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).

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week