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GEORGE GRAHAM wanted some familiar old Arsenal meanness in their third-round Coca-Cola Cup tie at the Baseball Ground last night. But it was the match that was mean, and it was Derby who refused to be browbeaten.
Whatever miserly plan Arsenal had for their own defence they were not helped by the loss of Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon through injury and the vivid movement of the Derby attack, in which Marco Gabbiadini was an instant, lasting irritant. Arsenal's familiar tetchiness quickly surfaced.
A few sloppy challenges and quick interceptions by Derby soon told Arsenal this was going to be a tough tie in all respects. A snap free-kick from Martin Kuhl grazed the face of their goal like a warning shot. Tony Adams and Steve Bould were knocked back on their heels and looked flustered. Wild tackles and heated words were exchanged and the names of Tommy Johnson, Steve Morrow and David Hillier were taken in the space of a few angry first-half minutes.
Derby's pace was unrelenting and more and more they capitalised on Paul Simpson's moves from the left flank to the middle, where twice he was allowed room to force David Seaman into essential saves. If Arsenal did gain any benefit from the appearance of Anders Limpar, it tended to be negated by the absence of Ian Wright's sharpness in the middle of the attack. Not that attacking was something that they were able to do all that often.
The underlying bitterness of the game continually threatened its peace. Arsenal's nerves had been set on edge again when Gabbiadini squirmed his way through their penalty area and was denied only because Seaman got his legs in the way of the shot. Simpson kept pestering and was unfortunate when slamming in Johnson's low cross, only to be called offside.
When Mark Pembridge brought down Limpar it was no surprise to see Arsenal perform their party piece and send everyone into the debate, including goalkeeper Seaman. No blows were exchanged but soon after, Adams did the next worst thing when blatantly felling Pembridge and getting booked while the crowd bayed for his removal altogether.
They got something even better after 71 minutes when Johnson escaped a barrage of tackles just inside the penalty area but not Adams' ungainly challenge. The penalty was inevitable, but though Simpson took it well, Arsenal equalised only four minutes later when Kevin Campbell pursued Limpar's fine long pass and drew out the oncoming Steve Sutton before beating him with the shot.
Campbell might have done the same again in a last burst from Arsenal. Hillier had worked the ball out of midfield and Campbell was head to head with Sutton, who this time blocked the shot.
Derby County: Sutton; Comyn, Forsyth, Short, Wassall, Pembridge, Johnson, Kuhl, Kitson, Gabbiadini, Simpson. Substitutes not used: Coleman, McMinn.
Arsenal: Seaman; Lyderson, Morrow, Hillier, Bould, Adams, Jensen, Campbell, Smith, Merson, Limpar. Substitutes not used: O'Leary, Flatts.
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).Reuse content