FA Cup: Alexis Sanchez fires Arsenal past Manchester City in semifinal

Alexis Sanchez (L) celebrates his goal with Gabriel Paulista (Photo: AFP)

It's going to be an all-London affair in the final!

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Arsenal came back from a goal down to beat Manchester City 2-1 in extra-time on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in a remarkable FA Cup semifinal, setting up a final date with Chelsea in thrilling fashion.

Sergio Aguero’s 62nd-minute strike against the run of play had sparked fears that the Gunners would run out of steam, but Nacho Monreal’s 71st-minute equaliser forced the tie into extra-time.

And Arsene Wenger’s side simply had more determination on the night, with Alexis Sanchez’s scrappy 101st-minute goal deciding the outcome of the match, setting up an London Derby in dramatic fashion.

Arsene Wenger continued with an unfamiliar 3-4-3 formation, with young Rob Holding continuing his run at centre back and Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing as the wing-backs.

City dominated proceedings in the first-half but lacked the cutting edge, partly due to David Silva’s injury early on, with the Spaniard being replaced by Raheem Sterling in the 23rd minute.

The second period saw a much-improved Arsenal side but as they applied pressure on City, they left themselves susceptible to an counter and once Yaya Toure released Aguero with a long ball after dispossessing Aaron Ramsey, there was only one outcome.

The Argentine looked to have had a heavy touch which brought him close to Petr Cech, but recovered to toe-poke it past the Arsenal custodian to give Pep Guardiola’s men a slender lead.

Despite captain Vincent Kompany continuing to start for City, they never looked confident at the back and paid dearly for switching off when Oxlade-Chamberlain sent in an inviting cross from the right which was tucked in by an overlapping Nacho Monreal nine minutes later.

The Sky Blues weren't rattled despite conceding and had two big chances of their own, twice hitting the bar in a span of two minutes. First, Toure’s volley from the edge of the bar was tipped onto the post by Cech and then Fernandinho’s header crashed off the post to deny City from taking a lead a second time in the game.

After that, however, City seemed to fizzle out and as extra-time approached, Arsenal continued to grow stronger and always looked the likelier of the two to find that vital third goal.

And their top-scorer for the season, Sanchez, would find a way to score deep in extra-time, managing to score despite being surrounded by several City players in the box.

The result brings some much-needed relief for Arsenal and their manager, Arsene Wenger, who has been the subject of severe criticism in recent weeks over a range of issues. A possibility of winning a second FA Cup in three years is a real possibility and while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea will not be no pushovers, it will definitely be a final worth watching.

For Pep Guardiola, it is the first time in his glittering managerial career that the Catalan has not won a single trophy and will prompt a rethink as he needs to take responsibility for the loss. Lucky for him, City can put their Cup heartbreak behind them as a Manchester Derby on Thursday looms large on the horizon. Their arch-rivals are breathing down their neck in the league table and they need a result to justify their hefty summer expenditure for a season without the Champions League would be unthinkable and the 2016-17 season would be written off as a unmitigated disaster. 

THE STATESMAN PULSE

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