West Brom 1 Arsenal 1 (3-4 pens.): Young Guns Win the Lottery of Penalties
The Hawthorns (Capital One Cup)
West Brom (Berahino 71′); Arsenal (Eisfeld 62′)
West Brom penalties (Reid scored, Rosenberg scored, Morrison scored, Dawson missed, Amalfitano missed); Arsenal penalties (Bendtner scored, Gnabry missed, Olsson scored, Akpom scored, Monreal scored)
Arsenal arrived at the Hawthorns on the back of an amazing winning streak of seven games in a row and as expected, Arsene Wenger was going to rest a considerable chunk of his first team squad, handing starts to some injury returnees and some of his young Guns.
In defense, Lukasz Fabianski and club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, made their first starts of the season alongside the ever-present Per Mertesacker while Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson provided wit down the flanks. In midfield, the manager handed a debut for Isaac Hayden, a center back by trade, and he played with seasoned professional, Mikel Arteta, while Thomas Eisfeld played as the creative hub. In attack, Ryo Miyaichi and Serge Gnabry supported the World’s Best Striker with his extremely new looks, Nicklas Bendtner.
West Brom almost drew first blood when captain of the night, Steven Reid, swung a dangerous cross that was sent into the danger area but Carl Jenkinson guided the ball to Fabianski who made a routine save. On the other end, Miyaichi made a darting run before lofting a cross that was missed by Bendtner but he clashed with the goal post, which definitely gave him a very nice dose of pain.
Fabianski was called into action again when Craig Dawson’s looping header was tipped over the bar by the Pole. Hayden exposed his naivety when he made a rash lounge on Youssouf Mulumbu and could count himself lucky to receive a yellow card because on another day, he would have received his marching orders. The last noteworthy highlight of the first half arrived when Reid curled a free kick that hit the cross bar before going over but the officials adjudged that Fabianski got a hand to it.
The home side continued to probe the Gunners back line and Berahino dinked a cross that was heading towards Scott Sinclair but Mertesacker was on hand to make a vital merteception. Mulumbu was free on the edge of the area and he fired another goal-bound shot that was saved by Fabianski.
Against the run of play, Gnabry moved forward before feeding Bendtner. The World Best’s striker noticed Eisfeld ahead of him and threaded an inch-perfect through ball for the German whose first touch was exquisite and second was even better, sending the goalie the wrong way to put Arsenal ahead.
While the Gunners were basking in the euphoria of going ahead, West Brom equalized after 10 minutes courtesy of some lax defending. A corner swung into Arsenal’s danger area fell kindly to Shane Long that had all the time in the world to pick his spot and drop the ball into the six-yard with was headed home by Berahino.
Wenger brought in some reinforcements as Chuba Akpom replaced a visibly jaded Eisfeld while Kristoffer Olsson replaced Hayden. Nicklas Bendtner guided a header to the poor Gnabry but a rush of blood to his head made him fire the ball wide. Right at the death, Jenkinson fired in a dangerous cross but nobody in yellow was around to attack the ball.
Extra time beckoned as there was a major concern for Gunners as Mikel Arteta was replaced by Hector Bellerin for what seemed like a calf injury, but the manager confirmed that it was just a cramp and he’s okay.
The chance of the game arrived for Arsenal when Gnabry sent Bendtner clear on goal but the Dane wasted all the time in world before the ball was intercepted by Diego Lugano. It was a hilarious sight.
Chuba Akpom was afforded a lot of time on the ball and drilled his effort wide. Within minutes, it was end to end stuff as Markus Rosenberg tried to beat Fabianski on his near post but the goalie dived low to make a decent save. Bellerin had two quickfire chances that were wasted and West Brom almost won the game when Morgan Amalfitano blasted a shot the smashed the cross bar.
With both teams unable to cancel out each other after 90 minutes, the game had to be decided with penalty shootouts and West Brom won the toss to start.
Steven Reid, slammed Fabianski’s roof with the first spot kick and Bendtner responded with a placed finish to level the contest. Rosenberg fired the ball down the middle to make it 2-1 but Gnabry, that had a stinker all game long, compounded his misery with a poor penalty that was saved by Daniels.
James Morrison hit the roof to make it three but young Olsson kept a cool head to score a neat finish to make it 3-2. Craig Dawson handed the initiative back to Arsenal when he glanced his penalty wide and Akpom showed good composure beyond his years to make it 3-3.
The West Brom fans made themselves to be heard when Amalfitano made the long walk to the spot but their smiles changed to frowns when the stone-faced Frenchman blasted his spot kick wide. Up stepped Nacho Monreal to keep a cool head and sent the goalie the wrong way to send the Gunners to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
After the game, Arsene Wenger expressed his pride in seeing his youngsters play for two hours and the composure they showed to score their penalties where worth commending. However, the Gunners are set for a fourth round clash at home to Chelsea, which will reignite the Wenger-Mourinho rivalry.
All focus will be firmly fixed on the Swansea game this weekend.
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