By Walter Broeckx
Compared to our match at Burnley Arsenal made a few changes. Szczesny started in goal and Ospina was on the bench. At right back Debuchy made his first start since his injury and Bellerin didn’t play or was involved. Gibbs started at left back and Monreal was on the bench. Up front Welbeck started in the place of Giroud.
The team that started was: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck. On the bench we had : Ospina, Gabriel, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud.
A good start from Arsenal with some early chances for Arsenal. Welbeck just couldn’t get on to a through ball and the ball bounced of him from the keeper for a goal kick. A bit later Alexis had his shot deflected and from the resulting corner Mertesacker had a good header but the keeper saved it on the line.
Atkinson letting a few rough challenges go like a poke in eye on Ramsey and some kicking on Alexis. Reading then with a shot but Szczesny could hold on to the ball. Reading most of the time leaning back and letting Arsenal do the playing. A free kick from Özil just missing the target after 17 minutes. A few minutes later Cazorla had a curling shot but it went wide over the target. Cazorla setting Alexis up but the keeper came out and did enough to rush Alexis in to not making proper connection. Atkinson missing an elbow to the face of Koscielny, not stopping the match despite a clear head injury but luckily Reading players were offside after that.
Reading with a lot of unpunished challenges but well this is Atkinson so not unexpected. Arsenal completely dominating things but still 0-0 after an half hour. What was expected did happen after 38 minutes. Özil with a fantastic ball to Alexis who controled, turned around his man and his shot could only by touched by the goalkeeper his leg but went in. 0-1 to The Arsenal.
Reading seeing this as a signal to use even more force. Atkinson being the lenient himself and just having a word. Arsenal trying to go forward and Reading trying to counter after a corner but the shot was harmless but better be careful for this. On the stroke of half time finally the first card when Chalobah hacked Gibbs down with his umpteenth foul in the first half. 0-1 to Arsenal at half time.
A header with the back of his head from Mertesacker or even the shoulder was the first attempt from Arsenal in the second half but it went wide. Arsenal not really sharp at the moment and suddenly Reading get away on the left and the ball bounces over the line and Reading equalise. The cross from the right and then the shot took a deflection of the leg of Gibbs and went over the line. The team being a bit sloppy in the last minutes and we pay for it in cash. 1-1 after 54 minutes.
Arsenal trying a bit more after that but not realling carving out many chances at first. Mertesacker who got nasty kick after the equaliser has to go off the field limping and Gabriel comes on after 62 minutes. Another Atkinson casualty one could say. Reading claiming a penalty when a cross hits Debuchy his arm from close range. Luckily Atkinson couldn’t see it.
Gabriel with a great header after a corner from Özil but Reading keeper clawed it from under his crossbar. Thats a bit better from Arsenal. Giroud came in the place of Welbeck after 71 minutes. Another free kick for Arsenal but this time Gabriel heads over, the cross once again from Özil.
Özil then being kicked on the achilles without Atkinson doing anything once again. Alexis then trying to reach Giroud but the keeper is first to the ball. Progbeniak shoots wide for Reading and so did Özil within a minute. Chalabah with a swerving shot forcing a corner for Reading. Arsenal bfreak on the counter with Alexis and with the help from Giroud it comes to Ramsey who hits the post. Unlucky.
Progbernyak almost away but thanks to Koscielny the ball rolls to Szczesny. Gibbs then with a low cross but Ramsey shoots over. A last header from Giroud but in the arms of the keeper and we go in to extra time. 1 -1 after 90 minutes.
A shot from Cazorla from just outside the penalty area went over. Reading defending in numbers and trying to speculate for penalties it seemed. Walcott making himself ready on the touch line. Coquelin is taken off after 10 minutes in the first period of extra time and so Theo enters the field. A fierce shot from Ramsey is just saved by the Reading keeper in to a corner. A mix up in midfield almost gifting Reading a chance to break but Walcott gets the ball gives it to Özil who feeds Alexis. Alexis runs in to the box and has a low shot at goal that Federici lets roll between his hands and over the line. 1-2 to the Arsenal just at the end of the first period of extra time. Federici going from hero zo zero for Reading there.
McGea for Reading with a shot from distance but it went over. Özil with a low shot after good defensive work from Giroud and Alexis but it went well wide. Gabriel taking a yellow card because of the team not defending resolute enough then. Arsenal then again with a great move from Özil setting up first Ramsey and then Giroud but the latter hit the post again. Second time Arsenal hit the woodwork.
Reading now trying to push forward and Arsenal defending the lead. Giroud with some great footwork on the flank to keep the ball in possession. Walcott then pushed off the ball just outside the penalty area but Atkinson sees no foul. Now in the closing minutes it was bringing the match over the line. The with a strong run being chopped down from behind just outside the penalty area. The free kick results to nothing.
Arsenal wins 2-1 and that is already an improvement compared to last season when we had to go to penalties. A typical semi final where we had things in control but didn’t do enough to score that second goal early in the second half and paid for it with an extra half hour of football.
But the most important thing at Wembley is to win at the end. A visit to Wembley at the end of May is what we earned today.