The best FA Cup finals of the 21st Century

As we begin to wrap-up the 2019/20 season, the headline fixture remaining on the calendar is the FA Cup final, this year contested by Arsenal and Chelsea. The Gunners are looking to add to their record 13 FA Cup trophies, while Chelsea are aiming to make it a ninth success in football’s most famous domestic club cup competition.

 

This will be the third time that Arsenal and Chelsea will square off in the FA Cup final, with the North London side edging out their West London rivals on both previous occasions.

 

Ahead of Saturday’s big game, we’ve taken a look at some of the most memorable FA Cup finals of the modern era, and it’s no surprise that both of these teams feature prominently in this list.

 

2000: Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa

It might not have the same amount of drama or quality as some of the finals that will be listed later on in this piece, but the 2000 FA Cup final will always be remembered as the last one to be hosted at the old Wembley Stadium.

 

It was Chelsea that ran out 1-0 winners over Aston Villa that day courtesy of a goal from Roberto di Matteo, who went on to manager Chelsea to an unthinkable Champions League triumph in 2012, as Dennis Wise became the last player to lift the FA Cup at the former home of English football.

 

2001: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal

In the first final held at the Millenium Stadium, Arsenal believed they were going to run down the clock and lift the trophy after Freddie Ljungberg gave the Gunners the lead 17 minutes from time, but Liverpool and Michael Owen had other ideas.

 

The young England superstar levelled things up on 83 minutes before netting one of the greatest solo goals in FA Cup history five minutes later which turned the game on it’s head. Liverpool went on to secure the 2-1 victory in what was one of the most dramatic endings to an FA Cup final of the last two decades.

 

2006: Liverpool 3-3 West Ham (Liverpool won 3-1 on penalties)

Many believe the 2006 final between Liverpool and West Ham is the greatest FA Cup final that there’s ever been. The Hammers took a shock 2-0 lead early on before goals from Djibril Cisse and Steven Gerrard levelled things up.

 

A wayward cross from Paul Konchesky looped over Pepe Reina to restore the Hammers’ advantage before Gerrard again stepped up to level the game in second half stoppage time with a miraculous 35-yard effort. The game would be decided on penalties where Liverpool came out on top.

 

2007: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

The first FA Cup final at the new Wembley, Chelsea and Manchester United played out a rather dull affair in 90 minutes as the game was forced to go into extra time where it came to life.

 

Four minutes from time, Didier Drogba poked home beyond Edwin van der Sar to give Chelsea the lead, one they would hold on to until the final whistle when they were crowned the first FA Cup champions at the new home of English football.

 

2008: Portsmouth 1-0 Cardiff

Championship outfit Cardiff City were hoping to become the first second-tier side since 1980 to win the FA Cup when they squared off against Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth.

 

Portsmouth saw off Manchester United en route to the final, and it was a goal from veteran striker Nwankwo Kanu which was the difference on the day which ended Cardiff’s FA Cup fairytale.

 

2011: Manchester City 1-0 Stoke

It was a moment of magic which sealed this FA Cup final as Yaya Toure’s sublime strike from distance caught Thomas Sorensen off guard in the Stoke net.

 

It was the first piece of silverware that Manchester City had won since Sheikh Mansour took over the club, ending a 35-year trophy drought that had been ongoing since they lifted the League Cup in 1976.

 

It would signal a decade of dominance in English football for Manchester City, a run where they have won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups.

 

2013: Wigan 1-0 Manchester City

Having won the FA Cup two years prior, and the Premier League the previous season, many expected Manchester City, now a European powerhouse, to put Wigan to the sword.

 

They dominated the game but were unable to make the breakthrough, allowing Wigan the opportunity to win their first trophy in their club history.

 

In the dying embers of normal time, Wigan were awarded a corner. It was whipped in with venom and substitute Ben Watson rose highest to head home beyond Joe Hart in the City goal, sealing Wigan’s first major honour.

 

2014: Arsenal 3-2 Hull

Arsenal were accustomed to winning trophies in the first decade of Arsene Wenger’s time as manager. Few could have predicted that after their 2005 FA Cup final triumph over Manchester United that they would go nine years without winning a piece of silverware, a run that included devastating defeats in the Champions League and League Cup finals to Barcelona and Birmingham respectively.

 

In 2014, Arsenal were expected to end their barren run when they took on a Hull side who barely fought off relegation from the Premier League. After eight minutes, the Gunners were already 2-0 down.

 

They battled back bravely, goals from Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny took the game to extra-time where it was Aaron Ramsey who stepped up to the plate, finishing off a lovely team move to hand Arsenal a 3-2 lead with 11 minutes to play. They hung on for the win as Wenger and Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought came to an end, sparking a four-year run where they would win three FA Cup trophies.

 

2016: Manchester United 2-1 Crystal Palace

In another ‘David vs. Goliath’ style matchup in the FA Cup final, few believed that Crystal Palace had a chance to knock off Manchester United and win their first ever FA Cup.

 

A tense affair sparked into life 12 minutes from time when Jason Puncheon gave Palace a shock lead. Just as their fans – and Alan Pardew – began to believe the unthinkable may happen, Juan Mata was there to level things up three minutes later as the game went into extra time.

 

As penalties beckoned, it was Jesse Lingard who proved to be the difference maker for United, with his volley soaring past Wayne Hennessey in the Palace net, handing the FA Cup to United.

 

2017: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

As they prepare to face off for a third time in the FA Cup final, Arsenal will be looking to draw inspiration from their 2017 triumph over the Blues.

 

After Alexis Sanchez handed the Gunners an early lead, Chelsea fought back strong and levelled things up courtesy of a goal from Diego Costa – a moment that David Ospina in the Arsenal goal would have loved to have back.

 

Just like he did three years earlier, it was Aaron Ramsey who rose to the challenge for Arsenal, netting 10 minutes from time to restore Arsenal’s one goal advantage, one they would hold on to.

 

Which is your favourite FA Cup final of the last 20 years, and who do you think will win this weekend between Arsenal and Chelsea? Let us know in the comments below!

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