Bendtner settles Arsenal nerves to bring elusive trophy one step closer

Arsenal 3 Ipswich Town 0 (Arsenal win 3-1 on aggregate)

It may only be the Carling Cup final but for Arsène Wenger's young Arsenal team a first final at the new Wembley Stadium was greeted last night with the kind of anticipation that you might expect of a club whose recent history has been conspicuously lacking in trophies.

Having finally seen off the courageous resistance of Ipswich, Wenger's team even seemed to be thinking about a lap of honour as they lingered on the pitch to take the applause of their fans. The last time the Arsenal bus drove into Wembley for a final, the stadium still had two towers.

The 2005 FA Cup was Arsenal's last trophy and only two of the current squad were involved then. The wait for the next one has been long and painful. The recent successes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League have come on the back of breakthrough victories in the Carling Cup, in 2005 and 2006 respectively and many Arsenal fans hope that a win on 27 February would have a similar effect on their team.

As for Wenger, winning the Carling Cup has not always been a priority. His side lost in the final in 2007 and in December 2009 he said that he did not "consider that if you win the Carling Cup we parade around and say we have won the trophy". Wenger said then that he saw the old competition as a chance to develop his young players. Last night he seemed to have changed his tune.

"I believe it is more difficult to get in the top four [of the Premier League] but I get so many questions in every press conference that I have to say 'OK we try to win every game we can'. On the other hand I believe it could take more pressure off the team to deliver. It is not the only target, we have even bigger targets, but it can help us to achieve the other targets."

Birmingham City and West Ham play tonight for the place in the final against Arsenal, although it is hard to see past Wenger's side for this trophy. To lose it now, having invested so much in this run to the final, would simply be careless when the trophy is there for the taking.

It took Arsenal an hour to break down the resistance of Paul Jewell's team but when they finally did so it was with a breathtaking goal. Nicklas Bendtner did little else in the game but for the few seconds that he took Jack Wilshere's ball into his stride, stepped inside the midfielder Carlos Edwards and picked his spot in the far corner, he looked like the player he has always claimed to be.

Jewell said that his side were not "disgraced". "We have given a brilliant team a run for their money," he said. "We knew we were up against it. Usually I hate it when you lose and people pat you on the head and say 'Well done' but the players were great. We just lacked that belief. But I have to give the players credit."

It was supposed to be a stroll for Arsenal with a little bit of spice in the tie thanks to Cesc Fabregas' outspoken criticism of Ipswich's tactics in the first leg although it did not start that way. "1-0 to the rugby team" was the chant that came from the away fans and they had more reason to jeer the Arsenal captain early in the first half.

Fabregas' dive in the Ipswich area on 11 minutes under the challenge of Darren O'Dea was half-hearted at best and he knew it. So much so that he did not really bother to appeal for a penalty. That rather set the tone for Arsenal's forlorn attempts to claw back the one-goal deficit in the first half which were notably underwhelming.

The best effort of the first half was Robin van Persie's header from Bendtner's cross that struck the bar. Otherwise Ipswich's 4-1-4-1 system – with Mark Kennedy effective in front of the back four and the centre-halves excellent – worked very well. On 34 minutes, Wilshere picked out his captain with a nice chip that Fabregas drew into his stride and struck wide. The tension mounted.

There was misfortune in the clash between Wojciech Szczesny and Bacary Sagna which resulted in the right-back having to be replaced by Emmanuel Eboué within the first 20 minutes. Moments like those suggested that it could be one of those blighted nights for Arsenal when nothing goes right.

By the time his team finally cracked open their humble opposition, Wenger had begun to get twitchy. Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott had spent half-time warming up and it was surely only a matter of minutes before they were unleashed when, at last, the breakthrough arrived.

It was Bendtner who led the way with a superb finish that calmed the nerves of Arsenal immediately. Within three minutes they had scored again. This time it was Ipswich who were at fault. From Andrei Arshavin's corner from the left Laurent Koscielny, completely unmarked, beat goalkeeper Marton Fulop to the ball and headed in unchallenged.

Stretched and tired they conceded a third with 13 minutes left. Kennedy gave the ball away deep in Arsenal's half and within seconds Fabregas was bearing down on Fulop's goal. He and Arshavin had cut Ipswich apart and when the captain found himself yards from goal with the ball at his feet there was no danger of him letting Ipswich off the hook.

Fabregas played in a World Cup final just six months ago but come the end of next month he has the chance to hoist his first trophy as Arsenal captain. Just the Carling Cup? It will not feel that way when the Arsenal support reaches new Wembley. And if things go to plan it will not be the last time they visit that stadium this season.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna (Eboué, 18), Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Wilshere, Denilson; Bendtner, Fabregas, Arshavin (Walcott, 83); Van Persie (Nasri, 83). Substitutes not used Song, Gibbs, Chamakh, Shea (gk).

Ipswich (4-1-4-1): Fulop; Edwards, McAuley, Delaney, O'Dea; Kennedy; Norris, Leadbitter, Healy (O'Connor, 74), Wickham; Priskin (Scotland, 63). Substitutes not used Peters, Lee-Barrett (gk), Hyam, Smith, Civelli.

Referee M Halsey (Lancashire)



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review