Christian Pulisic capped his spectacular first season in England in bittersweet fashion on Saturday, scoring for Chelsea just five minutes into the FA Cup final against London rival Arsenal before being forced to leave the match — which the Blues would go on to lose 2-1 — in the second half with what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury.
Pulisic got Chelsea off to a perfect start with a brilliant early goal at Wembley Stadium, becoming the first American to score in an FA Cup final. The 21-year-old started the sequence with a slick turn and feed to Mason Mount, who raced forward and found veteran forward Olivier Giroud in front of Arsenal’s goal with a low cross. Giroud flicked the ball to Pulisic, who cooly deposited the French World Cup winner’s pass past Gunners keeper Emiliano Martínez and into the side-netting:
The strike was just the latest piece of recent magic from Pulisic, who has established himself as one of the best attacking players — and perhaps the best American player of all time — in England since pro soccer returned there in June following a three-plus month hiatus in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately for Pulisic, his day ended in tears after he pulled up lame on what would’ve been another golden scoring chance early in the second stanza. Pulisic, who missed eight consecutive matches before the shutdown because of a torn abductor muscle, had to be helped off the field and was taken straight down the tunnel and into the Blues dressing room.
Arsenal goal machine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had already leveled the score from the penalty spot by then. And it was Aubameyang — Pulisic’s former teammate with German talent mill Borussia Dortmund —who would seal his team’s victory with his second of the match, this time from the run of play, with a little more than 20 minutes of normal time remaining. Without Pulisic and already-injured Brazilian playmaker Willian on the field, Chelsea had no answers. The Blues misery was only compounded when Mateo Kovacic was shown a red card following a second bookable offense, and Pedro was stretchered off in second-half stoppage time with a shoulder issue.
The defeat was a surely a devastating one for Frank Lampard’s crew. The first-year manager and legendary former Chelsea midfielder had his eyes on some silverware after leading the Blues to a top-four finish (and the UEFA Champions League berth that comes with it) in the Premier League in his maiden campaign at the helm. Instead, his Blues lost the FA Cup final to the hated Gunners for the second time in the last four seasons. The result was an upset — the once-mighty Arsenal placed eighth in the Prem standings this year — but the outcome was just.
Pulisic’s goal was his 11th in 33 games across all competitions this season, his first with Chelsea after four years playing for Dortmund, which sold him to the Blues for a cool $73 million last year. Five of those tallies had come since June, as had half of his 10 assists.
Barring a miraculous recovery, the Blues will almost certainly be without Pulisic’s considerable services for next week’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg against Bundesliga champ Bayern Munich. Chelsea trails that two-match, total-goals series 3-0 on aggregate after getting routed at home in February while Pulisic was sidelined.