Arsenal 3 (Bendtner 61, Koscielny 64, Fabregas 77) Ipswich 0
(agg 3-1, Carling Cup Semi Final)
We’re in the final. Nearly four years as a blogger, and that’s the first time I’ve been able to write those words. It feels good.
The scoreline looks comfortable, but for a long time it was tense. Ipswich, to their immense credit, defended valiantly for an hour, restricting us to few chances, but we kept plugging away, firm in our belief that we would eventually break them down, and once we finally pierced their back line and levelled the tie, they visibly deflated. From there, the goals and the enjoyment flowed.
The crucial moments were provided by players who may not have been on the field had many fans had their way. Bendtner and Arshavin were the likely candidates for substitution as the game remained 0-0, especially with Nasri and Walcott waiting in the wings. Everything Arshavin had touched up to that point had gone wrong, but as against Leeds his effort could not be faulted, while I actually thought Bendtner was playing pretty well. Another excellent cross from the big Dane had given Van Persie a great chance in the first half, which he’d headed against the bar.
When the breakthrough game, it was a terrific effort. Bendtner bringing down Wilshere’s raking ball with a glorious first touch, before cutting inside and curling the ball deliciously into the corner. It was a finish to match his unwavering confidence, and not the first goal of that type he has managed this season.
Ipswich were rocked, and we pressed home our advantage. Arshavin’s work rate paid off when he hustled their defender into conceding a needless corner, before planting the resultant kick right on Koscielny’s head, who made no mistake in powering it in. And then, Cesc and Arshavin exchanged perfectly weighted passes on the counter attack before our little Spaniard applied the coup de grace. At 3-0, the tie was finally over.
Unfortunately, the ole’ing then began, which was not only needless and exceptionally annoying, but really quite disrespectful to an opponent who had kept us at bay for 150 of the 180 minutes. If we’re hammering United or Chelsea and want to rub their noses in it, fine, but this was something different. It makes us appear arrogant and was wholly unnecessary.
But in the end, all that matters is that we got what we came for – a place in the final. Our poor week against Leeds and Ipswich now doesn’t matter one bit, because our improved performances in the respective return matches have seen us through. It doesn’t matter that Cesc and Van Persie missed chances they’d normally bury in the first half, it doesn’t matter that Ipswich gave us the jitters, it doesn’t matter that it took so long for the goals to come.
We’re going to Wembley.
West Ham or Birmingham await in the final, and to be honest I genuinely don’t care which one of those we get. I’d love to stuff Birmingham for all the crap we’ve had from them over the past few years, and I’d love the likes of Gold and Brady to get their hopes up before being trounced in the final. Essentially, I don’t care who we beat, as long as we beat them.
February 27th. Mark it down. One month away, one month until we have a great chance to end this ‘haven’t won a trophy in X years’ crap. Bring it on.