Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup final win

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LONDON — Following Arsenal’s 3-2 win against Hull City on Saturday in the FA Cup final at Wembley, the Gunners came back from 2-0 down to win a record-equaling 11th FA Cup.

The Gunners never seem to do things the easy way and this sensational comeback was certainly one of those occasions.

MORE: Arsenal’s incredible comeback wins FA Cup final vs. Hull, first trophy since ’05

Hull raced into a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes and they battled incredible hard for the entire game as the Gunners fought back in dramatic fashion.

We learned many things from Arsenal’s first trophy win since 2005, here are three.

Arsenal’s slow start, once again, almost cost them

Away at Manchester City. Away at Liverpool. Away at Chelsea. Then again in the FA Cup final. Arsenal’s slow starts were a constant throughout the 2013-14 season. Starting two or three goals behind has put Arsenal in a bad spot in huge PL games this season and they never recovered. Luckily, for them, on Saturday Hull only went 2-0 ahead after seven minutes. Two set pieces launched into the box saw first James Chester flick home and then Curtis Davies reacted quickly as Hull’s aerial bombardment unsettled Arsenal from the start. Steve Bruce and his staff certainly did their homework and it could have been 3-0 after 12 minutes if Alex Bruce’s header wasn’t cleared off the line. Arsenal haven’t been able to handle face-paced attacks from the get-go all season and they must work on their sluggish starts if they are going to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners were lucky to get away with their horrendous start.

Hull’s five-man defense biggest help/hindrance

The Tigers’ defenders defended like, er, well, Tigers… for most of the game but they came unstuck several times in extra time as they tried to overplay at the back. There were simply too many men at the back as Hull’s players got in each others way. Throughout the first 60 minutes they threw themselves in front of challenges, made herculian blocks and were extremely well organized. However when they started to falter, tiredness and the tireless running of Yaya Sanogo off the bench was a recipe for disaster. Hull went 2-0 up after eight minutes and they didn’t know what to do. Barely a threat going forward all game, only Sone Aluko’s effort towards the end of extra time came close to Hull scoring a third. Many call Hull’s five-man defense anti-football but until the 71st minute it looked incredibly likely it would win them the FA Cup. Their biggest strength became their Achilles heel.

Wenger’s extra time gamble pays off

After 105 minutes of keeping Arsenal at bay Hull hardly needed to see Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky both fresh as daises and jumping off the bench in extra time. Within seconds the duo had combined to tear Hull apart and Arsenal almost went 3-2 up with a slaloming one-two into the penalty box. That unsettled the Tigers as Wilshere and Rosicky’s energetic running and clever moves found space for Sanogo to create havoc for the winning goal, where Giroud broke free and Ramsey was left unmarked to play the hero. Wenger’s decision to keep both Wilshere and Rosicky on the bench until the last 15 minutes proved masterful and showed that the Frenchman still has that magic touch, even after nine years without a trophy.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

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