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).

Life and Style
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

KS2 Teacher Plymouth

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone