Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the hero as Arsenal edged 10-man Chelsea to claim a record-extending 14th FA Cup in the final at an empty Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Arsenal captain Aubameyang drew the Gunners level from the spot after American Christian Pulisic put the Blues ahead in the first half, before scoring a beautifully crafted winner in the second half, shimmying past Kurt Zouma and slotting calmly past Willy Caballero who retained his place over the out of favour Kepa Arribazalaga.
The final was a contest between two managers in their first season at their respective clubs competing in their first final and it was Gunners boss Mikel Arteta who got the best of his Blues counterpart Frank Lampard to end the season on a high.
With the victory, Arsenal now has a route into Europe next season in the Europa League.
A serious-looking injury in added time to Roma-bound Pedro Rodriguez put a blur on proceedings and summed up Chelsea’s bad luck on the day.
Blues midfielder Mateo Kovacic saw red for a second bookable offence after what appeared to be a foul on Granit Xhaka in the 73rd minute although replays suggested that VAR should have alerted referee Anthony Taylor to what appeared an error.
Chelsea’s run of bad luck started when captain Cesar Azpilicueta who gave away the penalty for Aubameyang’s equaliser was forced off in the first half before goalscorer Pulisic also left with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the second half.
The Blues started the better of the two teams and nearly went ahead early on through Mason Mount’s long-range stinger but Gunners goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez pulled off a spectacular full stretch dive to put the ball behind.
Chelsea were not to be denied, however, and got the lead their enterprising play deserved moments later in the fifth-minute.
Pulisic started and finished a flowing move of exquisite beauty, getting on the end of Olivier Giroud’s flick after some intricate inter-passing between himself, Mount and the Frenchman before dribbling past Rob Holding and nestling the ball in the corner.
The Gunners were not behind for long as they were stung into action by falling behind.
Kieran Tierney sent a hopeful punt forward which was misjudged by Azpilicueta and pounced upon by Aubameyang who raced into the box and was then fouled by the Chelsea captain.
The Gabon forward, who scored twice here in the semifinal win over Manchester City, dusted himself up to put away the resultant penalty with the Chelsea captain departing the game moments later with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Arsenal’s momentum carried on into the second half and they struck the winner twenty two minutes after the restart.
Nicolas Pepe collected the loose ball after Hector Bellerin’s barnstorming run was halted in jarring fashion by substitute Andreas Christensen. The Ivorian winger then threaded a pass to Aubameyang who wrongfooted Zouma before insouciantly chipping the ball over an advancing Caballero.
Pulisic had already been forced off by then and the Blues were forced to find an equaliser with ten men for seventeen minutes of normal time and seven minutes of additional time after Kovacic received his marching orders.
The match extended past 100 minutes after Pedro’s serious-looking injury but Chelsea never looked like sending the game into extra time and Arsenal’s squeals of jubilation reverberated inside the empty Wembley as Taylor called time on the encounter.
The trophy adds a gloss to the Gunners’ 2019-20 season after a disappointing Premier League campaign and provides Arteta who also won the trophy with Arsenal as a player, with a solid foundation to build for next season.
More pressingly, it could yet be the persuasive moment Arteta needs to convince Aubameyang to extend his stay at the Emirates.
Chelsea still have the second-leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich to play in a week’s time and Lampard will be hard-pressed to devise a way past the Bavarians who hold a three-goal lead with a squad full of crocked players.