Arsenal’s new-found resilience was underlined as Arsene Wenger’s side staged a late rally to win an ill-tempered clash with Hull and book a Wembley FA Cup semi-final date with Chelsea.
Nick Barmby’s 13th-minute strike had given Hull hope of performing an encore to their September victory at the Emirates in the English Premier League. But Robin van Persie and William Gallas both found the net in the final quarter-hour to send the Gunners through to the last four of the world’s oldest knockout competition, as well as ensuring the club’s first appearance at the new Wembley.
Gallas will not have the chance to lead Arsenal out at the national stadium, having been stripped of the captaincy earlier this season, but the France defender underlined his value to the club with his headed winner, six minutes from time.
Arsenal had received a pre-match boost with Andrey Arshavin being passed fit to start. The Russian playmaker had been unplayable against Blackburn on Saturday, but neither he nor Arsenal were to perform with the same fluency as in that 4-0 romp and it was little surprise that Hull took the lead through Barmby, an erstwhile star for their north London rivals Tottenham.
Arsenal’s defence hesitated when confronted with a long ball from Andy Dawson, allowing Barmby to find the net with a volley and the help of a deflection off Swiss internationl Johan Djourou. Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, offered a chance to impress in place of the rested Manuel Almunia, then produced a fingertips save to prevent Hull’s Brazilian playmaker, Geovanni, from doubling the lead from a free-kick.
Gradually the Gunners began to assert themselves and efforts from Arshavin and Abou Diaby went close before van Persie forced Hull keeper Boaz Myhill into a fine save with a perfectly-executed free-kick from 25 yards. The Dutch striker was not to be denied, however, finally finding the net with 16 minutes left thanks to the persistence of substitute Nicklas Bendtner.
The big Dane’s dogged determination enabled him to work the ball to Arshavin who provided the cutback from which van Persie fired Arsenal level. Bendtner then had a close-range shot blocked behind by Michael Ricketts but Arsenal avoided a replay with six minutes left, with Gallas heading home the winner despite Hull protests that he was in an offside position.