Football / Coca Cola Cup: Wright dances through Norwich: High-powered Arsenal shoot Canaries out of the Coca-Cola Cup

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

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NOT QUITE a seven-up for Arsenal this time, instead a Coca-Cola Cup performance that bubbled irresistibly from start to finish. Built around the mercurial Ian Wright it proved totally dismissive of the challenge from Norwich, who forgot all the splendid habits that have carried them to unforseen heights in Europe.

It was Arsenal, the holders of the trophy, back to their best in domestic football and Wright at his brilliant best with two goals on his 100th appearance for the club taking his tally to an extraordinary 72.

The first was a wonderful intuitive effort, the second the climax of team play of the highest calibre which particularly delighted their manager George Graham, whose side, undefeated in 25 consecutive cup ties, now receive Aston Villa in the fourth round.

'An excellent performance, an excellent result against an excellent team,' he said. 'Wright's quality in front of goal never ceases to amaze me.'

Norwich had defended well in the first game two weeks ago, as they had done in removing Bayern Munich from the Uefa Cup. But last night they showed nothing like that and were almost caught cold on three occasions even before the 14th minute brought the first goal.

David Seaman's contribution as an Arsenal playmaker has become a standing joke among critics of Graham's methods and the goalkeeper it was who paved the way, his free-kick carrying virtually the whole length over the sleeping Canary heads.

Bryan Gunn was alert to the danger but on a slippery top he stumbled as he tried to block Wright and was out of position as the top Gunner took control. This striker supreme still had work to do, however, but he made it look easy, turning on the corner of the 18-yard area to curl an exquisite shot into the empty net.

The home side had gone 11 games unbeaten but, as so often is the case, a heavy downfall was about to awaken them from their feelings of invincibility. 'It may have been one game too many for us,' Mike Walker, the Norwich manager, admitted afterwards. 'We did not start right and were beaten by the better team on the night but we have had a super run and I'm not going to start knocking my team.'

Arsenal were two ahead before the break when Alan Smith and Anders Limpar found Wright, whose shot was kept out by Gunn only for the ball to fall handily for Paul Merson.

By now Norwich had seen enough, dispensing with the sweeper system that hitherto had served them so well and pushing Rob Newman into attack alongside Chris Sutton, whose height and body strength offered them a semblance of hope.

They found no Tony Adams (virus) or Nigel Winterburn (injured) up against them but conspicuously were still unable to make much headway. Only twice was Seaman in trouble, going full length to push away Ian Crook's firm shot and later going backwards to palm over a lob from the substitute Daryl Sutch.

After 65 minutes Arsenal completed their rout with Smith laying the ball off superbly to Merson who passed diagonally into Wright's stride for a finish that was almost contemptuous in its ease. It was his sixth of the competition so far and no wonder the Arsenal faithful chanted his name loudest at the end.

Norwich City (1-3-4-2): Gunn; Culverhouse; Polston, Butterworth, Newman; Fox, Cook, Goss, Bowen; Sutton, Eadie (Sutch, 72). Substitutes not used: Megson, Howie (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Linighan, Keown; Limpar, Jensen, Selley, Merson; Wright, Smith. Substitutes not used: Morrow, Campbell, Miller (gk).

Referee: P Foakes (Clacton).

Last night's other football,

FA Cup Countdown, page 47

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