Christian Pulisic had become the first American to score in the FA Cup final, but his first game in the fifth minute was called off by Aubameyang’s penalty in the 28th minute after being dragged by Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
A year after the start of this English season disrupted by a pandemic, the longest in history, Azpilicueta was injured in tears before half-time. Pulisic only lasted a minute after the break before also recovering with an apparent hamstring injury.
Chelsea being troubled by injuries, Arsenal took control and Aubameyang chipped goalkeeper Willy Caballero from close range in the 67th.
This not only sealed Arsenal’s fourth FA Cup in seven seasons, but a place in the Europa League, having finished eighth in the Premier League.
Chelsea’s hopes of forcing the game to extend the game were dealt a blow when Mateo Kovacic received a second yellow card in the 73rd after gently grabbing Granit Xhaka. Chelsea finished with nine men in the stoppage time when Pedro was forced to leave with a shoulder injury.
Frank Lampard may still end his first season as Chelsea manager by lifting a trophy, but that would require the west London club to first reverse a 3-0 deficit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Last 16 next Saturday.
But in his 28th game in charge of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta won the FA Cup – just as he did as a player in 2014 and 2015.
“It was a lot of faith to bring me here and rebuild something special,” said Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery in December. “I hope we made the fans proud. ”
Restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic meant that this 90,000-capacity stadium had no fans.
There couldn’t even be a trophy presentation as usual in the Royal Box due to social distancing after that 139th FA Cup final. Players had to get their own medals before captain Aubameyang claimed the cup on the pitch.
“I saw him walking with the lower part attached,” said Arsenal defender Rob Holding, “and I was like, ‘You have to take that off! ”
A competition that started on August 9, 2019, with teams from the ninth and tenth levels, ended later than it had ever done before – two months later than the final was scheduled.
Never before has the FA Cup final been held without fans.
When the team buses arrived, only one man from an Arsenal supporter sang at the entrance.
Inside the stadium, even the traditional cup final anthem – “Abide With Me” – was not sung live. Instead, a pre-recorded version was played, dedicated to victims of COVID-19 and racial injustice and performed by Emeli Sande on the roof of the stadium.
“Love Justice Unity” appeared on the big screen outside the stadium which overlooks Wembley Way where the only crowds were heading towards the mall.
Supporters were heard again at Wembley ahead of kick-off when an amalgam of mental health conversations filled the silence in this final named after the Heads Up initiative led by Prince William, president of the FA .
Even the second in line to the British throne couldn’t get a ticket to Wembley with capacity limited to a few hundred, including players, club officers, media and medics.
It had been the dream start for Pulisic, who has been a revelation since the three-month hiatus from football in June.
Set up by Olivier Giroud’s back heel kick, Pulisic scored closely after five minutes for his 11th goal in all competitions. The American emulated her compatriot Carli Lloyd, who scored in the 2017 Women’s FA Cup final for Manchester City.
As Lloyd won the trophy after a 4-1 victory over Birmingham, that centerpiece ended in agony for Pulisic.
Pulisic stopped screaming in the penalty area early in the second half. He landed a shot before descending, gripping his right knee. He had to be helped off the pitch, with support from either side as he grimaced.