It was a very fresh grey sleety sort of day at Highbury, the sort where a pre-match Brandy is even more welcome than usual. Cardiff could have taken the lead very early on when the first of two early offsides were ignored by the linesman and Jerome flicked his chance over. After the first five minutes it was one way traffic as Arsenal’s patchwork team got on top and stayed there. The moves began to flow and the space was easy to find in the first half-hour. Our opener came when a sweet crisp move saw Dennis play it to Reyes who hit a shortish diagonal pass to Rob from central to right and he found himself in acres of space with the goal at his mercy, so it showed it none. Rob swept it past the keeper at the far post for a 1-0 lead, game pretty well over.
Passing was then the order of the day with Cardiff fans bleating about every free kick, jeering every time Reyes was kicked up in the air and generally making a lot of noise, because that’s what no hopers do on their big day out. The Gooners couldn’t be arsed because the boyos in blue were hardly worth getting het up about. Instead it was a ‘North Bank’ ‘Clock End’ day with the occasional ‘Thierry Henry’ and ‘Eng-er-land’ chant thrown in for good measure.
The referee, a Mr A Atkinson, had booked Senderos for nothing and then let Whitley, Weston and numerous cohorts’ kick shit out of Reyes, with the morons behind the goal bleating every time the young Spaniard went up in the air. Whitely was eventually carded about three nasty tackles too late. Dennis to Senderos from a free kick and his header shaved the post. Purse took out Reyes and play was waved on. And then Loovens committed the foul of the game on Flamini that was closer to criminal assault than a shotgun wedding. A red was not out of order but he got a yellow card.
There was plenty of fine play after that but none from Cardiff because they were not allowed to have the ball. Arsenal were avoiding injury by passing. Great reverse pass from Dennis, more injuries to Reyes, great pass by Reyes, fine play from Van Persie and a few more corners but no more goals before the break.
The referee showed his class by allowing the keeper to pick up a back pass, fourth rate. Quincy went on a brilliant run where Weston lost his shin pad and quite a bit of dignity. Pires to Van Persie with an angled flick-on header that came back off the bar. Another soft-shoe shuffle from ‘Crazy Legs’ before a great cross. Barker performed one fine piece of defending on one of Quincy’s breaks, which was just as well for Cardiff. A stroppy git with a Welsh flag was chucked out of the North Bank, fighting with stewards as he was lead away, it’s just a guess on my part but he was probably a Cardiff fan.
Robin to Quincy, to our third Dutchman but a clearing header went over to concede a corner. Another ace Van Persie pass, one of many on the day. Senderos took out Cooper with serious intent. Pires to Van Persie but Alexander was out well to save at feet. Dennis fired over as Arsenal continued to pass it around at will. Senderos was in well following a short game of head tennis. Whitely shot on the turn and Almunia did well to save whilst diving at full stretch.
Lee replaced Cooper but it made no odds because in the final four minutes and two of added time Arsenal wouldn’t let Cardiff have the ball. There was a stoppage when a **** wandered onto the pitch and tried to attack Almunia who studiously ignored him. A lifetime ban would be good, not just from Highbury of course. The only excitement remaining was when Whitely kicked Almunia in the head but I’d like to think that was altogether more accidental than his earlier assaults on Reyes.
The result was never in doubt, only the margin and ease with which it was obtained. A close scoreline maybe, but an easy enough victory that takes us into the 4th. Round. Was that our last ever F A Cup tie at Highbury?