LONDON (AP) — Aaron Ramsey ended Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought, completing his team’s comeback in extra time in the FA Cup final to clinch a 3-2 victory over Hull.
Saturday was shaping up as an embarrassing day for Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, when Hull scored twice in the first eight minutes. Hull has never won a major trophy in its 110-year history.
But after goals from James Chester and Curtis Davies, Santi Cazorla began Arsenal’s comeback in the 17th minute by scoring directly from a free kick.
Laurent Koscielny tied the score in the 71st minute to force the game into extra time, where Ramsey completed a slick move to score the goal that will ease the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.
“This one’s for the manager, for the fans, who’ve always believed in us as well even when things weren’t going as well,” Ramsey said.
After collecting the team’s first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup, Wenger was doused in champagne and thrown in the air by his players.
“I think it was a turning point in the lifetime of this team,” Wenger said. “And to know they can win in that way was very important today.”
Wenger’s future was in doubt after Arsenal’s repeated failures in the Premier League since winning it in 2004. But Saturday’s victory will increase expectations that the Frenchman will commit to the club he has managed since 1996. He has already indicated he will sign a contract for next season.
“We showed great strength and character today to come back to win it,” the 23-year-old Ramsey said. “To score the winner in extra time is something I’ve dreamed of for many, many years. It’s definitely up there with the most important goals I’ve ever scored.”
Three years after Arsenal conceded a late goal here to Birmingham in the League Cup final, this looked like another miserable day.
Arsenal’s defense was nonexistent, breached far too easily by a team that just barely avoided relegation in its first season back in the Premier League.
Tom Huddlestone’s volley of a free kick by Stephen Quinn was heading off-target until Chester flicked the ball with his heel into the bottom corner of the net.
Hull manager Steve Bruce, who won this competition three times in the 1990s as a Manchester United player, could barely believe it. Bruce, whose son Alex was on the Hull defense, celebrated enthusiastically on the sideline.
Before Arsenal’s players could recover, Lukasz Fabianski, the second-string goalkeeper who has been used in the cup, was picking the ball out of his net again.
After Arsenal failed to fully clear a free kick, Bruce’s standing header hit the post, and Davies fired in the loose ball from a tight angle for his third goal in four FA Cup appearances.
But Cazorla gave Arsenal a much-needed spark as the Spaniard curled in a free kick into the top of the net.
As Hull tired after halftime, Arsenal seized control.
“We wanted to make history tonight and win the game,” Wenger said, “and we made history in both ways – how not to start a cup final and how to come back.”