ATTN Ian: Poor ol' Blackburn in Carling Cup
Wembley beckons for the Arsenal young guard and it will not faze them if they get there. On the evidence of an exhilarating tie here last night, nothing will.
Arsène Wenger's fledgling team revealed many faces in this quarter-final. They squandered a two-goal lead to Roque Santa Cruz after an opening that bordered on exhibition football, had Denilson sent off for a two-footed lunge - the 70th dismissal of the Frenchman's imperious Arsenal reign - lost a substitute to a dislocated shoulder and yet emerged from a gruelling period of extra-time with their name in the semi-final draw.
Blackburn Rovers posed many questions
during the 120 minutes but, dispiritingly for Mark Hughes's team, Arsenal
answered every one. "I believe very strongly in these players," said
Wenger, who led his youngsters to the final in
Cool, careless, cruel and clinical - the chronological tale of
Arsenal's performance in a bruising, absorbing quarter-final. Hughes had noted
beforehand that Wenger does not possess fringe players, instead a formidable
second team, and it was a prophetic analysis as Arsenal's Carling Cup ensemble
First to the fore were the outstanding Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby, who relished his unorthodox role on the left wing and volleyed the Danish striker's chip across the Rovers area beyond Brad Friedel after only six minutes. Combining again, the pair almost doubled Arsenal's lead moments later but Bendtner's lofted shot struck the bar.
Arsenal's movement, strength and accuracy made for a chastening
first half-hour for
Wenger, given a one-match touchline ban by Uefa yesterday for
improper conduct after his dismissal against Sevilla, watched in disbelief on
the stroke of half-time when Blackburn hauled themselves back into the contest.
A suspiciously offside David Dunn crossed low for
On the hour, and having been outplayed for most of it, Rovers
equalised when the Paraguayan striker met an inswinging free-kick from David
Bentley with a soaring leap and a textbook header past Lukasz Fabianski. Having
struck three at
Arsenal continued to shine on the counterattack but were now
facing a side unrecognisable from that handed a first-half lesson.
Once again, however, Arsenal found the right response. A sudden
burst out of defence by the aggressive and commanding Alexandre Song and his
measured through-ball to Eduardo caught
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