14 May 2014

Arsenal need epic comeback to defeat Hull in the FA Cup

There are but a few days before the 2014 final, but it was 84 years ago that Hull had Arsenal on the ropes, leading 2-0 with only twenty minutes left in the 1930 semifinal. Parts of the story will sound depressingly similar—struggling against a lower side (Hull were to be relegated to the Third Division after the season), defensive lapses (a poor clearance leads to them scoring)—but other elements should feel more-inspiring. The fight-back in the final twenty minutes forced a replay, which Arsenal would win to advance to and then win the final over Huddersfield.

At Elland Road, Arsenal went behind early on when defender Dan Lewis cleared the ball from in front of goal only for  Hull player Jimmy Howieson to lob it right back in from a full 45 yards out. The embarrassment didn't stop there, as Arsenal's Eddie Hapgood could concede an own-goal. Down 2-0, it looked as if Hull would advance, especially as we struggled to find any kind of openings.

However, with twenty minutes left to play, Arsenal finally found its opening when Joe Hulme's cross found David Jack. Hull's devilish offside-trap had been bedeviling and confounding our attack all match, so to finally score in this fashion must have been especially satisfying. Of course, the equalizer was still to be found, and time was starting to run terribly short.

With less than ten minutes to play, Cliff Bastin went on a magnificent solo run and put the ball into the top right corner. At that, the score was finally level, and the midweek replay would be fierce.

Hull, perhaps believing that they were unlucky to have squandered a lead with so little time left, came out angry, even leading to the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup semifinal. Going down a man handed the momentum to Arsenal. Moments later, Joey Williams and found Jack who volleyed home from about eight yards out. It would be the match's only goal, and it was enough to send Arsenal to the final.

In a parallel similar in many ways to this year's Cup final, the league winner, Sheffield Wednesday, had been defeated by mid-table Huddersfield Town (who finished two spots above Arsenal in the First Division, for what that's worth). With Sheffield Wednesday out of the way, Arsenal could set its sights on Huddersfield Town, whom we had beaten 2-0 and drawn 2-2 earlier in the season. As an interesting note, the two squads took to the pitch side by side to honor Herbert Chapman, who had managed Huddersfield before coming over to Arsenal in 1925. Arsenal's 2-0 win was secured through goals from Alex James and Jack Lambert. The win launched a superb decade that included five league championships and two FA Cups.

Here's hoping that Saturday's match goes as smoothly as the final, foregoing the semifinal drama (and trauma) of falling two goals behind Hull before storming back to victory!

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