ARSENE WENGER may have been sitting high in the stands as he served his touchline ban, but when it comes to the brilliant and infuriating aspects of his side. he has seen it all before.
Wenger’s visitors progressed to the Carling Cup fourth round after a well deserved and ultimately comprehensive victory over their north London rivals, thanks largely to two extra-time penalties from Samir Nasri and a dominant midfield display by Jack Wilshere.
“Jack’s a really good player,” Nasri told Sky. “I think England need a player like him. Jack is a wonderful prospect for the future.”
Nasri revealed he had agreed with Wenger he would take the spot-kicks after Tomas Rosicky missed from 12 yards against Sunderland on Saturday.
“I provoked the foul and then I didn’t take the penalty,” Nasri said. “But after I talked with the boss and said, ‘Next time I will take the penalty’, and I scored.”
Despite the scoreline, last night should’ve been so much easier for the Gunners as the day began in disgrace and ended in triumph for Wenger.
His morning was spent deciding not to appeal the touchline ban imposed on him by the FA for his actions as Darren Bent scored a late, late equaliser for Sunderland on Saturday, when he was alleged to have pushed fourth official Martin Atkinson.
It meant that he spent the evening in the front row of the main stand at White Hart Lane. And he will have been delighted with the majority of what he saw as Arsenal dominated the first half before they were pegged back, thanks to another goalkeeping horror show from Lukasz Fabianski.
Yet the visitors showed real character to dominate extra-time, scoring three goals in the first period to put the game well out of Tottenham’s reach.
Harry Redknapp, his Tottenham counterpart, will not have enjoyed the evening from the dugout quite so much. The much-changed hosts were, apart from a spell at the beginning of the second half, second-best all through. He will take encouragement from the performance of Robbie Keane, who showed signs that he is coming back into form. Ireland’s record scorer came on as a half-time sub and did more than anyone — with the exception of Fabianski — to turn the match for Spurs.
That had seemed a distinctly unlikely prospect after an opening 45 minutes which Arsenal completely dominated. Their midfield of Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Denilson — part of an Arsenal team that was far stronger than expected — were cutting Spurs apart at will, and Wilshere created the opening goal after 15 minutes. Kieran Gibbs began the move, cutting inside before slipping the ball to Wilshere, who in turn drove it across goal towards Henri Lansbury, who simply couldn’t miss. The 19-year-old hadn’t started a game for Arsenal before and celebrated wildly. While Lansbury impressed, it was young England international Wilshere who ran the game, and the only surprise was that Arsenal were only ahead by one at the break.
They were made to pay for that profligacy within four minutes. Redknapp had brought on Keane and Aaron Lennon at the interval, and the Irishman made an immediate impact. Kyle Naughton’s through-ball put him in behind the Arsenal defence, and Keane advanced on Fabianski before shooting to the goalkeeper’s left. In truth it was a relatively tame effort, and the Pole got both hands on the ball, only to allow it to trickle in. Tottenham, and Keane in particular, were a different animal, and came forward with intent and purpose. Yet Arsenal held firm and gradually began to reestablish their hold on the match.
With extra-time looming both sides pushed forward for a winner, Keane hit the post for Tottenham — albeit from an offside position — and Johan Djourou headed across goal.
The 90 minutes couldn’t separate the sides but that was altered within the first minute of extra-time. Nasri picked himself up after being hauled over clumsily by Bassong to smash home from 12 yards.
He repeated the trick five minutes later after Steven Caulker felled Marouane Chamakh. When Andrey Arshavin drove home from the edge of the box, the home fans began to leave in their droves. That left Wenger to sit in the stands and reflect that maybe a touchline ban isn’t too bad after all.
SPURS: Pletikosa 7, Naughton 6, Caulker 6, Bassong 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Palacios 5, Livermore 5 (Lennon 45), Sandro 7 (Kranjcar 97), Bentley 5, Dos Santos 4 (Keane 45), Pavlyuchenko 6 ARSENAL: Fabianski 4, Gibbs 7 (Clichy 101), Koscielny 8, Djourou 7, Eboue 8, Nasri 8, Vela 6 (Chamakh 73), Lansbury 7, Denilson 7, Rosicky 6 (Arshavin 73), Wilshere 8.
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