Football: Wenger slams critics as Petit is sent off

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 2
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The Independent Online
ARSENAL CONTINUED to win matches and lose players at Molineux yesterday as they maintained their defence of the FA Cup with a rumbustious fourth-round victory over Wolves.

Their passage to a fifth- round tie at home to Sheffield United or Cardiff City was secured without Emmanuel Petit, who became the seventh Arsenal player to be dismissed this season and the 19th in two years of Arsene Wenger's management.

The French midfielder was dismissed for exchanging words with a linesman three minutes from time. These were clearly choice Anglo-Saxon rather than Gallic, as the referee Steve Dunn responded by sending him off. This added a red card to the yellow he had been given for an 18th minute foul on Carl Robinson.

Usually Wenger does not see his players' crimes, on this occasion he had not heard them. Given the din in the ground this was understandable, but his response underlined how unhappy he has become at his team's image.

"I am not happy with what happened on the field," he said. "I could say too much. There were a lot of things happening off the ball. I do not know what happened to get Emmanuel sent off but I have seen things happen which are not punished - such as Dennis Bergkamp being hit on the jaw - and Emmanuel gets sent off for a minor incident. There is a big media campaign against us but we are not a dirty side, we are a nice side, sometimes too nice."

Arsenal, leading through goals from Marc Overmars and Bergkamp, held on to win, although they could easily have been further depleted with both Bergkamp and Gilles Grimandi risking red cards as a melee disfigured the closing stages. For their part, Wolves did not shirk a challenge and Kevin Muscat escaped punishment for the wayward arm that left Bergkamp with a cut mouth.

Nine months ago Arsenal had rolled over the old gold in the semi-final at Villa Park but, as the red and yellow cards demonstrated, in front of their own crowd and under new management Wolves were a different proposition.

With Molineux reverberating with a rare passion Arsenal quickly sought to quell the crowd, opening with 11 passes before Wolves could get a touch. The atmosphere was already cooling when Overmars received the ball from Tony Adams deep in his own half, brushed aside a challenge from Robinson, and ambled forward. Wolves' defence backed off until Overmars, 20 yards out, accepted the invitation and drilled the ball inside the far post.

The Wolves were silenced but an error gave them the encouragement needed as Michael Gilkes' mis-hit cross looped onto Alex Manninger's crossbar. A few minutes later Robinson both skinned Nigel Winterburn on the flank and, after his cross had been cleared and returned, put a header over. The Wolves and their supporters began to believe.

They were rewarded after 37 minutes when Muscat's long ball lured Manninger into a reckless rush from his goal. Haavard Flo got there first and skimmed the ball off his head into the unguarded net.

Game on. Petit, Lee Dixon and Nicolas Anelka went close for Arsenal while Robbie Keane, Wolves' pounds 7m-rated teenager who has been attracting Arsenal's attention, showed his quality with a dribble past Adams - and his youth as he twice delayed in good positions.

Then, 10 minutes into the second period Wolves thought they were ahead but Flo, again fed by Muscat, volleyed against the inside of the post.

Arsenal visibly upped the tempo and Mike Stowell made three excellent saves only for Wolves to be undone by a cruel twist. A half-cleared corner fell to Bergkamp 25 yards out, his shot deflected off Flo and Curle before bobbling in. Bergkamp looked a bit embarrassed but, since he had only scored six previous goals this season, he was hardly likely to refute it.

Wolves huffed and puffed but even after Petit's dismissal they could not blow Arsenal's house down.

Goals: Overmars (12) 0-1; Flo (37) 1-1; Bergkamp (69) 1-2.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Atkins (Connolly, 90), Richards, Curle, Muscat; Robinson (Sedgley, 81), Osborn, Emblen, Gilkes (Simpson, 81); Flo, Keane. Substitutes not used: Niestroj, Murray (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Dixon, Adams, Upson, Winterburn; Parlour, Garde (Vivas, 75), Petit, Overmars (Hughes, 90); Anelka (Grimandi, 87), Bergkamp. Substitutes not used: Caballero, Lukic (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Wolves: Curle. Arsenal: Petit, Bergkamp, Winterburn. Sending- off: Arsenal: Petit.

Man of the match: Overmars.

Attendance: 27,511.