West Bromwich Albion 1 (Berahino 71) – 1 Arsenal (Eisfeld 61)
Steven Reid (West Brom) – Scored 1-0
Niklas Bendtner (Arsenal) – Scored 1-1
Markus Rosenborg (West Brom) – Scored 2-1
Serge Gnabry (Arsenal) – Saved 2-1
James Morrison (West Brom) – Scored 3-1
Kristoffer Olsson (Arsenal) – Scored 3-2
Craig Dawson (West Brom) – Missed 3-2
Chuba Akpom (Arsenal) – Scored 3-3
Morgan Amalfitano (West Brom) – Missed 3-3
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) – Scored 3-4
Man of the Match – Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
It was nail-biting, intense and absorbing right till the very end in the 3rd Round of the Capitol One Cup at The Hawthorns, as a youthful Arsenal side barely managed to scrape past a much experienced West Bromwich Albion side on penalties.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the manager named new signings Emiliano Viviano and Mathieu Flamini on the bench, and instead started with Lukasz Fabianski in goal and Isaac Hayden in midfield. Per Mertesacker started alongside Thomas Vermaelen in defence. There were also starts for Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson.
Mikel Arteta too made his return from injury. Arsene Wenger named a youthful midfield in wingers Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi, while Thomas Eisfeld plied through the middle. Upfront, er, was, er, Niklas Bendtner. The bench too wore a young look, with Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson, Alex Iwobi, and er, Park Chu-Young.
The first half was a scrappy affair, as both sides, filled with new names struggled to get any kind of chemistry going. There were no periods of possession enjoyed by either of the sides, nor were there any substantial efforts on target, as Fabianski and Daniels were left to be mere spectators. Debutant Isaac Hayden was awarded a yellow card for a crude challenge on Youssef Mulumbu, which could easily have been red.
The second half however was different from the first half, with both sides showing attacking intent. Arsenal should have scored when Gnabry’s corner floated precariously close to the goal line, but no one was at hand to convert the cross, before Steven Reid’s free kick struck the top of the cross bar.
Mulumbu then had a go, when he controlled a ball, and in one motion struck it fiercely, but Fabianski was able to parry it to safety. However, moments later Arsenal were in the lead, when Serge Gnabry picked up the ball in midfield, played in Bendtner, who subtly set up an onrushing Eisfeld. The German midfielder had the easy task of slotting the ball to the keeper’s right.
The Gunners grew in confidence after the goal, and were whizzing the ball around in midfield, before West Brom equalized 10 minutes later. A poorly cleared corner allowed Shane Long to play in a ball, which was headed in by young England striker Saido Berahino.
Arsenal’s lack of options on the bench was worrying, as the manager bought on striker Chuba Akpom and midfielder Kristoffer Olsson in place of Thomas Eisfeld and Isaac Hayden.
The match ended in a 1-1 stalemate after Serge Gnabry missed a chance to put the Gunners ahead very late on in the game. West Brom were able to bring on two experienced players in James Morrison and Markus Rosenborg in extra time. Arsenal had to replace the tiring Arteta with young Barcelona boy Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal’s best chance in extra time came when Niklas Bendtner was put clean through on goal by Serge Gnabry but the Dane’s rustiness was clear for everyone to see, as West Brom defender Craig Dawson cleared the danger after Bendtner waited on the ball too much.
The Dane showed his frustration moments later at an offside, by striking the ball at a couple of West Brom ballboys, for which he apologized soon after. The Baggies however had 3 sensational chances to win it right at the death. First, Morgan Amalfitano’s sweetly struck shot hit the cross bar. Next, Markus Rosenborg was clean through, and chipped Fabianski, but failed to get power on it. When he managed to get round of the ball, Arsenal somehow cleared the danger. Next, Scott Sinclair failed to connect to a cross despite being in the best position in the box to collect a cross from the right.
The game went to penalties. West Brom went first, and captain Steven Reid converted. Arsenal sent Niklas Bendtner to a chorus of boos. The Dane didn’t dissapoint. Markus Rosenborg sent one straight down the middle, before Serge Gnabry drew a save from Daniels with his tame effort. James Morrison and a nervous Kristoffer Olsson converted their chances, before Craig Dawson sent his shot woefully wide. Chuba Akpom levelled the scored. Morgan Amalfitano, however, sent his shot wide. Arsenal sent the experienced Nacho Monreal to win the tie, and the Spaniard dispatched his penalty with ease to send the Gunners into the next round.
It was a typically hard cup game for Arsenal. The manager played a youthful side, who, to their credit, held their own against a comparatively experienced West Brom side. I have to admit, Niklas Bendtner had a good outing after a long time out of football. He held his own against a rugged defence, created space for others as well as setting up Arsenal’s goal.
The defence looked a bit rusty, and that can be owed to a lack of playing time. Mertesacker however was towering and at his best again. Ryo Miyaichi and Serge Gnabry were lively throughout and that can only bode well for Arsenal.
Next up, Swansea in the Premier League!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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