Arsenal 2005 FA Cup Final

The FA Cup TrophyArsenal 0-0 Man Utd (Arsenal win 5-4 after pens. and ET)

21st May 2005

FA Cup Final 2005, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Kick off 3:00 PM.

The two biggest teams in English football went head-to-head in a final for the first time in 26 years, in this, the oldest and most respected club cup competition in the world. Much has been said in the gutter press this morning about how Arsenal were apparently lucky or unworthy winners. Whilst it may be true that Man Utd had more shots during the game (though not the possession), Arsenal clearly defended better and had the better keeper in Jens Lehmann, who silenced his critics with a flawless performance. Luck has played a large part in deciding many trophies down the years, lest the aggrieved Man Utd fans need reminding, including the 1999 Champions League Final. Fortune favours the brave however and perhaps there was even a touch of divine intervention as Man Utd failed to capitalise on numerous chances.

Arsenal's German No.1 Jens Lehmann should have earned himself Man of the Match but sadly, keepers rarely do. The only real attention goalkeepers get is when they and the defence in front of them leak goals. It was of course the first FA Cup Final to be decided on penalties after 2 hours of football proved goalless. Of course I'm biased but I have to disagree with those who say it is no way to decide a final. If neither team can score then neither team wanted the result badly enough to ensure penalties are avoided. Arsenal, Man Utd and England supporters have had their fair share of penalty ups and downs and if it really is down to luck (a ridiculous idea, penalties are a test of skill and nerve) then it all evens itself out in the end.

Rational discussion aside, there is a part of me that is glad if Man Utd feel that we don't deserve it. We weren't there to prove we were the better team. It was easy to forget that Arsenal have been ravaged by injuries and are in the middle of a very difficult period of change that will eventually see Arsene Wenger's  team for the future assembled and the move to Ashburton Grove complete. No, Arsenal's job yesterday was to grind out a result and that they did. Without panache, without style but ultimately with guts and just a little bit of luck. Wenger's task was to get one over on his counterpart, Ferguson and ensure that Man Utd have a fruitless season. Oh, and to wind up the most miserable man in football since Marvin the Paranoid Android had a trial for Tottenham. Mission accomplished!

Of the match itself there isn't much to write about. We watched the game in a tiny, crowded members-only club on Blackstock Road. A cramped, non-descript place I never knew existed until yesterday. 5 entrance fee was a bargain at the time and indeed Nici and I were the last allowed in, just 20 minutes before kick-off, all the best pubs from Highbury to Finsbury Park long since locked up. So for 2 hours, we caught glimpses of  the ridiculously tiny screen whilst shouting, screaming, swearing and getting more beer on our heads than down our throats.

(click to enlarge)

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