Lincoln City’s history making run in the Emirates FA Cup was ended as Arsenal marched into the semi-finals with a comprehensive win at the Emirates Stadium.
In front of nearly 9,000 travelling fans packed into the Clock End, the Imps put up a battling first half display befitting their record breaking run, the resilient visitors holding firm until Theo Walcott’s deflected goal in first half stoppage time.
It was harsh on Lincoln to go into the break behind, and it ultimately proved the killer blow as the home side racked up four more goals in the first 30 minutes of the second period to dispirit, but not quieten, the away following.
Before the match, Danny Cowley said he wanted to face a full strength Arsenal side and, the benched Mesut Ozil aside, he got his wish.
Lincoln, meanwhile, named the same eleven that beat Burnley in the previous round, meaning Jack Muldoon started ahead of Jonny Margetts up front.
It was the dream tie for many Lincoln fans, but when the Imps emerged from the tunnel shortly before half past five alongside Arsenal, that dream became a surreal reality.
The wall of noise that came from nearly 9,000 travelling supporters was spine-tingling and they would have been boosted by their side’s start to the game. Twice inside the first five minutes Laurent Koscielny had to stretch to deny Muldoon a sight of goal.
But the most successful side in the history of the competition quickly gained the upper hand. With the first chance of the game, Hector Bellerin controlled the ball on the right and played a neat ball inside to Aaron Ramsey, who stroked wide with Paul Farman untroubled.
Farman was called into action, though, four minutes later. The Gunners took a corner short, which Kieran Gibbs stood up to the far post. Lincoln headed clear only as far as Walcott on the edge of the box, his well struck volley was pushed onto the post and the Clock End breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Then came Lincoln’s best chance of the game on the half hour. Nathan Arnold was fed by Alex Woodyard and went on a weaving run. When he cut inside Koscielny, Lincoln fans held their breath and were inches away from erupting into a cacophony of noise, denied their moment by a full stretch Cech tipping the ball wide.
At the other end, Walcott’s shot was deflected harmlessly into Farman’s grateful grasp as Lincoln got to the half hour mark unscathed.
That would have pleased Danny and Nicky Cowley, prowling regularly on the edge of their technical area in their blue tracksuits, barking orders to their comrades. Arsene Wenger meanwhile, under pressure and with a noticeable number of banners calling for him to leave, was rarely seen in the first half, only occasionally emerging from his dugout.
Arsenal’s biggest threat in the opening 45 minutes came down their right, and it was that avenue that provided another chance on the stroke of half time when Ramsey effort with the outside of his foot went harmlessly over.
At this stage, it looked as though the Imps would going into half time level, but Cowley’s team talk would have changed in the first of six additional minutes at the end of the half. Ozil’s wide delivery evaded everyone and Farman touched it narrowly wide. Lincoln partially cleared the resulting corner, but the recycled ball was side footed into the corner by Walcott, with the aid of a sizeable deflection off Sam Habergham.
Making their four-tier advantage count, Arsenal continued to have the better of the game after the break. Olivier Giroud found space with just Sean Raggett for company, and fired a powerful low drive towards the bottom corner which Farman dealt with smartly. Ozil’s cross from the rebound was headed over by Gibbs.
Their supporters, restless as the game entered first half stoppage time, needed another goal to calm the nerves and it came in the 52nd minute when Giroud won his next battle with Farman. Intricate build up play in the right channel involving Walcott and Sanchez allowed Bellerin to pull back for the Frenchman to drill home.
Then, Bellerin threaded narrowly wide of the far post as Arsenal asserted their dominance and looked to put the game beyond doubt.
With Lincoln tiring, the third goal did come shortly before the hour mark. Arsenal’s quick passing and movement was creating space at will in the channels, and they found more joy when Sanchez neatly played in Gibbs, whose pull back was diverted into his own net by Luke Waterfall.
Not to be deterred by the scoreline, the huge Lincoln support remained loud and proud, even after Sanchez curled in a glorious fourth goal from 25 yards with 17 minutes to play after dancing past Bradley Wood’s lazy challenge.
Having been run ragged since half time, Lincoln’s legs were becoming heavy and it was a problem of their own making that led to the fifth. Woodyard gave the ball away to Sanchez in his own box, and the Chilean winger found Ramsey at the far post to slam home the simplest goal of his career.
Lincoln had their first shot of the second half when substitute Adam Marriott bent a free kick over Cech’s bar, and another soon followed as the Imps looked to give their travelling fans a moment to savour: Cech forced into a diving save to clutch Alan Power’s curler.
But City’s backline couldn’t get near Sanchez all evening, the Chilean’s pace and trickery proving a cut above anything Lincoln’s players would have faced before. With five minutes left, it was his free kick that Farman tipped onto the bar to prevent a sixth.
And despite watching their side being outclassed for much of the second half, it was the 9,000 visiting supporters who made all the noise as their side left the pitch at the end of their best ever run in the FA Cup.
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud (Lucas Perez 65), Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Mesut Ozil 27), Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka (Francis Coquelin 61). Substitutes: Gabriel, Alex Iwobi, Nacho Monreal, Emiliano Martinez
Goals: Theo Walcott (45+1), Olivier Giroud (52), Luke Waterfall (58 OG), Alexis Sanchez (73), Aaron Ramsey (75)
Booked: Granit Xhaka (25), Laurent Koscielny (37)
Lincoln: Paul Farman, Bradley Wood, Sam Habergham, Luke Waterfall, Jack Muldoon (Jonny Margetts 54), Alan Power, Matt Rhead (Joe Ward 66), Terry Hawkridge (Adam Marriott 77), Sean Raggett, Nathan Arnold, Alex Woodyard. Substitutes: Jack McMenemy, Jamie McCombe, Ricardo Calder, Ross Etheridge
Booked: Alex Woodyard (47), Jonny Margetts (63), Sean Raggett (85)