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Arsenal comes back to win FA Cup final, end nine-year trophy drought

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Arsenal earns first major tophy in nine years, taking pressure off Manager Arsene Wenger
Hull has never won a major trophy in its 110-year history

Aaron Ramsey ended Arsenal's nine-year trophy drought, completing his team's comeback in extra time in the FA Cup final to clinch a 3-2 victory over Hull.

Saturday was shaping up as an embarrassing day for Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, when Hull scored twice in the first eight minutes. Hull has never won a major trophy in its 110-year history.

But after goals from James Chester and Curtis Davies, Santi Cazorla began Arsenal's comeback in the 17th minute by scoring directly from a free kick.

Laurent Koscielny tied the score in the 71st minute to force the game into extra time, where Ramsey completed a slick move to score the goal that will ease the pressure on Manager Arsene Wenger.

"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.

After collecting the team's first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup, Wenger was doused in champagne and thrown in the air by his players.

"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."

Wenger's future was in doubt after Arsenal's repeated failures in the Premier League since winning it in 2004. But Saturday's victory will increase expectations that the Frenchman will commit to the club he has managed since 1996. He has already indicated he will sign a contract for next season.

"We showed great strength and character today to come back to win it," the 23-year-old Ramsey said. "To score the winner in extra time is something I've dreamed of for many, many years. It's definitely up there with the most important goals I've ever scored."

Three years after Arsenal conceded a late goal here to Birmingham in the League Cup final, this looked like another miserable day.

Arsenal's defense was nonexistent, breached far too easily by a team that just barely avoided relegation in its first season back in the Premier League.

Tom Huddlestone's volley of a free kick by Stephen Quinn was heading off-target until Chester flicked the ball with his heel into the bottom corner of the net.

Hull Manager Steve Bruce, who won this competition three times in the 1990s as a Manchester United player, could barely believe it. Bruce, whose son Alex was on the Hull defense, celebrated enthusiastically on the sideline.

Before Arsenal's players could recover, Lukasz Fabianski, the second-string goalkeeper who has been used in the cup, was picking the ball out of his net again.

After Arsenal failed to fully clear a free kick, Bruce's standing header hit the post, and Davies fired in the loose ball from a tight angle for his third goal in four FA Cup appearances.

But Cazorla gave Arsenal a much-needed spark as the Spaniard curled in a free kick into the top of the net.

As Hull tired after halftime, Arsenal seized control.

"We wanted to make history tonight and win the game," Wenger said, "and we made history in both ways — how not to start a cup final and how to come back."

Atletico Madrid's win ends era for Barcelona

There was no denying that something bigger than Barcelona's Spanish league title defense came to an end 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 on 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."

The Catalan club had a strong start to this season. After winning the Spanish Supercup, a minor trophy, it led the standings for the first 21 rounds and let escape just seven points in the first half of the league.

But then the distractions and stumbling blocks began to accumulate: Messi's tax problems and nagging injuries, the sudden exit of president Sandro Rosell caused by the lawsuit regarding Neymar's contract, and then the recent death of Vilanova after a battle with throat cancer.

Barcelona began to falter on the pitch as Atletico kept Barcelona from advancing to the Champions League semifinals for the first time in seven seasons, and Real Madrid beat it in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Moments after the match, Martino confirmed what had been expected for weeks, and announced he would not be completing the one season left on his contract.

Everything points to the club carrying through its plans to make its biggest set of changes since Guardiola took over and forced the exit of then heavyweight Ronaldinho.

Messi will remain the centerpiece of whatever squad emerges from this summer.

Bayern Munich wins German Cup final

Arjen Robben and Thomas Mueller struck in extra time for Bayern Munich to beat Borussia Dortmund, 2-0, in the German Cup final in Berlin, giving their side the double in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.

Robben scored in the 107th minute when Jerome Boateng intercepted Roman Weidenfeller's throw out for Kevin Grosskreutz, and then crossed for the Dutchman at the far post.

It set up a frenetic finale with Dortmund pushing for the equalizer that would have taken the game to penalties.

Marco Reus came agonizingly close to equalizing in the final minute when his shot was deflected just over.

Mueller then rounded Weidenfeller to wrap up the win in extra time injury time.

Dortmund might have been awarded a goal in the second half. Mats Hummels thought he'd scored with a header but Dante cleared on or behind the line. The score wasn't awarded though TV replays suggested the ball crossed the line.

"If that goal from Dortmund was awarded it would have changed everything," Guardiola acknowledged.

Bayern avenged its humiliating 5-2 loss to Dortmund in the 2012 final with its record 16th German Cup final win.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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