Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 3: Eduardo's extra class shoots young Gunners into last four

On a night when one suspected that Arsenal's Carling Cup adventure might come to an end it was Arsne Wenger's supposed innocents rather than Blackburn's warriors who emerged from a bitterly cold but committedly physical battle to book their place in the semi-finals.

Pegged back, by two Roque Santa Cruz goals, to 2-2 at the end of normal time, when the Paraguayan's efforts overturned the early goals of Abou Diaby and Eduardo da Silva, Wenger's youthful line-up overcame even the loss of Denilson sent off at the end of 90 minutes to progress through Eduardo's second goal of the evening after 104 minutes.

The straight red card for the Brazilian, for a nasty, two-footed lunge on David Dunn, was an ironic twist in an encounter that has become notorious for bruising clashes on the field and recriminatory words off it, normally from the mouth of Wenger. Only last August, the Arsenal manager had accused Blackburn of having a "desire for violence" after a rough-house draw in which Ryan Nelsen was sent off.

Last night he was singing a different tune, praising his young, developmental side with an average age of 20 for "facing a mental and physical test and standing up to it." He had no complaints about the sending-off. "Denilson lost his nerve with that tackle and although he did not touch the other player you could say nothing against the red card," he said.

Yet at the start there had been little hint that the match would be anything other than a platform for the precocious skills of Wenger's team, even on a ground where they might once have been intimidated.

Blackburn, for all their leaky defensive displays in the Premier League lately, looked as formidable an obstacle as the fledgling Gunners might want to face on a cold December night but even before half an hour had elapsed, it appeared that they were quite strong enough.

Indeed, it took only six minutes for Arsenal's intricate passing to make the first incision, Justin Hoyte combining with the 18-year-old Mark Randall two Englishmen and Nicklas Bendtner in a neat triangle on the right before Bendtner floated a cross to the far post and Diaby lifted the ball beyond the reach of Brad Friedel to open the scoring.

Mark Hughes may have wondered where his right-back had gone but it was a beautifully crafted goal nonetheless and the Rovers manager must have been relieved when, moments later, Bendtner's attempt to double the lead after a one-two with Diaby only hit the bar.

The second goal for Wenger's team came, after 29 minutes, when Christopher Samba could not hide from his mistake, the centre half failing to execute what should have been an easy interception as Denilson played the ball forward. Instead, he allowed Eduardo through to score easily.

There were bookings for Stephen Warnock and Samba as Blackburn's frustrations began to show yet Rovers otherwise responded impressively, giving goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski ample opportunity to show off his talents, the Pole saving well from Dunn after the Blackburn midfielder had skilfully engineered a shooting chance and twice denying David Bentley.

He could do little, however, to keep the ball out when Santa Cruz, fresh from his hat-trick in last Saturday's extraordinary 5-3 defeat at Wigan, put Blackburn back in the hunt by powering home Matt Derbyshire's well-placed early cross after Bentley had released the striker in space on the right.

The Paraguayan's goal empowered Blackburn and, perhaps, unnerved Arsenal. Without doubt, it posed a test of character, more so when Santa Cruz denied only by Alex Song's intervention just after the restart struck again 14 minutes into the second half after Randall had scythed down Warnock 10 yards outside the box, a mis-timed challenge quite rightly punished with a yellow card.

Bentley, whose delivery from free-kicks is as good as any player that Fabio Capello might consider for his first England squad, curled the ball into the Arsenal box at a perfect height and angle for Santa Cruz, who is as strong in the air as he is clever with his feet.

Again, Fabianski had no chance. Now the match was a real contest.

The red card for Denilson should, logically, have been the moment that the balance tilted towards Blackburn. But now there were misses by Santa Cruz and by Samba, who headed against a post, whereas the finishing of Eduardo retained its quality despite tiring legs and the distraction of a long stoppage while Nacer Barazite was treated for a dislocated shoulder the Croatian racing on to Song's through pass after 104 minutes to steer the ball wide of Friedel and clinch Arsenal's passage tothe last four.

Wenger commented: "It was a great game and we dominated football-wise in the first half. We played our combination game technically very good and very agile."

Blackburn, meanwhile, are faltering badly and have now won only one of their last eight games. Hughes said: "We are disappointed with the way we have defended for all the goals. At the moment we're finding it very difficult to give ourselves a platform which enables us to win games. It was the same at the weekend against Wigan. We're conceding too many goals from poor situations but then showing great courage and determination to get back on level terms.

"The effort being expending on getting back on level terms is ultimately costing us. We have a tendency to just switch off again and teams are capitalising on that."

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Reid, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock (Khizanishvili, 120); Bentley, Savage, Dunn (Mokoena, 105), Pedersen; Derbyshire (McCarthy , 90), Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Roberts.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski; Justin Hoyte, Song, Senderos, Traor; Randall (Barazite, 80; Merida, 100), Denilson, Diarra, Diaby; Eduardo (Gibbs, 115), Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Gavin Hoyte .

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz