Football: Wreh the wrecker of Wolves

Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton W 0

ARSENAL may have abandoned plans for relocating to Wembley on a permanent basis, but they will take up residence there on 16 May. Victory over a gallant but outclassed Wolves, by virtue of Christopher Wreh's early goal, booked their 13th appearance in the FA Cup final yesterday and enhanced Highbury's hopes of the Double.

Driven on by the indefatigable Patrick Vieira, Arsene Wenger's side dominated the First Division underdogs in a hard-fought semi-final. Yet they were unable to translate possession into clear-cut openings, and were ultimately indebted to the Wolves goalkeeper, Hans Segers, for the mistake that led to Wreh's second winner in the space of six days.

With only 13 minutes gone, Segers shaped confidently to deal with Adrian Williams' back-pass. Given that the Dutchman established his reputation by launching many a Wimbledon attack in the days when the long-ball game ruled at Plough Lane, the Wolves bench must have expected his clearance to sail into the Arsenal half.

Perhaps distracted by Nicolas Anelka, who moved half-heartedly to close him down, Segers instead scuffed his kick down the centre of the pitch. Steve Sedgley had committed the cardinal crime of turning his back on play, and consequently did not see Vieira surging on to the ball.

The Frenchman ran at the heart of the defence, gliding past Dean Richards' attempted tackle. On reaching the edge of the penalty area, he selflessly rolled a perfectly weighted pass to Wreh on his right. The Liberian, standing in for the suspended Dennis Bergkamp, side-footed a diagonal shot beyond Segers for only his third goal since arriving from Monaco last summer.

As the Wolves' manager, Mark McGhee, admitted, the timing of the breakthrough delivered a serious blow to their chances of repeating the quarter-final success over Leeds. "It took the wind out of our sails," he said. "Our real chance was keeping it tight at nil-nil and then maybe sneaking it in the second half or extra time."

McGhee was quick to play down criticism of Segers, Wolves' saviour at Elland Road with a last-minute penalty stop. The ball had travelled 40 yards, he said, and ought to have been dealt with by Sedgley. "We feel as if we gifted them the game," McGhee said.

His analysis did something of a disservice to Arsenal. In the first half, at least, the Premiership outfit lapped up a succession of long, aimless balls driven in the general direction of Wolves' front runners and proceeded to build constructively through Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Ray Parlour. However, the second goal they needed to kill the tie did not materialise, and it was immediately apparent after the interval that Wolves would not go without a struggle.

Where previously Steve Claridge had ploughed a lone furrow, there was suddenly support from Paul Simpson and Don Goodman. Simpson forced David Seaman into his first significant save within two minutes, while Goodman narrowly failed to convert the loose ball after the England keeper made a hash of a cross by the increasingly influential Steve Froggatt.

It was inconceivable, especially after the departure of Martin Keown with a badly cut eyelid, that Steve Bull would not be thrown into the fray. His appearance for the last 20 minutes instantly prompted Wolves' best opportunity, only for Claridge to be betrayed by a poor touch.

That moment of panic clearly reminded Arsenal of the fragility of their advantage. They finished strongly, with substitutes Stephen Hughes and David Platt both going close from long range and Marc Overmars unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when he tumbled under Williams' challenge.

Wenger, having justifiably paid tribute to Vieira's prodigious efforts, conceded that he had endured "20 minutes of concern" during which his team "looked tired". But having survived three replays and two penalty shoot-outs on the way to Villa Park, this almost qualified as a smooth passage.

Before they can turn their attentions to Wembley, there is the small matter of eight Premiership matches in four weeks. Most, if not all, will have to be won, although after this fifth consecutive single-goal triumph, it would be folly to bet against them.

Talking of gambling, Segers is about to publish a book on his alleged part in the match-fixing scam which ended in his acquittal last summer. The title is Final Score. Final Score? One-nil to the Arsenal.

Goal: Wreh (13) 1-0.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Grimandi, Adams, Keown (Bould, 48), Winterburn; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars; Anelka (Platt, 84), Wreh (Hughes, 75). Substitutes not used: Boa Morte, Manninger (gk).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3): Segers; Williams, Curle, Richards; Muscat (Keane, 84), Robinson (Slater, 71), Sedgley, Froggatt; Goodman (Bull, 69), Claridge, Simpson. Substitutes not used: Naylor, Stowell (gk).

Referee: S. Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Arsenal: Grimandi, Parlour. Wolves: Williams.

Man of the match Vieira.

Attendance: 39,372.

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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss