Arsenal 4-1 Everton : Gunners reach Wembley
The Cup matters, indisputably proven by Arsenal and Everton.
As the decorative banners around the Emirates commemorated the Gunners' previous trophy triumphs, with their last coming in 2005 in this competition nine years ago, the Arsenal groundsmen may have to add another trophy to rub shoulders with the noted silverware from their glory days.
In progressing to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and eliminating a genuine contender in the process, Arsene Wenger has given himself an extensively viable opportunity to end his haunting nine-year wait for a trophy.
His side demonstrated the sometimes forgotten significance the FA Cup holds, all seemingly motivated to reach Wembley. They were technically adept when required and dogged when under pressure.
Mesut Ozil was excellent in a performance which silenced his recent critics and earned him the Budweiser Man Of the Match accolade, even scoring a great goal. Dropped by Wenger in recent weeks and jeered in mid-week on international duty with Germany, it is not a show of exaggeration to say the supremely talented midfielder was desperate for his first goal in three months.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain too was superb, parading his attacking talents along with shows of determination to form a fabulous individual display which epitomized this Arsenal performance, twice atoning for his errors with brilliant challenges. During a week in which Liverpool's Raheem Sterling had impressively staked his claim for a World Cup place, this performance will not have eluded the observant eyes of Roy Hodgson. Ross Barkley's also would not.
The young Everton midfielder was fantastic, as he too amalgamated work rate with offensive talent. His storming leading up to Romelu Lukaku's equaliser to cancel out Ozil's opener, will not go unnoticed, and nor will his shot which flew over the bar on the edge of the box. Everton were made to pay for the profligate finishing come full-time, with Barkley squandering the opportunity to give the visitors the lead with the match tied at 1-1. Mikel Arteta from the penalty spot and Oliver Giroud from the bench, on two occasions, were their Satans.
The Gunners can now anticipate a semi-final under the magnificent Wembley arch, with either Hull, Sunderland, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Charlton and Wigan their opponents.
The score-line will flatter Wenger's men, with their visitors having competed so diligently before Arteta's correctly-awarded penalty, on second demand, put the game beyond them as Arsenal reached the new Wembley for one the second time, and will hope this visit does not hold the same heartache as their last venture did, succumbing to Ofatembi Martins in the 2011 League Cup Final. And ahead of a vitally important March, which began with defeat at the Britannia Stadium, this victory, Arsenal hope, will set the tone for a crucial month on the horizon.
In full view of the ardent home support, Arsenal were vibrant and energetic during the first-half, getting in-behind the Everton midfield with options aplenty when they did so, as they reaped their rewards early on.
Santi Cazorla, who was excellent in the hosts' core, skipped past James McCarthy and threaded the ball into the path of Ozil, whose composed strike with the inside of his left foot eluded the last-ditch efforts of Seamus Coleman and John Stones to steadily roll into the net and past Joel.
The German, having been omitted from the starting eleven in recent matches, criticized for his languid penalty home to Bayern Munich and jeered by the Germany supporters in mid-week, has experienced a turbulent time lately and his well-taken goal would have been warmly received.
His Arsenal team-mates responded to the opening goal, raising the tempo as Joel parried away strikes from Yaya Sanago and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain in rapid succession. The latter then tracked back to amend for his lethargic surrendering of possession with a powerful challenge to halt Kevin Mirallas's promising progression. The hosts were up for the cup.
Everton were missing skipper Phil Jagielka, with the lack of present leadership and authority evident and it came close to costing them dearly. From Bacary Sagna's cross, goalkeeper Joel elected to punch the ball away instead of the preferable option to catch it firmly, much to the displeasure of the defenders ahead of him. If that was not adequate warning, the Spaniard then fisted the ball onto his post and almost into the Toffees net.
His indecisive acts of goalkeeping evoked debate over the logic of selecting a strong side and picking your second-choice keeper to occupy the goalmouth. Fellow Merseysiders Liverpool were also guilty of the judgement here at the Emirates in the previous round, with Brendan Rodgers the culprit on that occasion.
Despite their reduced ticket allocation, the travelling Everton fans generated a considerable amount of noise following Lukaku's equaliser, coming courtesy of Barkley's grit.
The England midfielder held off Mathieu Flamini to spearhead a counter-attack, diligently running the width of the pitch. He then demonstrated brilliant vision to pick out the run of Mirallas, who cushioned the ball into Lukaku's path, for his fellow Belgian to control the pink FA Cup ball on his thigh and side foot the ball into the gaping goal, left by Fabianski who had committed himself to thwarting Mirallas's effort.
Barkley has put one foot on the steps of England's plane to the shores of the Copacabana beach, his vibrancy proving a worthy asset for Roberto Martinez.
But then followed the only negative from a wonderful individual display. After Thomas Vermaelen, who started his first game since the 4th of January, had lost his footing, Lukaku capitalized, driving into the abundance of space. The striker, his second game since his return from injury, set-up Barkley with a splendid lay-off, only for the golden opportunity to be squandered.
Martinez's misery was to be compounded as Mark Clattenburg pointed to the penalty spot after Barry had tripped Chamberlain in a clumsy manner. Arteta, on second demand after his first had been disallowed due to encroachment from Giroud, found the net in composed fashion. It was to be a watershed for the fluent flow of goals which followed.
Giroud, after replacing Sanago, converted Sagna's fantastic pull-back to register his second significant contribution since coming on, this time positive. Arsenal were in the mood.
Four? Why not. After Tomas Rosicky burst down the right wing, he found Ozil who deliciously nudged the ball into Giroud, his finish matching its lighting-quick build-up. Four-one.
Related Arsenal News