Young Guns win Ewood thriller
Eduardo brace sends Arsenal through after extra-time
By James Dall. Last Updated: December 18, 2007 11:10pm
Diaby: Mobbed by team-mates
A young Arsenal side defeated Blackburn 3-2 after extra-time to progress to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Mark Hughes' Blackburn were outclassed in the first half, and The Gunners took a two-goal lead through Abou Diaby and Eduardo da Silva.
However, Roque Santa Cruz pulled a goal back before the interval and then equalised on the hour mark to send Ewood Park rapturous.
The drama continued to unfold and Denilson was dismissed in the final seconds of the 90 minutes for a dangerous challenge on David Dunn.
Arsenal sat back in extra-time, looking to hit Blackburn on the counter-attack, and they eventually punished their opponents with Eduardo finishing with aplomb.
Despite making 11 changes to his starting line-up, Wenger's young guns were soon into their stride.
Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner, 19, held the key to their early dominance. Diaby's sixth-minute opener was the product of a bewildering spell of inter-passing, typical of the free-flowing football Wenger has made customary at Arsenal.
It began when Bendtner was set free down the right flank and culminated in Diaby sweeping home his cross with left-footed half-volley which flew past Brad Friedel and nestled in the top corner.
A ninth-minute move almost delivered a second goal and again Bendtner was the architect - the towering Dane playing an intelligent one-two with Diaby before racing clear down the left flank. Bendtner advanced forward at pace and placed the ball almost perfectly into the top corner, but could only watch in agony as his shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Arsenal began to dominate possession and clear-cut chances continued to be created.
Rovers then forced two smart saves in quick succession from Lukasz Fabianski following fierce long-range strikes from David Dunn and David Bentley.
Having survived Blackburn's brief purple patch, Arsenal hit back in devastating fashion to double their advantage on the half-hour mark.
Denilson, dictating play alongside Lassana Diarra in the centre of midfield, spotted Eduardo making a darting run behind the home defence.
His pass was testing but Christopher Samba failed badly to clear the danger, allowing Eduardo to collect possession and place a left-foot shot into the corner of the net past an exposed Friedel.
Blackburn were clearly shocked but they rallied again and were rewarded when Santa Cruz volleyed home Matt Derbyshire's right-wing cross.
On 60 minutes Santa Cruz made it 2-2 after powering a header home after David Bentley had delivered a superb free-kick.
Both sides created several half-chances in the latter stages of the game, which ended in acrimony when Denilson was sent off for a challenge on Dunn before getting involved in a fracas with Robbie Savage which earned the Blackburn midfielder a booking.
But Eduardo's ice-cool finish - a low left-footed strike from 16 yards - proved the winner and Arsenal could celebrate another momentous victory after Samba's late header cannoned off a post.
|Blackburn Rovers||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|7||Shots on Target||4|
|11||Shots off Target||2|