on Sunday morning (July 19, Singapore time).

Days after Mikel Arteta’s side beat English Premier League champions Liverpool, the Spaniard outfoxed his managerial mentor Pep Guardiola as his players executed his plan to perfection.

Predictably, City enjoyed the majority of possession, but Arsenal were gritty and disciplined as well as being lethal on the counter-attack as they reached their 21st FA Cup final.

Standing in the way of Arsenal’s 14th FA Cup triumph and a trophy for Arteta in his first season as a manager will be either Chelsea or Manchester United who play on Monday morning.

City dominated the early exchanges, pinning Arsenal back, but were stopped in their tracks when Aubameyang produced a neat finish in the 19th minute following a flowing end-to-end move.

Pep Guardiola’s side never fully recovered and, just when they were beginning to exert some real pressure after the break, Aubameyang produced another sublime finish, racing through to fire past goalkeeper Ederson in the 71st minute.

Arsenal comfortably soaked up City’s late pressure as they ended a miserable run of seven successive defeats against Guardiola’s City, including a 3-0 away league defeat last month.

“It was a great result against one of the best teams in the world. We were humble, we understood the way we had to play and we took the opportunities to score,” Arsenal defender David Luiz, who has been transformed in recent weeks, said.

When City had 83 per cent of possession in the first 10 minutes, it looked like being a long outing for Arsenal in the rather surreal surroundings of an empty 90,000-seater stadium.

There was no panic though and their Gabon international Aubameyang had already wasted one chance after being set up by the excellent Luiz when he gave Arsenal the lead.

It was a goal that could have come straight from the Guardiola textbook. An 18-pass move that started in Arsenal’s own area, ended with Aubameyang conjuring a clever finish to guide Nicolas Pepe’s cross in off the post.

City were clearly shaken out of their stride and looked frail at the back as Arsenal threatened on the counter-attack.

Guardiola’s side began the second half with greater purpose and looked to be taking control with Raheem Sterling firing over and Riyad Mahrez denied by a great save from Emiliano Martinez.

Kevin de Bruyne’s dipping free-kick went close for City but Arsenal held firm and struck again with 20 minutes left.

Kieran Tierney’s sublime pass from the left played in Aubameyang and the striker outpaced defender Eric Garcia before coolly shooting under Ederson to wrap up the victory.

“Extremely happy and proud of the players,” Arteta said. “When you play this team, you have to give your best and, when you have the opportunities, you must make the most of them.

“There is a great chemistry between them (the players) and they really believe in what we are trying to do.”

Guardiola would have been the first to congratulate his former assistant, and the loss will be softened by what is still possible in the Champions League. where City hold a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid before their home last-16 second leg.

The defeat by Arsenal was hard to swallow all the same.

“We started slow and without the way you have to play,” he said. “We are always ready many times but today we were not.

“They defended well. It happened (when Arsenal played) against Liverpool too so we knew it. But we were not good.” – REUTERS

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