P Clarke (og) 22, Fabregas (pen) 86
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 1
Arsenal progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory over Huddersfield Town at the Emirates on Sunday.
The home side controlled the game for most of the first half, keeping the pressure on Huddersfield who were happy to sit back and allow Arsenal to move the ball around. The Gunners opened the scoring in 22 minutes when Nicklas Bendtner collected the ball on the right-wing and drove into the box, his shot looked to be going wide but for a deflection from Peter Clarke which sent the ball past Ian Bennett and into the net.
With some delightful one-touch passing Wenger’s men kept the Terriers’ full-backs busy with moves down the flanks with Eboue and Bendtner on the right and Andrei Arshavin, who was a breath of fresh air, on the left. Arshavin looked a lot more confident yesterday than he has for most of this season. His first touch brought instant control more often than not which is something he has struggled with in recent performances. He did not hesitate to run at the visitors’ right-back Jack Hunt and showed great skill in beating him and driving into the box on more than one occasion. The Russian is still lacking composure in front of goal as his shots were either off target or void of any real power.
The 29-year-old has finally taken a step forward on the road of recovery as he tries to find his form once again but to perform well against a League One side in one game is one thing. To do it consistently in the top league in English football is another and although Arshavin looked brighter yesterday, there is nothing to suggest he will strike fear into the hearts of Premier League defenders.
Sebastien Squillaci made his first appearance for Arsenal yesterday since December and his poor performance came to an end in 42 minutes when he was dismissed for bringing down Hunt and preventing a goalscoring opportunity. Hunt made a great run forward as he bound towards the backline, disposing easily of Kieran Gibbs and, with one touch, knocking it past the Arsenal centre-backs Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny before being knocked over by the elder Frenchman.
Wenger brought Alex Song on for Marouane Chamakh, who had a quiet first-half, to cover for the hole left in the centre of defence. But Huddersfield became a real threat in the second-half, using Anthony Pilkington on the right-wing to send high crosses into the box which the hosts found difficult to deal with.
Arshavin was threatening going forward but neglected his defensive duties, leaving the inexperienced Gibbs to deal with the tricky winger. Three headers in a short space of time lead to one going wide, another forcing a great save by Almunia and eventually Huddersfield’s equaliser. A high cross from a corner came into the middle of the Arsenal box and Alan Lee rose high above Abou Diaby to head the ball into the net and level the tie.
Huddersfield gained momentum after the goal and began to press a sluggish Arsenal higher up the pitch and battle for possession in the midfield, a fight they seemed to be winning until Cesc Fabregas was brought on for Abou Diaby with 20 minutes to go.
The Spaniard’s introduction to the tie seemed to spur on the rest of the team and the Gunners began to attack with more venom and pace, creating chances and keeping their boisterous and courageous opponents at bay. The tie looked to be heading for a replay at the Galpharm Stadium until Arsenal were awarded a penalty in 86 minutes, Fabregas rounded off a great individual performance by sending the ball into the bottom corner and his team into the next round of the cup.
27 Eboue – 18 Squillaci – 6 Koscielny – 28 Gibbs
2 Diaby – 15 Denilson
52 Bendtner – 8 Nasri – 23 Arshavin
33 – 7 Rosicky on for 8 Nasri
45 – 17 Song on for 29 Chamakh
69 – 4 Fabregas on for 2 Diaby