Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Sweet Taste Of Victory For Arsenal

It's been two long days since Arsenal won their last trophy, but there's no talk of impatient fans demanding change if they don't break that run. On Saturday evening they broke their nine year trophyless streak with a fantastic come from behind victory over Hull City in the FA Cup final. It was a roller coaster ride for Arsenal fans after going 2-0 down inside the first 10 minutes, but they won 3-2 after extra time to spark wild celebrations.

I made the trip from Dublin to a pub near the Emirates to meet some very good Arsenal supporting friends for a day we hoped would end in glory. Before the game the only talk was of an Arsenal victory and there were no dissenters to that train of thought. We all hoped for the team to come out and take Hull apart in the fashion we knew they were capable of, but it turned out to be very different.

The shock of going 2-0 down so early on was hard to take for some and some doubters thought the game was all but over. I was worried about how the team just weren't looking like getting back into the game and a goal line clearance from Kieran Gibbs prevented Hull from increasing their lead. They eventually started to show something approaching a comeback though and the first goal followed shortly afterwards.

I can't remember the last time I saw Arsenal score directly from a free kick and I didn't hold out much hope when Santi Cazorla stepped up as the latest Arsenal player to attempt to do so. His sweetly struck effort sailed into the net and the celebrations were wild in the pub as well as the stadium. There was loads of time to go and the momentum was now back with Arsenal.

They didn't equalise before half time though and as the second half ticked by the nerves of all Arsenal fans started to fray. We shouldn't have worried though as Arsenal's own fox in the box stepped up to bring the sides level with 20 minutes left to play. I have rarely seen anything approaching the euphoria all around me when that goal went in and I can remember seeing one fan's pint of Guinness getting capaulted towards the ceiling. As the game wore on I couldn't help myself occasionally looking up to see the stain left by the darkest of drinks.

Suddenly it looked as if there was only one team in it and Hull were hanging on desperately for extra time. The quality Arsenal were able to bring off the bench was a big factor in their dominance and Hull were even more desperate to hang on in extra time. They knew they had a 50/50 chance if they could just hold on and take the game to penalties. 

Arsenal pressed forward in search of what would surely have been the winner and came close through an Olivier Giroud header in particular which hit the bar. It was that man Giroud who played a huge part in the goal which eventually won it for Arsenal when his deft back heel set up Aaron Ramsey to stroke the ball home with 10 minutes remaining. I jumped up and down again and again and hugged friend and stranger alike for what seemed like seconds but probably lasted minutes.

We sang our collective hearts out and couldn't wait for the final whistle to blow so there could be no more talk of how many years it had been since Arsenal won a trophy. There was an awful scare in the final moments when Lukasz Fabianski raced from his goal after a Per Mertesacker slip and missed his clearance right on the sideline. The Hull player in possession went for goal and our hearts were in our mouths as the ball flashed across the goal and Gibbs swung his boot at it to try to prevent a goal. Thankfully Gibbs missed the ball as I could see him putting into his own net if he made any connection and the ball passed to safety. 

It was all over within moments and Arsenal had their hands on a trophy for the first time in nine long years. The celebrations from the fans bordered on delerium with the players and manager looking almost as happy as their supporters. I have vague memories of the trophy bring lifted and a lap of honour, but at that stage I was almost lost in pints of San Miguel and £40 bottles of champagne. 

As the evening wore on some of those fans lucky enough to have been at the game made their way back to the pub and shared their experiences with us. We celebrated until it was time to try to find our hotel and wandered around the streets of Finsbury for what seemed like an eternity until eventually we found it above a local pub. Our take away food had gone cold and we were so tired that sleep was all that was left despite the lack of air conditioning in the room. 

Unfortunately we couldn't attend the parade the next day as our flights home were too early, but we had been there when it mattered most and the trophy was won. It's been a long time coming and it was a sweet sweet feeling when that winning goal went in. There's a lot to be done this summer to make the team even better for next season and hopefully that work will begin right away. 

Arsenal can at last bask in some glory though while teams like Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Spurs finished the season with their cupboards bare. Make what you will of the value of the FA Cup but it is still the second most important domestic trophy in England after the Premier League. When all is said and done Arsenal have now won the cup 11 times and matched the record of United while Arsene Wenger matched the record of five wins for a manager in the competition

Next season can't come quickly enough, but until then there's still the knowledge that Arsenal finished their season on a real high at long last.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Mick ! Sounds like any hangover would have been well worth it!