Not a perfect surface by any stretch of the imagination but that didn’t stop Arsenal having all the pressure early on. Pat found Clichy, playing left side midfield tonight, but his header was over. Ash got into the box for a shot after good play by Bentley, and Edu went very close with a stinging drive that was just past the post. A Bentley corner saw Edu with a glance header across the face of goal. Maccarone was late on Cole with studs very much in evidence but Dermot Gallagher was as lenient as ever.
Our front men Bentley and Reyes showed plenty of skill but neither looked to be a centre forward who could play with their backs to goal and clearly had very little time together prior to the game. Pat almost found Jose from a good Arsenal move, but we didn’t create too many clear-cut chances. Arsenal won a number of corners and from one Reyes found Cygan at the near post who’s flicked header went into the side netting. It was all Arsenal but a free kick gave Boro a rare chance to get forward.
A brilliant save by Stack saved a certain goal when Maccarone shot was nearly hooked in from close range. Zenden hit across the face of goal thus creating another great chance that wasn’t taken. Arsenal errors began to creep in as the half progressed and the first goal looked as though it might prove critical. A clever foul on Zenden by Keown conceded a free kick. At the other end a clever Reyes run won another corner which Bentley took. Just before the break Keown tried to let the ball run across him but it hit his back and Maccarone was clear so Martin heaved him down and paid the price with a red card. Arsene didn’t look impressed but Martin hasn’t played the games this season and it showed. Stack saved from Juninho. Edu was stretchered off just before the break when Zenden’s studs found his ankle but there was no yellow card.
Edu limped back out for the second half and Reyes came close to a penalty claim when Schwarzer caught him after the ball was pushed past the keeper. It had to be a penalty or goal kick but a corner was given. Penalties have been given for and against for far less. Arsenal were passing well and didn’t look like they were down to ten men. Edu was giving his all and clearly wanted to go to Cardiff. A Reyes run won another corner and I’ve no idea how Schwarzer saved from Kolo, Pat’s shot was wide from the resulting half clearance. Edu went wildly wide after winning possession well. Riggott chopped Pat and was spoken to. Clichy was caught by Doriva for anther free kick.
Job replaced Maccarone but Arsenal continued to press. Tempers were running a bit high now as Zenden and Edu were at it and then Bentley and Juninho had a bit off a tiff and our young hopeful earned his first yellow card as a result. Vieira was still game to give it his all and one of his many power runs ended with a good shot. Reyes then chased down a ball to win another corner. Bentley took it, it came off the back of Vieira’s neck onto the post and Edu reacted quickest to head home. 1-1 ‘We’ve only got ten men’. Pat charged again and won another free kick outside their box. Bentley set up Ray but his shot was blocked.
Great saving tackle by Cole who was as popular as ever with the Boro fans. Quincy replaced Clichy as we began to tire but Arsenal were still prepared to give it a go. Edu was still steaming in, Mendieta had a shot saved and Zenden’s cross was not far away. The tension was very evident in the Boro crowd, they may have been playing against ten men but this was Arsenal’s ten men! A piss poor decision from the lino saw Job yards offside but Cygan had to stick in a toe to concede a corner. When their goal came it was a stretched Arsenal trying to get back that found Parnaby and Reyes looking to win the ball, Reyes appeared to get the touch but into the wrong goal. No blame attached, he did well to get back but it was 2-1 Boro and game over. Job had time to miss a sitter; Edu fired just wide once more, Pat almost got Quincy in and Stack made a great save from Zenden. We may have lost but we never gave up.
All credit too to those travelling Gooners who made themselves heard. So we’re out of the Carling Cup and the final will now be contested between boring Boro and belligerent Bolton. Who cares? Well I’m pleased to say Pat, Ray and the youngsters cared and they all gave it a go, but we all know our Club has bigger priorities and Boro’s first eleven also wanted it. Who knows what might have happened with eleven men on the pitch.