Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
By Richard Jolly
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The 20-year-old's brace showcased the talents that persuaded Wenger to pay £17 million for him - a 25-yard howitzer followed by a predatory second - and turned the tie around after a wonderful piece of individualism from Adrian Mutu threatened to end Chelsea's Arsenal jinx.
The Romanian twisted and turned his way around Kolo Toure and picked his spot past Jens Lehmann for a 40th-minute opener. But only one team has beaten Chelsea in this competition this Millennium, as Roberto di Matteo's winner in the 2000 final merely served as the prelude to three exits at the hands of Arsenal.
Make that four. Because, from Sevilla with goals, Reyes came to the rescue of his long-time admirer, Wenger, his clandestine visits to Spain rewarded by two goals in five minutes. The first made Mutu's effort pale in comparison, a sizzling shot which nestled in the top corner of Carlo Cudicini's net.
He doubled his tally against a different goalkeeper. Cudicini added injury to insult by limping off after his doomed attempt to save the Spaniard's first.
On came Neil Sullivan, who at least got a hand to his second, but even John Terry's desperate slide could not stop it crossing the line. The dominant Patrick Vieira was the instigator with a driving run, Reyes slipped in behind Mario Melchiot and sidefooted his second.
Chelsea's response to that was negligible, but their contribution in the first hour was considerable. It was heated, intense and left The Blues with a one-goal lead which, but for a questionable offside decision, would have been two.
It was decidedly spicy from the start with the predictably fired-up Vieira and Scott Parker to the fore. The latter was the victim of the first crunching tackle, as Sol Campbell became the first of seven entries in Paul Durkin's black book; the cautions continued; the Chelsea trio of Melchiot, Mutu and Makelele then Arsenal's Vieira and Gilberto Silva, partners in midfield and neighbours in the notebook, both judged guilty of dissent.
And among that, both sides fired their warning shots. William Gallas headed wide for Chelsea, then Gilberto led an Arsenal counter attack, striding purposefully until Terry halted him abruptly; Chelsea's response was immediate, with Mutu on the attack - or the counter-counter attack? - and setting up Gallas, still the furthest man forward. Lehmann preserved parity.
Arsenal's attempts to unlock the Chelsea defence centred around the precise passing of the omniscient Dennis Bergkamp and the energy of the overlapping Ashley Cole. The left back drew a fine stop from Cudicini after Bergkamp and Robert Pires fashioned an opening, but enjoyed his defensive duties rather less.
Arsenal were twice caught out by deep balls to the far post. First Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink headed over then Cole was caught ball-watching by Frank Lampard's cross and the advancing Gronkjaer headed in. But referee Durkin ruled offside; Gronkjaer, however, had timed his run to perfection.
Not that it seemed to matter when Mutu put Chelsea ahead; perhaps Arsenal would not be in a fourth successive final after all. But Reyes had other ideas, and after Pires' shot was held by Cudicini, the first two goals of his Gunners career mean Chelsea go into their league meeting next week on a losing note.
And the final half-hour was their worst of the match. Hasselbaink posed more threat to Lauren - with a two-footed lunge which the right back adroitly evaded - than the Arsenal goal and only substitute Joe Cole brought Lehmann into action.
Deep into injury time, Chelsea had a chance to level, but Hasselbaink's corner was dreadful and Parker blazed the rebound over. He was overshadowed by another January acquisition with Arsenal's absent top scorer almost forgotten as his deputy assumed centre stage.
So no Thierry Henry, but Arsenal have become expert in eliminating Chelsea from the FA Cup without his goals; Reyes joins Sylvain Wiltord, Freddie Ljungberg, Ray Parlour and Lauren among the ranks of their Highbury tormentors.