Arsenal survive scare to set up cup clash with arch rivals Spurs
Veteran Swiss defender Stephan Lichtsteiner scores his first goal for Arsenal to help them set-up a quarter-final showdown against Tottenham
31 October, 2018 — By Paul Cowling
Stephan Lichtsteiner – the veteran scored his first goal for the Gunners and the first of the night as Arsenal defeated Blackpool 2-1.
Carabao Cup Fourth Round
ARSENAL 2 (Lichtsteiner 33, Smith-Rowe 50, Guendouzi sent off 56)
BLACKPOOL 1 (O’Connor 66, O’Connor sent off 84)
ARSENAL fans can look forward to a quarter final cup clash at home to Spurs following this mild Halloween scare against Blackpool tonight (Wednesday).
The League One side fought back after the Gunners had taken a two goal lead as both sides were left with ten men at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal had to play for most of the second half with a numerical disadvantage after Matteo Guendouzi received a second yellow card.
But, had the visitors not unfairly succumbed to a red card themselves late in the game, they looked a good bet to grab an equaliser and perhaps take the match to penalties.
After the match Gunners boss Unai Emery admitted Arsenal had to work to ensure they didn’t suffer a cup shock: “We had to wait until the last minute, but we controlled a lot of moments in the match”, said the Spanish coach.
Emery stuck with only two of the side that started the Sunday draw at Crystal Palace. Back came Petr Cech for his first outing since a hamstring injury sustained against Watford in September.
There was also a first start in 701 days for Carl Jenkinson following his long injury lay-off. Plus a sprinkling of youthful intent with Emile Smith-Rowe given a midfield berth and a surprise at full back, where Spanish youth international Julio Pleguezuelo made his first team bow.
A dire opening half hour saw neither side muster an effort on target. The hosts sprayed the ball about well enough but without causing any real danger, while Blackpool – limited by ability and ambition – merely frustrated.
That all changed in the 33rd minute. With the home crowd urging Guendouzi to shoot, the Frenchman instead picked out Stephan Lichtsteiner who caught the ball on his instep to flat-foot Mark Howard in the Seasiders goal. It was a first Gunners goal for the veteran Swiss.
If the first half was a visual horror show, the second half was edge of the seat stuff for Gunners fans. Arsenal looked to be coasting though on 50 minutes when Smith-Rowe scored scruffily from close-range – the second first team goal for the young English talent following his effort away to Qarabag in the Europa League.
The Gunners were made to think a little on 56 minutes when Guendouzi was rightly sent off for a second yellow card. The home fans were apoplectic, but the decision by referee David Cooke was a fair one.
“That’s football”, admitted Emery, when asked about the dismissal of Guendouzi, who now misses the game against Liverpool on Saturday. “But we have a lot of players (to cope).”
Petr Cech looked uncomfortable dealing with goal clearances and he almost produced a howler when his dithering was charged down and the ball fell to Nathan Delfouneso, who was returning from an offside position. The former Villa striker put the ball sheepishly in the back of the net, but the effort was rightly ruled offside.
Gunners fans ire and frustration was increased further when Blackpool pulled a goal back after 66 minutes. From a corner defender Paudie O”Connor rose with a bullet header to beat Cech and stun everyone in the Emirates.
Bouyed by the goal and by a numerical advantage, Blackpool piled on the pressure. But their charge was checked on 84 minutes when goalscorer O’Connor was harshly shown a straight red card for hacking down substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
With the Gunners fans loudly baying to even up the numbers on the pitch, the referee appeared to have duly delivered, Blackpool’s chance of taking the game to penalties also went with the red card.
It was Arsenal who clung on to set themselves up for that mouth-watering quarter final clash at home to Spurs. Quizzed on whether he grasped the the extent of the rivalry between the two clubs, Emery said: “Yes, I knew about the rivalry. We are playing a big team and are preparing for the match.”
ARSENAL: Cech; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Pleguezuelo, Jenkinson; Ramsey, Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe (Iwobi, 73); Maitland-Niles (Torreira, 60), Welbeck (Aubameyang, 76), Mkhitaryan.
Substitutes not used: Holding, Martinez, Nketiah, Willock
BLACKPOOL: Howard; Nottingham (Pritchard, 65), Heneghan, O’Connor, Bola; Turton, Spearing; Thompson, Guy (O’Sullivan, 86), Feeney (Cullen, 79); Delfouneso
Substitutes not used: Mafoumbi, Dodoo, McLaughlin, Taylor