Arsenal agony as Parlour is carried off

Wenger's understrength Gunners put on battling display but are forced into extra time by late Ricard penalty
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The Independent Online

As if the agonies of extra-time were not enough for Arsenal, they had their stand-in captain, Ray Parlour, taken off on a stretcher in this Worthington Cup tie last night after he was hurt in a tackle with Phil Stamp.

As if the agonies of extra-time were not enough for Arsenal, they had their stand-in captain, Ray Parlour, taken off on a stretcher in this Worthington Cup tie last night after he was hurt in a tackle with Phil Stamp.

The match went to an extra half hour with the score at 2-2, Hamilton Ricard having scored both goals for Boro, one a penalty, while Thierry Henry and Davor Suker had netted for Arsenal.

Arsenal probably determined that a near gale force south-westerly would prove to be their most formidable opponent. They were, however, compelled to reassess when inside eight minutes they conceded a goal which gave Ricard his first in the competition and his sixth of the season.

The menace should have been identified by Arsÿne Wenger's revamped side as they had already been threatened by the Colombian. Yet they were ill-prepared for what was to follow as Brian Deane flicked Colin Cooper's long ball on to Ricard, who showed great skill in turning Matthew Upson. It was all too much for the defender, just as the drive that followed carried too much power for the goalkeeper, Alex Manninger.

Fortunately for the home fans, Middlesbrough did not pick up where they had left off against Wimbledon in the Premiership on Saturday, a dire experience from start to finish.

Bryan Robson, the Boro manager, had already been uplifted by the Arsenal team sheet. Many familiar names were missing and there were only five survivors from the team which overcame Derby on Sunday. To that end, the captaincy fell into Parlour's arms for a tie that also presented the 20-year-old Tom Black with his debut on the right side of a four-man midfield.

In the two previous meetings between the teams the contest had been very one-sided, Middlesbrough conceding 11 goals in the painful process. But there is something about this competition which appears to bring the best out of Boro, who were grateful that Gianluca Festa managed to get in the way of a Suker drive as Arsenal attempted to square matters.

As a match it was very much of the stop-start variety, but it buzzed for Arsenal after 39 minutes when they found themselves an equaliser through Henry. The goal came almost out of nothing as he collected the ball 25 yards out and defeated Schwarzer with a spectacular angled drive.

The goal lifted Arsenal, deflated Middlesbrough and encouraged Silvinho to believe he could grab a quick second, as he threatened to do with his educated left foot, but the half ended on a note of panic for the Gunners. Manninger raced from his goal but hammered his kick against Ricard and was fortunate to see the ricochet go wide.

Oleg Luzhny looked a central defensive misfit for Arsenal in the first half and, not surprisingly, was replaced by young Rhys Weston. Robson must have been relieved to have lost the race last summer for the Dinamo Kiev man, for the player they call "Horse" almost looked a candidate for the knacker's yard. Manninger certainly did not and proved his worth with an excellent one-handed save from Deane's volley.

In many ways it was a rerun of the first half, Boro starting the brighter, Arsenal looking to utilise Henry's pace on the break. It was from such a tactic that Black was given the chance to make a name for himself, but the Chigwell youngster was grossly wide of the mark when he really should have scored. After 73 minutes a little bit of history was made as Jermaine Pennant became the youngest ever player to represent Arsenal at 16 years and 319 days, and after 80 minutes Suker grabbed what should have been the decisive goal, striking after Schwarzer only parried a Henry free-kick. However, within three minutes Boro were level with a Ricard penalty for Henry's handling offence.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer, Vickers, Festa, Cooper; Fleming, Ince, Juninho, Zeige, O'Neill (Stamp, 64); Ricard, Deane. Substitutes not used: Mustoe, Gascoigne, Beresford (gk), Armstrong.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger, Vivas, Luzhny, Weston (45), Upson, Silvinho; Black (Pennant, 73), Parlour (Cole, 89), Vernazza, Malz; Suker, Henry. Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), McGovern.

Referee: M Liley (Leeds).