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Match Reports

Arsenal (FA Cup) 180415

18 April 2015

Brave Royals cruelly denied at Wembley

  • Sanchez stabs Arsenal into first half lead
  • McCleary hooks home equaliser on 54 mins
  • Sanchez puts Gunners back into extra time lead
  • Fans enjoy a pulsating tie and a valiant Royals display
A brilliant Reading performance at Wembley ended with a harsh exit at the hands of Arsenal when Alexis Sanchez's low drive found a way past Adam Federici in extra time to seal the Gunners' place in the Final.

Steve Clarke's side had done themselves, the blue and white half of Wembley and the town proud by coming from behind to deservedly take a tie against one of the best teams in the country to extra time - Garath McCleary's second half strike cancelling out Sanchez's first half opener.

A tireless and talented display, which saw the Royals dominate for large parts of the second half especially, was denied a win when Sanchez squirmed an effort past Federici and over the line. The Royals will rue a couple of offside decisions that didn't go their way after coming away defeated in a game that was evenly contested from the first to the final whistle.

Our FA Cup adventure is over. But thank you for an incredible semi-final performance and memories of an historic run!

Reading: Federici, Gunter, Obita, Pearce (c), Hector,Chalobah (Cox FT), Williams, Robson-Kanu, McCleary, Mackie (Karacan 90), Pogrebnyak (Yakubu 111).
Subs: Andersen, Kelly, Cooper, Norwood.

Yellow: Chalobah

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker (Gabriel 63) Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin (Walcott 101), Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck (Giroud 72).
Subs: Ospina, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere.
Yellow: Gabriel

Att: 84,081

First Half

Reading began the game on the front foot, earning a succession of throws down the right side deep in Arsenal territory. But the first half chance fell to Danny Welbeck, who ran onto a Kieran Gibbs ball foward that Michael Hector couldn't intercept and it took Federici to dive at the striker's feet to force Welbeck to knock it behind for a goal kick.

Sanchez stabbed an effort over via a slight deflection and then Federici produced a stunning save to keep out a near post Per Mertesacker header that looked certain to give the Gunners an early lead.

Minutes later, Reading had their first shot on goal. McCleary beat Gibbs down the right to get a cross in and it fell to the feet of Jordan Obita who drilled a left-footed effort towards the target. He struck it well, but Szczesny was behind it to gobble it up.

Then Mackie scurried onto a pass in behind the Arsenal defence only for the offside flag to be raised as he ran through one on one with Szczesny. Replays suggested that Mackie was level, to no avail though.

Chalobah was next to take a pop at the Gunners goal. McCleary won a free kick, Robson-Kanu delivered it into the box it and was cleared only as far as Chalobah whose deflected shot looped just over the Arsenal bar.

Ozil curled a free kick wide and Cazorla hit a speculative effort high over the bar, but the Royals were certainly holding their own. Federici had to race off his line and slide at the feet of Sanchez as he broke through on goal, and the Aussie did enough to force Sanchez to lose possession and the ball fizz behind for a goal kick.

Chalobah threaded a ball into Mackie just inside the Arsenal area, but the offside flag rightly thwarted the Royals forward this time. Mackie then caught Gibbs napping and stole the ball from the left-back, but his ball forward was just too heavy for Pogrebnyak to collect.

But just before half time, Arsenal struck the first telling blow. A lovely ball over the top from Ozil found the run of Sanchez and he chested the ball down, cut back inside McCleary and stabbed the ball past Federici from 8 yards out.

McCleary broke past Coquelin and had space to run into for the first time. His cross looped up to the far post where Williams won his header but he couldn't get enough power behind his left-footed stab as it dropped to trouble Szczesny's goal. And Arsenal led at the interval.

Second half

Arsenal came close to adding to their lead when Cazorla's inswinging free kick was helped on its way by the head of Mertesaker, but the ball sailed harmlessly wide.

Reading were looking for a way back into it though and Robson-Kanu's cross almost sailed goalwards as it it spiralled over the head of Szczesny and just over the bar.

But then, the Reading roar was heard as they scored at Wembley to make it 1-1. Exceptional work from Pogrebnyak down the left saw him reach the byline and dink a cross in to the far post where McCleary hooked the ball towards goal. A slight deflection off Gibbs was enough to force a fumble from Szczesny and the ball crept over the line to half of Wembley's sheer unadulterated joy.

Reading's adrenaline was racing and Obita ran onto a ball down the left, crossing into the box and almost picking out Pogrebnyak in the middle who was winding up to volley it before a Koscielny header cleared the Gunners' lines.

Just after the hour, McCleary threaded a ball into the run of Pogrebnyak who was flagged offside before he could scamper onto it. Again, replays suggested the decision was a tight one and then an appeal for handball against Debuchy went against Steve Clarke's men after Hal Robson-Kanu's cross clearly struck the Arsenal full-back's arm inside the box.

Reading were on top. Arsenal rattled. Mackie pulled a cross back from the byline on the left and it dropped invitingly for Williams whose scuffed volley bobbled wide of the bottom right corner.

Arsenal then went close from a corner, substitute Gabriel meeting a near post ball with a great header that needed a spectacular Federici fingertip save to push it away from the top right corner.

Gabriel was presented with an even more clear cut chance moments later when a free kick was swung into the Royals box and from six yards out the defender headed high and wide of Federici's goal.

Federici was off his line in an instant to dive at the feet of Olivier Giroud with 15 minutes left on the clock, then at the other end Mackie was wrestled over as he turned his man but the referee played on and Pogrebnyak dragged an effort across the face of goal but wide.

As we entered the final ten minutes of a pulsating semi-final, Chalobah pulled the trigger from distance and Szczesny had to get down well to his right to push it wide.

Then at the other end Ramsey could have scored, first being denied by Federici's legs and then hammering the ball against the post from close range with the goal gaping albeit from a narrowing angle.

With five minutes of normal time left, Pogrebnyak ran clear of his marker and with Mackie Reading had two on one bearing down on the Arsenal box. But the chance fizzled out with a weak Pogrebnyak shot that Szczesny gleefully gathered into his body.

It was end to end drama, Gibbs crossing into Ramsey from the left but the midfielder unable to deflect it on target. And in the second of two minutes of injury time, Giroud headed an Ozil free kick straight at Federici, prompting the final whistle and the signal of the start of extra time!

Extra time - first half

The first shot in anger after the restart came from the boot of Santi Cazorla, who whistled an effort over the crossbar from 20 yards out.

Giroud looked to break the offside trap and scamper in on goal, but the flag denied him a shot on goal, Federici mopping up at the back anyway.

Reading were looking the more tired and Ramsey struck a sweet 25 yards effort that took a nasty bounce just in front of Federici, but the Aussie did enough to scoop it up and over his crossbar.

Pogrebnyak broke and pulled the trigger with his left foot, but it was blocked on route to goal. And with the last kick of the first period of extra time, Arsenal re-took the lead. Sanchez cut inside onto his right foot and shot low at goal and the ball squirmed under Federici and edged over the goalline. A harsh, harsh blow for a goalkeeper whose saves had kept the Royals in it all evening.

Extra time - second half

Reading came out fighting once more and Mackie fired at goal but it sailed over the bar after he had done well to work an opportunity by cutting in from the left.

Ozil dragged an effort wide at the other end as Arsenal looked to exploit the inevitable gaps at the back as Reading sought another equaliser.

And Ozil fed Giroud on the left whose low drive glanced the outside of the post and flew behind for a goal kick.

Reading kept battling, running their hearts out in search of a goal that would take the semi-final to a penalty shootout, but Williams arrowed high over the bar from distance.

And pass masters Arsenal kept the ball to see out the final few minutes and end what has been an historic FA Cup run.

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