Gunners on way to Wembley

ARSENAL are on their way to Wembley, and in with a chance of ending their six-year wait for silverware, after seeing off the stubborn resistance of Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup semi-final last night.

Goals in the second half from Nicklas Bendtner, Laurent Koscielny and Cesc Fabregas made the scoreline look emphatic, but the Championship side held their own and held on to their first leg lead for over an hour at the Emirates before finally succumbing to the superior quality of Arsene Wenger’s side.

Gunners captain Fabregas said: “It is going to be a very difficult final but we will do our best because I think the fans deserve a trophy again. The goal was to get to the final but it was difficult. We have got to congratulate Ipswich for what they’ve done.

“We wanted to score an early goal but the key was patience and we did it really well.”

Fellow goalscorer Bendtner added: “Ipswich deserve all the credit. They played really well and made it very difficult for us but we always knew we’d have the chances and it was just a case of finishing them off.

“We do everything we can in every match to win a trophy and now we’re in one final and we’ll do everything we can to try and win it.”

If the result was harsh on Ipswich, who made Arsenal anxious for long stretches of the game with their never-say-die spirit, it means Wenger’s men are now just 90 minutes away from their first trophy since winning the FA Cup in 2005.

But they had to work for it as Paul Jewell’s men put up a stern fight.

The match got off to a cracking start, finely poised as it was from the first leg a fortnight ago. “1-0 to the rugby team,” sang Ipswich’s fans in response to the criticism levelled at their style of play by Fabregas.

The Arsenal captain also used his page in the match programme to respond to the claims of Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, that his gamesmanship can border on cheating, claiming “I’m not the kind of guy that dives.” His protests rang hollow, however, when he went down far too easily under the brush of Gareth McAuley’s arm in the 10th minute, bringing angry accusations from the Ipswich defender and howls of derision from travelling supporters.

The Arsenal captain was unperturbed, though, running on to Robin van Persie’s pass to fire in a low shot straight at Marton Fulop. The Dutchman, on a run of six goals in three games, almost added to that total with a half-volley on the turn that flashed past the post, and then put a header on to the crossbar in the 23rd minute. At the opposite end, McAuley put a free header over the bar as Wojcjech Szczesny and Bacary Sagna collided, which resulted in the Frenchman departing injured.

While Arsenal were all slick passing and clever flicks, Ipswich were more muscular and worked their socks off to close down every avenue. Only rarely did they leave the back door open, but when Jack Wilshere spotted a gap and chipped forward for Fabregas, the Spaniard’s superb first touch was not matched by his second, which dragged the ball wide.

Paul Jewell’s centre-backs McAuley and Cork-born Damien Delaney were outstanding as they threw their bodies in the way time and time again, as Arsenal’s frustration increased.

The second half looked like it was going to tell the same story, but Arsenal’s pressure finally told in the 61st minute — and what a goal it was to break the deadlock.

Wilshere hit a beautiful crossfield pass that Liam Brady would have been proud of, and Bendtner’s control was no less impressive, as he took the ball in his stride with a deft flick of the heel. The big Dane cut in from the left, past Carlos Edwards and curled a peach of a shot from outside the penalty area inside Fulop’s far post.

That put the scores level on aggregate, and three minutes later Arsenal were ahead. Andrey Arshavin’s corner should have been a simple take for Fulop, but Koscielny got ahead of him to thump home a header from close range. There was to be no way back for Ipswich, who wilted.

Substitute Jason Scotland wasted a good chance, shooting at Szczesny when he could have passed to better-placed colleagues, and David Norris headed over the bar from close range, Arsenal always looked more likely to score the next goal.

And so it proved in the 77th minute when Fabregas exchanged passes with Arshavin and scampered in on goal, squeezing his shot through the legs of the hapless Fulop.

It was all over bar the shouting, and Arsenal’s songs celebrating that long-awaited return to Wembley

Subs for Arsenal: Eboue for Sagna 18, Walcott for Van Persie 83, Nasri for Arshavin 83.

Subs for Ipswich: Scotland for Priskin 62, O’Connor for Healy 75

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