Football: Wenger's tale of the unexpected

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The Independent Online
TENSE AND won at the last possible moment by Nwankwo Kanu's dramatic goal, Arsenal's FA Cup quarter-final defeat of Derby County was a tribute to the Londoners' patience, their manager Arsene Wenger said after the pulses steadied.

"They were sharper in the first half and we had to be patient," he said. "We slowly got on top and I think we deserved the victory because we had 21 shots on goal. But we were lucky to win in the last minute.

"Kanu is a great player with the ball at his feet because he doesn't lose it and you don't know what he is going to do with it," he added.

Jim Smith, Wenger's opposite number, admitted the Gunners deserved the result. "We came to contain them and we had chances in the first half which we didn't take. In the second half they kept coming at us but I thought we had got away with it."

Everton will be relieved to put aside their struggle for Premiership survival and concentrate this afternoon on an FA Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United at St James' Park, but few expect it to be a carefree, pulsating tie.

Alan Shearer, the Magpies' England striker, certainly has his doubts. "Knowing the weather, that will be rubbish and we know the pitch is rubbish. Let's just hope the two teams aren't rubbish and we can put a decent game on. More importantly, let's hope that we can get into the next round."

Newcastle's midfielder Gary Speed is suspended so their manager, Ruud Gullit, chooses between Robert Lee and the Croatian Silvio Maric to partner Dietmar Hamann.

In the Everton midfield, Tony Grant (hamstring) is fit to resume, Ibrahima Bakayoko has returned from Ivory Coast international duty and Don Hutchison returns after a one-match ban. But Olivier Dacourt, Michael Ball and Richard Dunne are all suspended.

In the Nationwide First Division, Manuel Thetis scored the only goal of the game - and his first since signing for Ipswich Town from Seville - as the Suffolk side took full advantage of Bradford City's day off by beating the improving Tranmere Rovers at Portman Road and moving into second place.

Tranmere were the better side in the first half, George Burley, the Ipswich manager, admitted. "We adjusted our system after the interval and got the ball wider. We had been playing too much through the middle and losing it."

Bolton Wanderers dropped to fifth after salvaging a draw at Swindon Town where they trailed 2-0 and 3-1 but recovered at 3-3. Wanderers have now taken only two points out of a possible 12 which has helped Birmingham City to move into fourth place after crushing Portsmouth 4-1 at St Andrews.

Guy Whittingham, on loan to Pompey from Sheffield Wednesday, scored his sixth goal in six games in the fourth minute but thereafter Brum proved much too powerful. Dele Adebola scored twice, the first a surging run past three defenders ending with a 25-yard shot that crashed in off the crossbar.

Watford lost 3-0 at Sheffield United and dropped out of the play-off places. West Bromwich Albion took advantage by beating Oxford United 2- 0 to slip into the final play-off berth.

The win came at some cost, however. Lee Hughes, Albion's leading scorer, lasted just 15 minutes before going off with an injured shoulder following a foul by Paul Gerrard, the Oxford goalkeeper, who was booked.

It was an opportune time, then, for West Brom's Northern Ireland striker, James Quinn, to score his first goal for three months. Five minutes into the second half, Oxford's Joey Beauchamp was sent off for swearing at a linesman and 23 minutes later Enzo Maresca put the result beyond doubt. "We should have taken more advantage of their weakened position," Denis Smith, Albion's manager, said.

Huddersfield are in the play-off hunt too after beating Stockport 3-0. Manager Peter Jackson sent on winger Delroy Facey after a goalless hour and his service changed the game.