Football: Preston fall as Overmars leads revival

Preston North End 2 Arsenal 4

ALEX FERGUSON'S assertion that Arsenal battle until they or others drop may have provoked a hostile reaction at Highbury but in the unlikely event it was meant as praise no one would contradict the Manchester United manager.

Enjoy a scrap? It is like oxygen to them. The FA Cup holders battled with the ferocity of hungry and desperate street fighters to keep their hands on their trophy at Deepdale last night, converting an undistinguished performance into a famous comeback.

Weakened by injury - at least five players were missing - and down 2- 0 to Preston, who belied their lowly status with a vigorous hounding of their supposed betters, Arsenal recovered gloriously thanks to goals from Luis Boa Morte, Emmanuel Petit (2) and Marc Overmars.

Their reward, if it can be described as such, will be another test of character against Wolves at Molineux.

It was a desperate conclusion for Preston, who for half the match appeared to be heading for a night to remember themselves. Then reality intruded with awful and destructive effect.

"They played a game of poker," Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said. "Preston gave everything in the first 20 minutes and if they had got a third they might have hung on." Instead the disappointment became the worse for having been so close.

As for Ferguson's comments at the weekend, Wenger replied: "You don't win championships or cups just by fighting. We respect every team we play and let the referees do their job on the field. We are known for our football."

Certainly Preston earned Arsenal's respect with an opening that was as compelling as anything they face in the Premiership. The Gunners' back four have a reputation of solidity that structural engineers envy but they did not look it last night.

As early as the third minute the cracks were showing as Michael Jackson rose at the near post to head Lee Cartwright's corner past Alex Manninger and only the adroit footwork of Lee Dixon on the line prevented a goal.

If that promised much even the most optimistic of Preston supporters could not have anticipated what was delivered: two goals in four minutes.

The first began with a glorious pass from David Eyres that freed Ryan Kidd on the left. He crossed to the near post where Steve Bould just about stopped Jonathan Macken but as he lay prone of the floor, he hacked the ball straight to Kurt Nogan, who converted from six yards.

Nogan, a player who had been dropped recently as his goals have run dry, did not have to wait long for his next. Manninger had looked fragile when Eyres arced a viciously dipping in-swinging corner, clumsily tipping it over, and the impression was confirmed when kick was repeated. This time the Arsenal goalkeeper came and missed and the striker headed in behind him.

Arsenal were being run ragged but the first hint that they were not impostors in the red shirts came when Ray Parlour unleashed two long-range shots that had David Lucas diving to his right to save.

The referee also turned down what appeared to be two legitimate penalty appeals when Boa Morte was brought down by Colin Murdock and Arsenal must have been despairing of getting anything from the evening when they pulled a goal back on the brink of half-time.

Mendez took a throw-in on the right and Boa Morte lost Murdock with a lovely turn. His shot, from an unpromising angle, might have taken a deflection but it certainly surprised Lucas, flying in at the far corner.

"It was the turning point," David Moyes, the Preston manager, said. "That goal gave Arsenal an opportunity. They knew they could score again in the second half."

They might have believed it but there was scant evidence to back it up in the early minutes after the interval. Manninger, who had a night he will wish to forget, made a terrible hash of a clearance and hit Nogan when it seemed he needed to aim in his direction to do so.

Fortunately for the keeper the ball, which for a moment appeared to be going into the goal, span into the side netting and he had reason to be grateful again after 56 minutes when Cartwright's cross defeated him completely. This time the bar came to the rescue.

The impression that Preston might score again proved illusory, however, because shortly afterwards Overmars made the incursion and Arsenal poured through with deadly efficiency.

The Dutch winger broke from a central position in the 58th minute and had beaten three players when he was brought down on the very edge of the area with the Preston defence in tatters. Eyres had to be sent off for the foul and the punishment had a double edge because Petit dispatched the free-kick into the net with ruthless precision.

Down to 10 men and already approaching exhaustion, Preston finally succumbed in the final 12 minutes when Petit and Overmars profited from excellent work by Boa Morte to provide a cruel finale.

"We gave them a run for their money," Moyes said. They had very nearly run the Double winners off their feet.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Lucas; Parkinson, Jackson, Murdock, Kidd; Cartwright, Gregan (Appleton, 97), Rankine, Eyres; Macken (McKenna, 64), Nogan (Harris, 87). Substitutes not used: Darby, O'Hanlon (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Dixon, Keown, Bould, Vivas; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Garde, 89); Boa Morte, Mendez (Caballero, 69). Substitutes not used: Upson, Grondin, Lukic (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own