WBA 1-1 Arsenal (3-4 on penalties)
Foxriver11: Hic! Hic! Another round of rum for me before I start writing this.
The cup tie, when Arsene usually throws the young guns into shallow waters was here and boy, were we on the edge. It was supposed to be an easy draw for the gooners considering the run of form we were in; but Wenger had done what he does best, a young squad with just a few 1st team players and those who desperately wanted some game time after their injury layoffs.
Lineups for the night
West Brom: L Daniels, Reid, Dawson, Lugano, Popov, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Sinclair, Berahino, Long
Subs: Camp (gk), McAuley, J Olsson, Rosenberg, Amalfitano, Morrison, Jones
Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Hayden, Arteta, Eisfeld, Ryo, Bendtner, Gnabry
Subs: Viviano, Bellerin, Flamini, Olsson, Iwobi, Akpom, Park
Hayden got a surprise debut at the hawthorns because of a shoulder niggle on Flamini. Per, Gnabry and Flamini were the only players who were involved in the side that won against stoke in the weekend. It was an untidy game from the kick-off as two sides full of unfamiliar names wrestled to get to grips with both themselves and each other. The 1st half was fairly uneventful for both teams, until late in the half when either side could have taken the lead. First, it was Gnabry who tried a shot on goal which was paired away by Reid after a goal line save. And minutes later, Fabianski was called into action for a quick save when Mulumbu sent a volley flying across the goal.
For WBA Mulumbu, Sessegnon, Sinclair and Berahino were controlling the midfield battle over Arsenal and attack after attack kept flying down the right hand side where Monreal was having a tough time dealing with Berahino. The young guns of Arsenal were growing into the game as the game progressed. Hayden put in some strong challenges and was pretty effective in breaking WBA attacks along with Arteta. Miyachi and Gnabry kept making runs on the WBA defense, but their final ball wasn't up to the mark. Bentdner was excellent for someone who hasn't played a lot for Arsenal even though he has been with us for over 9 seasons now.
The only disappointment was Eisfield, he looked lost for brief patches during the match except for a sublimely taken goal for which even Wenger praised him saying he showed Pires's class in his 1st touch to gather the ball from Bentdner and slot it deftly past the keeper, 1-0 to Arsenal against the run of play. WBA kept persisting and a momentarily collapse of concentration by the gunners allowed Berahino to equalize, a well taken finish at that.
81 minutes into the game and Eisfield was replaced by 17 yr old Akpom, Hayden was replaced moments later by Kris Olsson. In injury-time Gnabry had a chance to steal the win, but he couldn’t connect with a fine cross by Jenkinson. Extra-time saw Arteta forced off with cramps in his left foot, perhaps unsurprising given his lack of game time, and Hector Bellerin slotted into midfield despite being a right-back.
Olsson and Bellerin took no time in settling in and played pretty decent in the final minutes. The last two minutes of Extra Time sent shivers down gooners spines when Amalfitano came on and sent a few shots Fabianski's way; one hitting the cross bar on the dying moments. Penalties!!!
It’s been cruel to Arsenal a few years running now, but I guess lady luck does give a breather occasionally after all. It looked like the Gunners were dead and buried when Serge Gnabry missed, but poor efforts by Amalfitano and Dawson gave Nacho Monreal the chance to score the decisive kick, which he duly smacked home.
The composure shown by the young guns to even step up to the penalty spot was a clear sign of Arsene's favorite character that he looks in players. On an irrelevant note, it was heartening to be on the other end of a penalty result!! Also watching TGSTEL to be playing with a different kind of attitude was also a positive note, me thinks :p. Anyways back to the weekend fixture against Swansea to look forward to now and assist master Özil terrorize some swans.