Matty Fryatt

FA Cup Final preview: Will Arsenal end their trophy drought?

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The FA Cup final kicks off on Saturday, with Arsenal and Hull City meeting at Wembley at 12 noon ET.

It’s all new for Hull, who’ve never made it to the FA Cup final before – and who, no matter what the outcome, will be headed into the Europa League next season. But that doesn’t meant the Tigers will be staring around naively as Arsenal run circles around them. They proved themselves capable of causing trouble in the league by beating Liverpool and topping Newcastle (back when Newcastle could still score) and they might have an upset left in them.

But even the most die-hard Hull fan likely admits that Arsenal have the edge in this one. Hull picked up just one point from their last five league matches, and that was a draw to Fulham. The Gunners, meanwhile, have won their last five, including a 3-0 victory over Hull back in April.

Plus, Arsenal may be fired along by just a touch more desire. A trophy’s been a long time coming for the club, with the last one lifted an FA Cup, back in 2005. And although Arsène Wenger insists that his contract extension does not hinge on his team finally picking up another piece of hardware for the cabinet, it may very well figure in to the deal that’s yet to be announced.

With Hull known to be pragmatic (or, to be frank, a bit boring) will this be a dull 120 minutes, finished off by a penalty shootout? Or will Steve Bruce throw caution to the wind, telling his team that they have nothing to lose by attacking Arsenal?

The road to the final

Arsenal: The Gunners’ FA Cup adventure started off in the most satisfactory of ways, with a 2-0 victory over North London rivals Tottenham. Then came an easy 4-0 victory over League One side Coventry City. The Gunners must’ve felt nervous when Liverpool came to town, as they’d just lost 5-1 to the Reds the week before. But Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored early, and Lukas Podolski added a second shortly after the restart. Steven Gerrard’s penalty put the visitors on the board, but in the end it was a 2-1 Arsenal victory.

Next up it was Everton. Despite another early goal, this one from Mesut Özil, the sides were level at the break. Then the Gunners scored three in the second half. The 4-1 win took them to Wembley to face cup-holders Wigan – who proved to be their toughest opponents yet. Per Mertesacker got a late equalizer to force a penalty shootout, in which Lukasz Fabianski played the hero by saving two of Wigan’s strikes.

Hull: After forcing Tottenham to extra time in the Fourth Round of the League Cup, only to crash out on penalties, Hull may have felt rather confident about their chances in the FA Cup. A Third Round draw to Championship side Middlesbrough made it easy for the Tigers to progress, 2-0. The next round was even easier, with Hull drawn against League 2 side Southend United. Another 2-0 win and it was off to Brighton to take on one of the best sides in the Championship. Hull came unstuck, needing a late equalizer from Yannick Sagbo to force a replay, which they won 2-1.

Hull’s easiest match was, surprisingly, against Sunderland, their only Premier League opposition in the tournament. Curtis Davies, David Meyler, and Matty Fryatt all scored inside ten minutes in the second half. Then it was on to face League One side Sheffield United in the semi-finals at Wembley. The Blades had already disposed of Premier League sides Aston Villa and Fulham, and looked set to do the same to Hull. But the Tigers kept roaring back, eventually sealing a 5-3 win to move on to the final.

What they’re saying

Hull manager Steve Bruce, on his club’s chances“The pressure will be on Arsenal because they have not won anything for a while,” Bruce said, way back in April, after the conclusion of the semi-finals. “They are a great side, they have great tradition and great history with a top-class manager. We are up against it but we will do our best.”

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger on that pressure“There is a huge desire for us to finish the job in the FA Cup. There is a pressure there, a big one, but a positive one and we want to take that opportunity,” said Wenger“It’s an opportunity for us to crown our season. There is always a huge expectancy. It brings pressure but we played many games in the season under that pressure and tension. That experience will help us in the final.”

Prediction

No surprises in this one. Bruce is not likely to deviate from his plan, but Arsenal’s attack – particularly with Aaron Ramsey back – will be able to pick apart the Hull defense. The Gunners will finally have another trophy to polish up.

Manchester United 3-1 Hull City: 18-year-old James Wilson scores twice in debut (video)

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James Wilson, one of two Manchester United academy products making their Premier League debut, scored in the 31st and 61st minutes, stealing his share of the headlines from two Red Devils stars who may have taken their final bows at the Theatre of Dreams dreams. Going on to defeat visiting Hull City 3-1, Manchester United moved within three points of England’s final Europa League spot. The club also saw two legends leave Old Trafford’s pitch for what may have been the final time.

Nemanja Vidic, out of contract at the end of the season. took the place of an injured Phil Jones early in the first half, and with 20 minutes left, interim manager Ryan Giggs handed in his own number. Vidic has already confirmed he will move to Italy’s Inter Milan next season, while may suspect Giggs will call en end to his 24-year career after the season.

If it is the end of Giggs’ playing days, it was only appropriate he left the field a winner, with an 18-year-old the manager handed his first cap repaying the interim boss’s faith. In the 31st minute, Wilson beat David Meyler and Nelson Figueroa to a ball knocked down by Marouane Fellaini, volleying home his first top-flight goal. Thirty minutes later, it was Martin cleaning up after Fellaini again, this time putting back the rebound of his teammate’s shot to put United up 2-0.

Two minutes later, Hull’s Matty Fryatt beat David de Gea to pull Steve Bruce’s team within one, the closest the visitors would come. With Robin Van Persie providing late insurance, the Red Devils claimed their second win in three games under Giggs, moving within three points of sixth place Tottenham Hotspur.

source: Getty Images
18-year-old James Wilson debuted with a brace at Old Trafford, leading the Red Devils to a 3-1 win over visiting Hull. (Photo: Getty Images.)

With a huge advantage in goal difference, United maintains hope of qualifying for Europe. A win on Sunday at Southampton combined with a Spurs loss against visiting Aston Villa would leave the Red Devils in sixth place, earning the club the Premier League’s last Europa League spot.

Manchester United controlled play from the opening kickoff, producing a chance for Wilson in the third minute. With Adnan Januzaj crossing to Fellaini, the home side was intent on taking advantage of the Belgian’s height, having put the midfielder in a similar position to that which he occupied at Everton. Though the move didn’t pay off in the opening minutes, a nearly identical attack just past the half-hour mark put United in front.

In the 31st minute, off a cross from Januzaj, Fellaini jumped over Curtis Davies to head back across the top of the six-yard box. Beating Meyler and Figueroa to the ball, Martin put a left-footed volley past Eldin Jakupovic for the game’s opening goal, giving United the one-goal lead they’d take into halftime.

Just past the hour mark, Martin struck again. Running onto a rebound after Fellaini was saved at close range, the England U-19 international doubled his club’s lead, giving the striker a dream debut to his Manchester United career.

Two minutes later, with their first shot of the game, Hull halved that led, with Matty Fyatt’s right-footed shot from outside the penalty area finding de Gea’s right corner. Despite that response, Hull would go on to be out-shot 18-2, with a 86th minute finish from Van Persie into the left of goal restoring Manchester United’s two-goal lead.

With the result, the Red Devils maintain a hope of playing European soccer next season, though the night will likely be remembered for other reasons. With their team’s win, the Old Trafford faithful are able to celebrate the departure of two of the club’s biggest names – player swho’ve contributed to so much of the club’s success in the Premier League era. And with an academy product’s debut double, fans were given reason to believe new stars are waiting to help their team back up the table.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Büttner, Carrick, Fellaini, Kagawa, Januzaj, Lawrence, Wilson

Goals: Wilson (31′, 61′), van Persie (86′)

Hull City: Jakupovic, Rosenior, Figueroa, Bruce, Davies, Meyler, Koren, Boyd, Quinn, Elmohamady, Long

Goals: Fryatt (63′)

Hull joins Arsenal in Cup final after wild 5-3 win vs Sheffield United

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Wembley’s stage proved a thriller for the second-straight FA Cup semifinal, though this one was dramatic from front-to-back.

Hull City and Sheffield United traded goals in a fun tie that ended with the Tigers clinching their first FA Cup final appearance in a 5-3 match.

Hull trailed 2-1 at halftime.

David Meyler was a maestro with a goal and multiple assists, while Yannick Sagbo, Matty Fryatt, Tom Huddlestone, and Stephen Quinn scored for Hull.

Jamie Murphy, Stefan Scougall and Jose Baxter netted for Sheffield United, which led twice.

The Blades struck first thanks to a left-footed shot from Jose Baxter in the 19th minute, inspiring the traveling Sheffield faithful with a 1-0 lead.

After Sagbo rescued an equalizer for Hull in the 42nd minute, the Blades took the lead just 90 seconds later. Scougall’s tally in the 44th gave Sheffield United a lead it could take to halftime.

Steve Bruce’s halftime substitution of Fryatt for George Boyd paid almost immediate dividends, as he was in the catbird seat to left-foot home a goal in the 49th minute. The Tigers would strike again, and it wouldn’t take long.

Meyler’s deft pass found Huddlestone, who simply danced through the Blades defense before calmly giving Hull its first lead of the match at 3-2 in the 55th minute.

And Meyler started the fourth Hull goal with a quick ball in to Jake Livermore, who chipped a touch that Quinn headed home to double the advantage in the 67th minute.

But wait! Just into the first of three minutes of stoppage time, the Blades pulled one back. Murphy’s right-foot had given Sheffield United hope, but Meyler took it right back with the eighth goal of the match.

FA Cup Preview: Wigan looks for Arsenal upset, Hull and Sheffield look for Wembley dream

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With the FA Cup into the semifinals, at least one team will have the unexpected opportunity to play in a Wembley final, while the Gunners are hoping to not just buck bad form but also a dubious trophy drought.

Saturday features favorites Arsenal against Wigan, while a pair of surprises square off on Sunday in Hull City and Sheffield United.

This year’s road to Wembley has been a strange one fraught with strange results and major upsets, as just two of the four teams remaining reside in England’s top flight.

Wembley Stadium is ready, are you? Get prepared with ProSoccerTalk’s preview of this weekend’s FA Cup action.

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic (Saturday, 12:07pm ET)

As the Gunners look to break their 8-year trophy void, they have just a Championship team in their way.

However, Wigan Athletic have already taken down three Premier League teams in Manchester City, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace en route to the semis, and Arsenal appears to be just another giant in the way.

The Gunners could desperately use a positive result no matter who it is against, especially one that would send them one game away from a trophy. It’s been five matches since Arsenal has picked up a win, conceding 12 goals in the four since then.

In a battle to retain their Champions League status, any positive momentum thrown Arsenal’s way would be greatly appreciated, and could boost their morale with just one top-10 side (Newcastle) remaining on their end-of-season Premier League schedule.

Wigan, sitting in fifth position in the Championship, are on a bit of a form dip in the league. They ripped off eight straight wins across all competitions in February and March, but since then have just two wins in their last seven.

With just six league matches remaining and six points ahead of the cut line for the promotion playoff, the Latics don’t have too much to worry about in their league status, so all their focus will be on Arsenal.

source: Getty Images
Hull City’s Matthew Fryatt scored a goal in their last FA Cup match and could feature up front with their 2 main strikers cup-tied.

Hull City vs Sheffield United (Sunday, 11:07am ET)

The first third-tier team to reach the semifinals since 2001, League One’s Sheffield United have the chance to become the first ever third-tear club in the finals of the FA Cup.

Having already toppled Premier League foes in Fulham and Aston Villa as well as Championship foes Nottingham Fores, they have a tough test in the defensively solid Hull City.

Hull manager Steve Bruce refused to look at the FA Cup sitting in the media room during his prematch press conference, and with the Tigers fully secure in their Premier League future, their full focus will be on Sunday’s semifinal.

Both teams are sure to have fantastic support, with Sheffield United having sold out their allotment within 24 hours of making them available.  Hull City supporters are hoping to see their team reach the finals of this competition for the first time ever.

Hull City do have some problems up front, with strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic up tied having both appeared for their previous clubs in the competition.  That leaves Steve Bruce with just Sone Aluko, Matty Fryatt and Yannick Sagbo to choose from.

FA Cup roundup – City downed by Wigan as the semifinals are set

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Just four teams remain in the FA Cup.

The semifinals will feature Arsenal, Hull City, League One’s Sheffield United, and the defending champions Wigan Athletic as Arsenal looks to avoid upsets against three clear underdogs with a chance to do something big.

Yesterday’s action saw Arsenal take out their recent anger on Everton 4-1, with Mesut Ozil making a strong comeback from his time on the bench and Olivier Giroud picked up a goal off the bench.

(MORE: Arsenal 4-1 Everton: Gunners book FA Cup semifinal spot)

Today, three more fixtures have locked in the semifinals for the event.

Sheffield United 2-0 Charlton Athletic

It was 0-0 for a while, but the Blades broke Charlton’s hearts with a pair of second-half goals from Ryan Flynn and Jay Brayford put Sheffield United through.

It’s another monumental win for new manager Nigel Clough, who took over a team in the League One relegation zone, and he not only has them 11th in the league, but now has a chance to make it to Wembley.

source: Getty Images
David Meyler, a week after being at the forefront of the Alan Pardew blowup, scored for Hull.

Hull City 3-0 Sunderland

Gus Poyet dropped Jozy Altidore again, this time due to a training ground injury, and the Black Cats were stomped by Hull City at KC Stadium.  A trio of goals were bagged in quick succession, as Curtis Davies, David Meyler, and Matty Fryatt all scored within nine minutes, the last with 13 minutes left on the clock.

It also could have been worse, as Sone Aluko missed a penalty for the hosts in the first half.

Manchester City 1-2 Wigan Athletic

Yup, that happened. After securing the Capital One Cup a few weeks ago, it’s back to cup disappointment for the Sky Blues, as a Jordi Gomez penalty and a James Perch early-second-half score gave Wigan the victory.

Samir Nasri threaded the needle for a consolation after City made a triple substitution but it was not enough as Wigan defended admirably down the stretch as City poured on the pressure.

It only adds to the calamities at the back for Manuel Pellegrini, with rumors of City’s possible hands on deck for Sergio Ramos.  Gael Clichy was beaten on the second Wigan goal, and once again Martin Demichelis is in the spotlight at the back conceding the first-half penalty.

The Wigan victory means Arsenal are the only big club to make the semifinals, and at least one smaller club will have the opportunity to take home a memorable piece of silverware from Wembley.

SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS:

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic

Hull City vs Sheffield United