Arsenal's young boys, helped by the crucial late intervention of a relative old boy in Tomas Rosicky, won their place in the Carling Cup final here last night - and the manager Arsène Wenger has promised to keep faith with the players who have earned the club an appearance against Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium on 25 February in pursuit of a trophy it last won in 1993.
Wenger was full in his praise after watching his youthful team experience the shock of seeing Tottenham draw level in this match with six minutes of normal time remaining before producing extra-time goals through Jérémie Aliadière and Rosicky.
"These are the best group of young players I have ever worked with," Wenger said. "It is the work of five years. You add, some don't work, some do. You have to scout, to recruit, you work with them every day.
"I am proud of their achievement. It's a sensational feeling to work with them, and know that when it is 1-1, you can feel that they have a heart. They have shown great mental resilience. Now of course we want to win the final. I don't like to promise what I can't deliver, but I will stick with the players who were involved in the Carling Cup. If they have not played, they will not play in the final."
Rosicky had provided Arsenal with a first tangible reward for their dominance. Having been sent on to the pitch just after the hour, he fashioned the opening goal after 77 minutes, first testing the Spurs goalkeeper Paul Robinson with a fierce drive, and then, after being supplied again by Gaël Clichy, sending Emmanuel Adebayor through on the left to put the home side ahead 1-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. But within seven minutes the out-of-favour Mido, whom Manchester City among others have tried to buy, equalised with a header from Jermaine Jenas' free-kick on the left. The Egyptian might have made an even greater impact, but his shot from the edge of the box in the 90th minute skimmed wide.
There was still time for the indefatigable Kolo Touré to produce a shot which Robinson just managed to beat away before the whistle sounded to send this semi-final second leg into extra time, with Arsenal knowing that if the score stayed the same they would go through on away goals.
Such calculations became irrelevant in the 105th minute, though, as Aliadière drove home right-footed after Tottenham's Ricardo Rocha, a 75th-minute substitute, had slipped and headed a clearance from Denilson's right-wing cross weakly into the Frenchman's path. And seven minutes from the end Rosicky crowned his contribution by forcing an own goal from Pascal Chimbonda.
An untimely groin injury meant that Julio Baptista, whose goals had earned Arsenal their draw at White Hart Lane a week earlier, was forced to miss last night's contest, but his absence meant the inclusion of the more established talent of Adebayor, who rampaged to hugely disruptive effect throughout the first half as the visitors struggled to check their hosts' youthful enterprise.
The emotional undertones of the match broke out into the open early in the second half when Ghaly, frustrated at being shrugged aside by Armand Traoré, slid in recklessly to bring down Philippe Senderos as he cleared. Abou Diaby confronted the Tottenham midfielder, who responded by indulging in a tête-à-tête which was only broken up by the arrival of the referee Alan Wiley.
Goals: Adebayor (77) 1-0; Mido (85) 1-1; Aliadiere (105) 2-1; Chimbonda og (113) 3-1.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Hoyte, Touré, Senderos, Traoré (Clichy, 65), Walcott (Rosicky, 63), Denilson, Silva, Diaby (Fabregas, 78), Aliadiere, Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Poom, Flamini.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Gardner (Rocha, 73), Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Ghaly (Huddlestone, 79), Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (Mido, 79); Defoe, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cerny, Lennon.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Arsenal Denilson, Diaby; Tottenham Jenas, Gardner, Ghaly, Zokora, Defoe.
Man of the match: Adebayor.
Attendance: 55,872.Reuse content