London, Aug 1 (efe-epa).- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a pair of goals Saturday to lead Arsenal 2-1 over Chelsea in the FA Cup final and give coach Mikel Arteta a trophy in just his 28th match in charge of the club that hoisted the cup twice during his tenure as a player.
Playing behind closed doors at London’s Wembley Stadium because of Covid-19, the Gunners won the world’s oldest national soccer competition for a record-extending 14th time.
For the Blues, it was a third loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
Taking the cup also assured Arsenal – who ended the Premier League season in eighth place – of a berth in the 2020-2021 Europa League.
While Chelsea started brightly, Aubameyang had the first chance of the game, but the Arsenal captain headed wide before Gunners goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was forced into action by a Mason Mount shot.
In the 5th minute, Christian Pulisic took the ball in midfield and penetrated the Arsenal half, passing to Mount on the left.
Mount sent a cross into the box, where former Gunner Olivier Giroud took advantage of the defenders’ passivity to back-heel the ball to Pulisic. The American striker beat Martinez to put Chelsea up 1-0.
Arsenal improved after the hydration break and thought they equalized when Nicolas Pepe put the ball past Blues keeper Willy Caballero, but the goal was disallowed for an offside.
On the following sequence, however, Aubameyang went down inside the area after tangling with Cesar Azpilicueta and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
The Gabon international converted to level the contest at 1-1 in the 28th minute.
Seven minutes after conceding the penalty, Azpilicueta left the pitch with an injury, replaced by Andreas Christensen.
The second half had barely got under way when Chelsea suffered another blow as Pulisic found himself unable to continue after pulling a hamstring in pursuit of a second goal to restore the lead.
As the match passed the hour mark, the Blues were enjoying a clear territorial edge and creating some decent chances, but the sequel to a Chelsea corner in the 66th minute resulted in an Arsenal free kick.
Hector Bellerin advanced the ball across midfield before a collision with Christensen. Pepe nudged the loose ball to Aubameyang, who got around Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma before chipping the ball over Caballero from a difficult angle.
Leading 2-1 on Aubameyang’s gem, the Gunners saw their position bolstered in the 73rd minute when Taylor showed Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic a second yellow card for a tackle on Granit Xhaka.
The Blues would end the game with just nine men when Pedro – Pulisic’s replacement – got hurt after the side had already used all five substitutions.
In light of Aubameyang’s performance, it was no surprise to hear Arteta say after the match that Arsenal wants to hang on to the 31-year-old striker, who is in the final year of his contract with the club.
“I want to build the squad around Aubameyang, I think he wants to stay but it’s about getting the deal done. We are on the right path and he is a big part of it,” the jubilant Gunners manager said.
Despite the disappointment of losing the final, Chelsea’s Frank Lampard can look back on his first campaign as coach with satisfaction.
The Blues’ all-time leading scorer guided his charges to a fourth-place finish, securing Champions League play in 2020-2021.