Soccer: Arsenal ends 9-year title drought with FA Cup win
LONDON — Doused in champagne by Arsenal’s victorious players, Arsene Wenger was a success again.
The nine-year wait for a trophy was over, and the manager, who had felt the pressure of the drought, could finally celebrate on the Wembley Stadium field. For the fifth time in Wenger’s 14 years, the Gunners are FA Cup winners.
Aaron Ramsey scored in extra time to clinch a 3-2 victory over Hull on Saturday.
“It’s a big, big moment of happiness,” Wenger said. “We waited a long time for that. But the happiness is linked sometimes with the time you have to wait for it.”
After allowing two goals to Hull in the opening eight minutes, Arsenal had to rally against its tiring opponent. James Chester and Curtis Davies scored for a Hull team that has never won a major trophy in its 110-year history.
Santi Cazorla began Arsenal’s comeback in the 17th minute by scoring directly from a free kick. Arsenal didn’t tie the match until Laurent Koscielny scored in the 71st. Ramsey’s slick move put Arsenal in the lead for good.
“This one’s for the manager, for the fans, who’ve always believed in us as well even when things weren’t going as well,” Ramsey said.
This is a team that has played in the Champions League for 16 straight years by finishing in the Premier League’s top four but has failed to match its talent with silverware since lifting the 2005 FA Cup.
“I think it was a turning point in the lifetime of this team,” Wenger said. “And to know they can win in that way was very important today.”
Barcelona’s winning era comes to an end
BARCELONA, Spain — There was no denying the sense that something more than Barcelona’s Spanish league title defense came to an end on Saturday.
Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at home to new champion Atletico Madrid left it without a major title for the first time in six seasons.
Barcelona’s failed last stand brought a finish to the most successful era in the 115-year history of the Catalan club, and it also marked the last game of embattled coach Gerard Martino, and most likely several of his players.
“An era is over, whether we like it or not,” Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano said. “To rebuild first you have to face reality, and the reality is that of making changes. The club will make decisions to forge a competitive team.”
Pep Guardiola’s return to coach Barcelona in 2008 started an unprecedented four-year run of winning 14 of a possible 19 titles, including two Champions Leagues.
Assistant Tito Vilanova then took over as head coach and added another league title last year as Barcelona’s passing attack centered around Lionel Messi continued to enamor fans around the world.
But the slide that began with Barcelona’s humbling 7-0 two-leg defeat to Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League only worsened under Martino in this campaign.
“An unrepeatable era has come to an end,” Mascherano said. “Not in this club nor in any other will we again see what we have been through in these five or six years. That’s why it hurts so much.”
Referee stops season finale deciding Cyprus title
NICOSIA, Cyprus — A soccer match in Cyprus to determine the league title has been abandoned by the referee.
Demetrias Masias ended Saturday’s season finale between APOEL Nicosia and AEL Limassol in the 51st minute with the score tied 0-0.
It was not immediately clear what caused the match to be abandoned at Limassol’s Tsirion stadium. But APOEL spokesman Nectarios Petevinos told The Associated Press that the team’s Brazilian defender, Kaka, had stitches for a head injury after a firecracker went off under the APOEL bench.
AEL leads the league with 81 points, but APOEL would win the title with a victory thanks to a better head-to-head record. Official Anthoulis Mylonas says the Cyprus Football Association will decide what to do about the match in the coming days.
By wire sources