By Walter Broeckx
A lots of changes in the team and some were already predicted in the last days.
Ospina in goal and Martinez was on the bench. At right back we had Maitland-Niles and Jenkinson was on the bench, so Bellerin got some well deserved and needed rest. Gabriel and Mustafi in the centre and Monreal at left back. Holding was on the bench.
In midfield we had Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi. We have to see in which formation they will play and if one would play upfront.
As the two strikers we had Lucas and Giroud.
On the beach apart from Welbeck who just returns after having been out for a long time Holding with a bit of experience and Jenkinson. For the rest only youngsters.
Team at the start: Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Lucas, Giroud.
On the beach: Martinez, Jenkinson, Holding, Dasilva, Reine-Adelaide, Willock, Welbeck.
A bit of a nervous start from both teams with some little defensive errors but apart from an attempt to lob the keeper from Giroud no keeper in action.The first real chance came to Preston and the ball bouncing around in the Arsenal penalty area and then falling in front of the feet of Robinson who could score from close range. 1-0 to Preston after 6 minutes. Not the start you want in an FA cup match. Arsenal with most of the ball but not making openings in the first 15 minutes.
Lucas with a first shot but straight at the keeper. Ospina had to be alert on a low cross and was. The Ox losing the ball leading to a PNE counter but Mustafi could block the header with his shoulder. When not all players on one line PNE escape but the cross failed to find the free teammate. Maitland-Niles looking off pace for the moment at right back by being too casual when slowly running to a lost ball and getting caught. Ospina with a save on a shot from Pearson. Arsenal not at their best in this period. Some players running too much with the ball from Arsenal instead of trying to pass the ball. Vermijl with an attempt of a volley after a cross but luckily he missed the shot completely. Finally Arsenal at the other end but Giroud heads well wide. Arsenal still 1-0 behind after 30 minutes.
Finally a real Arsenal chance when they combine through the heart of the PNE defece but both Ramsey and Lucas can’t get a shot over the line. Giroud minutes later put through but his shot cross went wide. Was it a cross to Iwobi who was just late… the angle was not ideal for a shot. But at least this is a bit better from Arsenal. Monreal has to rescue in front of the goal line when Arsenal lose the ball at the edge of their own penalty area and finally Naitland-Miles clears the danger. Ramsey with a good firm header but a fine save from the keeper. Ospina being fouled when trying to catch a ball is rightly punished and the second PNE goal is ruled out. Lucas is stopped by an arm in the PNE penalty area and as we have been told in the Xhaka case that this is a foul so it should have been a penalty for Arsenal. Nothing given in reality of course. The match now more stopped for real or imaginary injuries. A PNE player smacks his arm against Gabriel who is bleeding but apart from a foul only a yellow card. So when is using excessive force being excessive force? When the head is hanging off from the body? I think that when you make a player bleeding from attacking him with the arm that you have used excessive force….. As a result Arsenal have to play with 10 man for the rest of the first half and PNE can play with 11. PNE even get a throw in when the ball was clearly for Arsenal… don’t overdo it please gentleman in black. Gabriel goes in the dressing room to get his head stitched up while plays continues. As a result no more attacks from Arsenal after losing Gabriel with his head injury. 1-0 in favour of PNE after 45 minutes.
Gabriel back on the field at the start of the second half. And what an excellent start from Arsenal. Xhaka to The Ox who corssed and PNE could only half clear. Iwobi controlled the ball and passed it to Ramsey whose shot from the edge of the penalty area found the back of the nt. GOAL!! 1-1 after 46 minutes.
Giroud with the next chance but a block from a defender prevented another Arsenal effort. The ref punishing all from Arsenal now and PNE think they can do it all and Pearson twice fouls Ramsey from behind but no card. Some pushing and shoving the ref just let it all go by… Arsenal trying to play some football but only winning a corner that leads to nothing. Xhaka with a long ball to Giroud but the last defender could chest the ball away. Still 1-1 after 60 minutes.
Cunningham with a tackle from behind catching Lucas and going in the book. Rightfully so. The resulting free kick is headed back by the defender who was first pulling the shirt of Giroud and then embracing him so he couldn’t jump. No fouls ref? Giroud being fouled off the ball… nothing seen by the ref. More arguments about fouls then any real football for the moment. Gabriel deciding to joing kicking and getting a yellow card. A low corner from The Ox finds Mustafi but the keeper can make a great save in two times to stop the goal bound effort. Arsenal push on after that corner. Pearson with another foul and this time surely a yellow card? Not really I think… Still 1-1 after 75 minutes.
Giroud scores but the assistant raises his flag for offside and that was correct. When Iwobi uses his body after being pushed the ref gives a foul against Iwobi…. oh well….Welbeck preparing himself to come on after some 80 minutes. And he comes on after 82 minutes and The Ox goes off. Can he do it like against Leicester last season? Arsenal now pressing PNE back around their own penalty area but not coming through for the moment. A shot from Iwobi is half blocked and the keeper can save it. PNE player with cramps now. Ramsey with a cross to Giroud who heads on to Lucas who backheels it to Giroud wou fumbles it over the line. GOAL!!!! 1-2 to The Arsenal after 89 minutes!
Giroud almost intercepting a backpass but the keeper first on the ball and then Ramsey scuffs his effort wide and over. Holding comes on in the place of Maitland-Niles and Reine-Adelaide comes on for Lucas. Ospina first on a cross from PNE. Arsenal now controlling the match and then Welbeck with a good shot but Maxwell tips it over. Arsenal now taking their time.
Arsenal with a difficult and typical FA cup match with 1-2 after once again Giroud the man who stepped up when it was needed.