Carling Cup - Arsenal beat Ipswich, reach Wembley

Tue, 25 Jan 21:45:00 2011

Arsenal are just one win away from ending their six-year trophy drought after they beat Ipswich Town 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium to win their Carling Cup semi-final 3-1 on aggregate.

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After an admirably obdurate first-half defensive performance by the Tractor Boys, who were clinging on to the one-goal lead Tamas Priskin's first-leg strike had earned them, it took something special from Nicklas Bendtner in the second half to finally break the resolve of Paul Jewell's side.

Soon afterwards Arsenal led for the first time in the tie through Laurent Koscielny, with Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas putting the gloss on the result.

The Gunners will play either Birmingham City or West Ham United in the final at Wembley on Sunday February 27.

Following the 1-0 defeat at Portman Road in the first leg, Fabregas likened Ipswich's tactics to those of a rugby team.

The 9,000-strong contingent of travelling fans made their retort by bringing egg-shaped balls with them to North London and launching into a rendition of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' as their players repelled wave after wave of Arsenal pressure.

Grant Leadbitter's pot shot at Wojciech Szczesny's goal right from the kick-off may also have been a wry response to Fabregas's comments, but it certainly announced the visitor's intentions.

From then on it was all about trying to pick out first-leg hero Priskin after soaking up Arsenal pressure, and there was plenty of that.

The in-form Robin van Persie fired Bacary Sagna's square pass wide with a solid first-time strike, before Fabregas failed to convince referee Mark Halsey he was fouled by Gareth McAuley after hitting the deck too easily inside the box.

Sagna was replaced early on by Emmanuel Eboue after a clash of heads with Szczesny, but that did little to knock Arsenal out of their stride.

Fabregas had a low strike saved by goalkeeper Marton Fulop, van Persie headed a good Nicklas Bendtner cross off the crossbar and Fabregas knocked the ball wide of the far post after a weighted ball over the top from the highly influential Jack Wilshere.

Ipswich made another bright start after the break, with Darren O'Dea firing across the six-yard box after Bendtner failed to clear a corner with a header.

All too often Bendtner has been accused of not producing the goals or the performances demanded of him by Arsenal fans, but he showed his very best to fire in the strike that could prove key to filling another space in the club's trophy cabinet.

The big Dane was picked out by a pinpoint diagonal pass from Wilshere and brought the ball down into his path on the run before cutting inside past the backtracking Carlos Edwards and curling a delightful finish past Fulop and inside the far post.

Just as Ipswich were reeling from that blow, they suffered the knockout strike just three minutes later when some rare sloppy marking and poor judgement from Fulop at a corner allowed Laurent Koscielny to head home his first goal since September.

After that, the question was how many would the home side go on and score. To Ipswich's credit, it was just the one, on 77 minutes when Fabregas fed Arshavin, continued his run, received the return pass inside the area and finished through Fulop's legs to wrap up the tie.

The news that title rivals Manchester United came from behind the beat Blackpool in their Premier League clash on the same evening will perhaps put a spoiler on Arsenal's celebrations, but they are now odds on favourites to bring home a different piece of elusive silverware.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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