WEST BROM manager Roberto Di Matteo hit out at Arsenal teenager Jack Wilshere for his part in Jerome Thomas’ sending-off as Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners moved into the fourth round of the Carling Cup with a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.
Following a positive start against an Arsenal team whose average age was just over 20, the Coca-Cola Championship leaders were up against it when former Gunner Thomas — who twice won the FA Youth Cup while at Arsenal — was sent off in the 37th minute.
Thomas was ordered off for a needless slap on Wilshere, while he was on the ground, after the pair clashed in a tackle.
Sanchez Watt went on to net the opener just after the hour, before substitute Carlos Vela added a tap-in after Mark Randall’s clever chip came back off the bar.
However, it was the manner in which Thomas had seen red which left the West Brom manager less than impressed — accusing England Under-21 international Wilshere of showing disrespect to his player.
“Thomas went to shake hands with Wilshere, he refused and Thomas reacted, so it was a red card,” the Italian said.
“But there was an exchange of words and there was a reaction.
“I am disappointed Wilshere did not accept his hand, of a fellow colleague, but that is part of the game.”
Di Matteo maintained that until then his side had been in control.
“That was the turning point,” he said.
“But well done to Arsenal. They are very talented and congratulations to them.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger maintained he could not shed much light on the incident.
“My eyes are not great and my ears are even worse,” quipped the Arsenal manager.
“Thomas has reacted, and in these cases you always need to control your nerves, whether he has any excuses, I do not know.
“Jack said he had been kicked. Certainly it would have been a great game if had stayed 11 against 11.”
Mexico international Vela had missed the start of the season because of an ankle problem.
However, the 20-year-old proved the difference between the sides last night, his powerful shot leading to the first goal before being on hand to tap in a second.
“When Vela came on, straight away he made a difference,” said Wenger.
“He is dangerous in his control, movement and class. He gives you something special.
“However, he was not ready to start tonight and still has work to do on his fitness.
“But he is in my plans for the first team — he can play wide left, wide right or central.
“He gives you plenty of options.”
Wenger had once again given youth a chance, his team with an average age of just over 20, while also bringing in experienced defender Philippe Senderos starting for the first time since May 2008 after a loan spell at AC Milan and veteran Mikael Silvestre captained the side.
Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, 19, impressed on his first-team debut.
“Overall we played with patience, with cohesion and did not make big mistakes,” said Wenger.
“In the end, the natural outcome was there.”
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Gilbert, Senderos, Silvestre, Traore (Barazite 69), Wilshere, Coquelin (Randall 58), Ramsey, Gibbs, Sunu (Vela 58), Watt.
WEST BROM: Kiely, Zuiverloon, Olsson (Meite 80), Barnett, Jara, Thomas, Koren, Dorrans, Teixeira, Moore (Wood 74), Cox (Mulumbu 61).
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).
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