Federici error sends Arsenal into Cup final

Sport360 staff 23:07 18/04/2015
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  • Alexis Sanchez celebrates as he scores their second goal during the FA Cup semi-final against Reading.

    Adam Federici’s extra-time howler proved decisive as he allowed an Alexis Sanchez shot to squirm through his legs, handing Arsenal a 2-1 victory at Wembley.

    It was a cruel way to decide a pulsating clash in which Reading had more than held their own. Sanchez had given the Gunners a 39th-minute lead, but unbowed the Royals equalised through Gareth McCleary early in the second half.

    Both sides fluffed chances to win the game in normal time before the Reading goalkeeper contrived to let in a tame Sanchez effort, sealing the Chilean’s brace and ensuring Arsenal return here on May 30.

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    Reading had begun the game like a team for whom these occasions are very much a rarity, pressing Arsenal high up the pitch, denying them space and looking to profit on their mistakes.

    It was a tactic that initially paid dividends with Jordan Obita and Nathan Chalobah both seeing efforts scrambled behind in an open first 20 minutes.

    Reading were not having it all their own way by any means – Michael Hector almost handed Danny Welbeck an early sight of goal before Per Mertesacker highlighted his danger from set pieces – but a wayward Santi Cazorla shot seemed to sum up his side’s early showing.

    Ironic cheers from the Royals fans behind that goal soon turned to jeers as Sanchez took a tumble after poking the ball past the on-rushing Adam Federici 20 yards from goal.

    Television replays appeared to suggest there was a touch from the Reading goalkeeper on the Chilean forward, and less than a minute later there was definitely contact as the industrious Jamie Mackie left Laurent Koscielny pole-axed.

    Reading refused to kick the ball out, but controversy was averted as Mackie missed both his attempts at goal, before an offside flag spared the striker’s blushes.

    And, it looked as though the Royals’ all-action game plan had taken its toll with six minutes of the half remaining as Arsenal showed their quality.

    Mesut Ozil produced a stunning pass to find Sanchez in the area, and the Chilean needed just one touch to control the ball and wrong-foot the Reading defence, before picking his spot.

    But if the Cup holders thought the goal would knock Reading off their stride, they were mistaken. The half-time break seemed to invigorate Steve Clarke’s side, and they were soon level.

    Pavel Pogrebnyak was able to dig out a cross from the byline, which found its way to McCleary, whose sliding shot at the far post deflected off Kieran Gibbs and past the hapless Szczesny.

    It was no more than the Championship side deserved, and after substitute Gabriel had seen Federici tip his header onto the bar, they might have had a penalty.

    In fairness to Mathieu Debuchy, his arm was by his side as he defended a Hal Robson-Kanu cross, but Arsene Wenger was rattled enough to call Olivier Giroud from the bench.

    The Frenchman gave Aaron Ramsey, the Gunners’ hero here 11 months ago, the chance to save his side from extra-time only to see the Welshman hit Federici before striking the rebound against the post.

    The additional 30 minutes played out much like the previous 90, and it was perhaps fitting that a game littered with errors was decided by a mistake as Federici contrived to let Sanchez’s drive squirm though his legs.

    It means Arsenal’s quest continues, but they must improve if they are to retain the trophy in six weeks.