Non-league Lincoln played superbly for 45 minutes at the Emirates before Arsenal’s superior class and fitness told in a one-sided second half
Related: Theo Walcott opens floodgates for Arsenal to end Lincoln’s fairytale run
Peep peep! Arsenal ease into the last four of the FA Cup with an ultimately comfortable win. Lincoln’s magical cup campaign is over; they won’t be forgotten in a hurry. They were very good for 45 minutes, before Theo Walcott’s goal inevitably opened the floodgates. Lincoln won’t be going to Wembley but they have achieved something even rarer: they have joined the FA Cup immortals. Thanks for your company, night.
89 min “I’ve been trying to come up with something to say for a while now, and all I can think of is ‘arse’.,” says Phil Sawyer. “At least the FA Cup unexpectedly turned up at work on Thursday, which is the nearest I’ll ever get to it.”
87 min A corner is half cleared to Walcott, who takes it on the chest and volleys a few yards wide. It’s been a battering in the second half, though that shouldn’t obscure how well Lincoln did for the first 45 minutes.
86 min Sanchez cracks a superb free-kick against the bar!
85 min Raggett is booked for a weary hack at Ozil just outside the area.
84 min Ramsey misses a great headed chance from a brilliant driven cross by Ozil. Moments later Perez falls over in the box – “what a joke when you’re 5-0 up,” sniffs Chris Sutton – and then Sanchez’s fierce shot is very well blocked.
81 min “Could anything now happen to allow the TV director to pick out Man With Wenger-Out Placard, who seems to have established Equity appearance rights at all games?” says Charles Antaki. “On Arsenal’s recent form, nothing is completely impossible.”
A sixth Arsenal goal might tip our beloved eejit over the edge. Why couldn’t they score six against Bayern and Liverpool?
80 min Power hits a good curling shot from 25 yards that is well claimed to his left by Cech.
79 min “I love it,” says Andy. “Arsenal have their ‘swagger back’ against a side 1 million leagues below them? It’s an almost embarassing statement.”
This was the definitive can’t-win game for them, wasn’t it.
78 min Lincoln’s last change: Adam Marriott replaces Terry Hawkridge.
77 min “The problem with Xhaka, I would argue, is that he – is – technically good enough to play for a title-winning team,” says Matt Loten. “Energy, vision, range of passing, aggression: he has every attribute you would want from a player in his position. Unfortunately he has no idea how to string them together and apply them properly.”
76 min “What with the habit of footballers and managers covering their mouths when speaking,” says Keith Poliglotus, “I was wondering if anyone had been caught saying something about a fellow professional which they probably shouldn’t have?”
Nothing springs to mind.
It’s getting messy now. Sanchez’s cross deflects to Ramsey, who walks around Farman and literally walks the ball into the net.
A beautiful goal from Alexis Sanchez. He ran at Wood, who missed his tackle completely, and opened his body to place a lovely curling shot into the far corner from 20 yards.
71 min Coquelin is fortunate not to be booked for a studs-up lunge at Hawkridge. Coquelin and Xhaka really aren’t good enough for a team that wants to win the Premier League.
69 min Lincoln are struggling to chase the shadows, never mind the Arsenal players. This is going to be a long 20 minutes for them as Arsenal are in swagger mode now.
68 min Sanchez, on the left wing, picks out a lovely lofted pass to Ozil, who heads over from 12 yards.
67 min “Xhaka off?” says Ian Copestake. “How dare you.”
66 min Lincoln make a change as well: Matt Rhead leaves the scene to be replaced by Joe Ward. Rhead played well in that impressive first-half performance.
65 min An Arsenal change: Lucas Perez replaces Olivier Giroud.
63 min Margetts is booked for an absurd, retro lunge at Gibbs.
61 min An Arsenal change: Xhaka off, Coquelin on.
59 min “Instructions are available for putting the internet back in its box,” high-fives Ian Copestake.
A cruel moment for Luke Waterfall, whose own goal finishes the match. Sanchez played the underlapping Gibbs into the box on the left, and he cut the ball back towards the near post. Waterfall stretched to intercept but in doing so stabbed it past Farman.
57 min All of a sudden the Emirates pitch looks absolutely huge. Lincoln are being pulled all over the place. Ramsey’s flicked shot is deflected out to the edge of the area, where Bellerin nutmegs the sliding Power and then places a shot just wide of the right-hand post.
55 min “Since I’m sure you appreciate the irony of posting “CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT THE EFFING INTERNET BACK IN ITS BOX PLEASE FOR THE LOVE DIGNITY.” on a medium only enable by the internet I’ll content myself with pedantically pointing out the missing OF,” says Julian Borrill. “From a laptop tethered to a phone on the 6:11 from Oban to Glasgow.”
Oh that was the autocorrect and the booze.
54 min A Lincoln substitution: Jonny Margetts replaces Jack Muldoon.
This is a lovely goal. The superb Bellerin plays a one-two in a phonebox with Sanchez to go through on goal. He declines to shoot himself and instead gives the goal to Giroud with a simple cut-back.
51 min Arsenal look much sharper since half-time. If they get a second soon you’d expect this to end maybe 5-0 or 6-0; games of this nature often open up in the second half. For now, Lincoln can still fantasise.
50 min A double chance for Arsenal. Farman makes a terrific save low to his left from Giroud, and then Gibbs heads over from six yards after Walcott lobbed the loose ball back into the box.
49 min Ozil shapes one towards the corner that hits Power and goes behind for a corner. Xhaka drills it flat towards the far post and Rhead heads away.
47 min Arsenal play around Lincoln’s high press until Woodyard ploughs through Gibbs and is booked. “I feel for him,” says the defiantly old-school Chris Sutton of a foul which, alas, was a clear yellow card in the modern game.
46 min Peep peep! Arsenal begin the second half, kicking from right to left.
“I guess thank you for pointing out that Arsenal actually finished second last year, thus qualifying for a Round of 16 exit in the Champions League this year,” says Ted Storer. “I just assumed as an American paying attention to a Guardian MBM I was allowed to use alternative facts in an attempt at humour.”
Alternative bloody facts. Do you ever do that thing where you switch off mentally for a few seconds and then suddenly think WHAT THE EFFING EFFING EFF HAS HAPPENED TO THIS WORLD THERE’S NO WAY BACK IS THERE IT’S BLOODY SOCIAL MEDIA THAT’S THE CAUSE OF ALL THIS IT HAS ALLOWED THE DISCOURSE TO BE SHAPED BY NARCISSISTS AND EEJITS AND PEOPLE WHO FAILED IN LIFE AND ARE NOW MAKING AN EVEN BIGGER HORLICKS OF THEIR SECOND LIFE, THEIR DIGITAL LIFE, BUT THEY ARE BLOODY DRAGGING THE ENTIRE SENTIENT WORLD DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT THE EFFING INTERNET BACK IN ITS BOX PLEASE FOR THE LOVE DIGNITY.
Matt Dony has been busy, for at least eight seconds:
“I love Suarez’s over-the-top theatrics, probably cause it reminds me of his most inspired moment: when he pretended to clutch his tooth in pain after he bit Chiellini,” says Phil Podolsky. “Transposing typical football playacting into the realm of biting shows a talent for invention that’s pretty impressive.”
Yes, the best cheats rely on their instinct.
Related: Millwall’s Tony Craig: ‘All those scars show the sort of player I am’
Pee peep! Lincoln did a fine defensive job for most of the half, and had a chance to take the lead, but Theo Walcott’s injury-time goal changed the mood of the match and even the scoreline. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.
45+3 min This could get nasty now, and not in a nice way. Walcott plays an excellent pass to pick out Ramsey, who smashes into orbit from 14 yards.
An Arsenal corner wasn’t cleared and eventually came back to Walcott, whose sidefooted shot from 10 yards took a decisive deflection off Habergham and ended up in the corner of the net.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
45+1 min There will be six minutes of added time. Six minutes! Arsenal almost score in the first of them. Ozil’s inswinging cross is left at the last minute by Raggett and would have sneaked in the far corner without Farman’s desperate fumble round the post.
45 min Bellerin’s cross is only half cleared to Ramsey, who tries to flick a shot into the far corner with the outside of his right foot, and fails.
43 min See 35 mins.
42 min Giroud is down after a clash of heads with both Raggett and Waterfall. That looked especially painful, though he seems to be okay.
41 min A quick recap in case you’ve been asleep for the last two months: Lincoln City are potentially one goal away from the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.
39 min Lincoln have wasted two or three free-kicks by being caught offside, usually Rhead. That’s really wasteful as those set-pieces are their best chance of a goal.
38 min The greatest surprise is not that it’s 0-0, but that 0-0 is a fair score. Farman has only had one significant save to make. The Arsenal crowd, and the Arsenal players, are just starting to go into brat mode. They could use a goal before half-time.
37 min There has been some clumsy defending from Arsenal, and now Koscielny has been booked for a foul on Muldoon. I’m not sure he did much wrong that time, mind.
36 min “I think the last time a hairstyle like Rhead’s was seen on national TV was when Ralph Coates was in his pomp,” says Charles Antaki. “But Coates had a terrible time in London, so, y’know, not the best precedent.”
35 min It’s still 0-0.
34 min Sanchez’s low ball into the box is collected on the run by Walcott, whose left-footed shot is deflected straight through to Farman.
33 min “Arsenal’s second place last year is used as a stick to beat them with, as “if they can’t win when everyone else is crap, then when will they win?” is the established narrative,” says Graeme Thorn. “Firstly, this attitude is extremely patronising to Leicester who genuinely had an excellent season, and secondly, why didn’t Chelsea or Manchester United or Manchester City or Spurs or Liverpool last season win it if the competition was that poor?”
Indeed. This is the problem with turning sport into a soap opera: people then want melodrama rather than stability. It’s a greater achievement to finish 11th and then 2nd than it is to finish 3rd and 2nd.
31 min Rhead is receiving treatment after an accidental elbow from Koscielny. He has been down for a couple of minutes now.
28 min Lincoln almost take the lead! Arnold plays a give-and-go with Woodyard on the right and then makes a beeline for goal. Koscielny comes across but Arnold slips inside him and places a lofted shot across goal that is palmed behind by the diving Cech. That was a lovely piece of play. He was slightly off balance as he hit the shot, though it would still have gone in without Cech’s touch.
27 min An Arsenal substitution: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, presumably injured, is replaced by Mesut Ozil.
26 min Bellerin has been Arsenal’s best attacker so far. He is such a good player. Lincoln do look pretty comfortable in open play, however. Most of the problems have been from Arsenal corners.
25 min “Good to be seeing a domestic replay of the classic Barcelona-PSG match,” says Charles Antaki. “Lincoln doing a fair impersonation of Barça so far, just minus the goal (leaving aside irrelevancies like skill etc, also diving).”
The omerta over Barcelona’s win-at-all-costs-to-dignity approach was a bit weird. It was an amazing win but should have an asterisk against it because of the extent of their cheating and a refereeing ineptitude that verged on the suspicious.
24 min After another Arsenal attack falls down, Xhaka is booked for an inept lunge at Rhead.
23 min “As much as it goes against all my natural inclinations, I really want Arsenal to win,” says Matt Dony. “Or rather, I need Arsenal to win, for the sake of my job. One of my colleagues is a big Arsenal fan. After the Liverpool game, I obviously gave him the requisite amount of Top Bantz, then there was the Bayern Capitulation (the most entertaining film in the Matt Damon franchise) which left him teetering on the edge. A loss today, and I probably won’t see him again.”
I’d be careful with that banter.
22 min Arsenal have an extended spell of possession. Eventually the ball is fed into Giroud, who is muscled off it.
20 min “Hey Rob,” says JR in Illinois. “I follow football pretty closely so you can imagine my surprise to see that Gareth Southgate is on the touchline and managing for Lincoln City. But seriously, people must have mentioned this before, yes? It somehow had escaped me until now.”
That’s blatant beardism. You people make me sick.
19 min Mustafi is penalised for pushing Rhead, who has started this game excellently. He’s a smart player who knows exactly where, when and how to throw his weight around. Lincoln try the old fake misunderstanding, Aberdeen-Bayern free-kick: it’s headed clear nonetheless.
18 min Though Lincoln are under pressure, they are not camped in their own box by any means. This has been a very good start for them.
15 min “Lincoln has not one but three Wetherspoons within easy walking distance of the high street,” says Phil Sawyer. “Make of that what you will.”
What are the house prices like? Asking for a friend.
13 min Walcott hits the post! A corner was played short to Gibbs and lofted towards the far post. It was headed it clear to Walcott, who hit a rasping volley from 18 yards that the diving Farman just managed to touch onto the post.
12 min Arsenal have started to warm up after a sluggish start, and the game has assumed the expected pattern: attack and defence, invasion and repulsion, just like when Nick Hornby was a teenage boy.
11 min “Your typos at six minutes aren’t because of a sneaky tipple,” says Ted Storer. “It’s autocorrect. Which is what Arsenal fans should be complaining about as the club has been on an autocorrect to third or fourth place for years.
Again, I wish I could blame autocorrect. Also, Arsenal finished second last year. I know that doesn’t change the overall picture but it’s interesting how that has been airbrushed out of history.
10 min Arsenal miss the first good chance of the match. Oxlade-Chamberlain sprays a beautiful crossfield pass to Bellerin, who takes it down and then picks out Ramsey on the edge of the box. He takes the shot first time and places it a few yards wide of the near post.
8 min Lincoln are pressing so high up the field. They surely can’t do this for 90 minutes but at the moment it is working extremely well.
7 min Lincoln have had 62 per cent of the possession so far. I wish we were doing a companion liveblog from Lincoln Wetherspoons, assuming there is a Lincoln Wetherspoons.
6 min “‘They’re team’; ‘every seen’ – you sure you haven’t been at the Cup Fever yourself, Rob?” hics Matt Loten. “Surely it’s a bad sign if the typos are out in force before the match has even kicked off! Not that I could blame you for having a sneaky tipple, what with having to work on a Saturday night, we used to have the odd sly snifter when I worked weekends in the pub trade.”
If only I could blame it on booze.
5 min Arsenal haven’t really got going as yet. It’s not an exaggeration to say Lincoln have been the better side and have won the first of the 18 five-minute segments.
3 min Matt Rhead, the Lincoln centre-forward and Joey Barton’s nemesis, is already putting himself about and has just landed a stiff arm in Mustafi’s face while jumping for a high ball. He is an inspiration.
2 min It’s been a fine start from Lincoln, who are pressing high up the pitch, and Muldoon almost wriggles through Koscielny on the edge of the box.
1 min Lincoln win a free-kick on the right wing after 15 seconds. Habergham lofts it into the box, and the referee Anthony Taylor blows for a free-kick against Lincoln. Why’s he gotta be so cold?
1 min Lincoln kick off from right to left. They are in green; a strong Arsenal XI are wearing red.
The Lincoln manager Danny Cowley smiles as he gives all his players a hug on the pitch. Even if he lives to the age of 172, he’ll experience nothing like this. Hasn’t had a shave though.
An email! “Here in Plucky Little Lincoln, it’s fair to say cup fever has reached, erm, fever pitch,” says Phil Sawyer. “In fact walking down the high street earlier it appeared that quite a few of the locals had had a pint or two of Cup Fever early doors. No matter how the result goes, I fear there are going to be a fair few Lincolnites feeling tired and emotional by the end of the evening.”
Imagine if they win. There will be some of the happiest 2am drunken brawls ever seen.
Some pre-match reading
Related: ‘Nine thousand Lincoln fans at Arsenal is going to be unreal’
Related: Lincoln City line up Arsenal Impvasion for one more shock in golden FA Cup run
Related: Lincoln’s Danny Cowley: ‘We have one-in-1,000 chance at Arsenal but we can do it’
Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Xhaka; Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez; Giroud.
Substitutes: Martinez, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Iwobi, Ozil, Lucas.
Lincoln (4-4-2) Farman; Wood, Waterfall, Raggett, Habergham; Arnold, Woodyard, Power, Hawkridge; Muldoon, Rhead.
Substitutes: Marriott, Margetts, McMenemy, McCombe, Calder, Ward, Etheridge.
Hello. One set of supporters arrive at the Emirates today in a foul mood. They know their team are going to win. The other group of fans are in a grand old mood; they know their team are likely to get stuffed. That’s the slightly odd backdrop to Arsenal’s quarter-final at home to non-league Lincoln City.
Lincoln can’t lose today. This isn’t a contest so much as a reward for their giant-killing, a football spa day at one of the biggest grounds in Britain. But if they do win, and reach the semi-finals, there won’t be enough exclamation marks in the world.