Arsenal defeated Ipswich Town in the second leg of the Carling Cup finals today to advance to the final at Wembley Stadium against either Birmingham City or West Ham United. Three second-half goals after numerous chances in the first hour calmed the increasingly anxious Emirates crowd and mean that Arsenal will contest their first cup final since the Carling Cup in 2007, which they lost against Chelsea.
The match started off as many Arsenal matches have this year: mostly Arsenal in possession, mostly Arsenal with the opportunities, mostly Arsenal with the passing, and yet, the score remained 0-0 and one sensed that the opposition was lurking on the break. Robin van Persie missed a volley wide from a Bacary Sagna cross after five minutes, before Cesc Fabregas went down in the box to no call a few minutes later.
Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny clashed heads as they both went for an Ipswich corner, and Sagna appeared to get knocked out momentarily. He was on the ground for a few minutes being attended to by the trainers before coming off, Emmanuel Eboue taking his place at right back.
van Persie nearly scored again after play restarted, but his final touch saw the ball run just far enough away from him that Ipswich was able to get in and tackle. Fabregas had an effort saved after cutting in from the right, fed through by Bendtner, and then van Persie hit the crossbar with a header.
It looked as if it was going to be one of those nights again. Arsenal pinged the ball around Ipswich's penalty area after a free kick, back and forth in the air, but couldn't get it across the goal line. Fabregas missed a golden opportunity shortly thereafter before Tomas Priskin nearly found space to shoot on the Ipswich counterattack. Arsenal attempted to create a number of chances before half time approached, but their final pass or touch in the penalty area wasn't sharp enough each time, and the break arrived with a blank scoresheet for all of Arsenal's endeavor.
The second half started off basically in the same fashion. Arsenal won four corners in the first ten minutes, all of which came to nothing. One almost sensed that it would be a moment of individual skill that would open things up for Arsenal rather than patient build-up that Ipswich was tactically working to stifle. When Jack Wilshere picked up the ball in the Arsenal third and put a long diagonal ball into the path of Bendtner down the left, it initially looked like a move to nowhere. But Bendtner cut inside with a nifty move, shifted the ball onto his right foot, took a touch, and curled an effort in his trademark fashion around the keeper at the far post for 1-0.
Two minutes later, Andrei Arshavin worked to win a corner at the left, took the corner kick himself, and Laurent Koscielny, who's been guilty of heading over from short range a number of times this year, absolutely crushed one into the back of the net with his head. The look of relief and delight on his face as he cruised away was palpable, Arsenal sitting at 2-0 and on the verge of a trip to the final. With 25 minutes left, though, nothing was certain.
Jason Scotland came on for Priskin as Ipswich looked for a way to get a crucial away goal, but Arsenal were in control now. Cesc Fabregas finally put the third away between Marton Fulop's legs after a lovely pass from Arshavin released him behind the defense, and at 3-0, Arsenal were home free and on their way to Wembley Stadium for the cup final in a month's time.
The final statistics from Orbinho's twitter page sum it up, really: Arsenal v Ipswich Shots 17-9 On target 5-1 Fouls 10-14 Duels Won % 47%-53% Passing Accuracy 86%-58% Possession 72%-28%.