Arsenal appeal over Bergkamp red card

Arsenal 1 Sheffield United 1
Click to follow

After the whodunit of Saturday lunchtime, Arsenal move on to face up to their Champions' League hoodoo tomorrow evening. This draw against Sheffield United meant the Gunners have still lost only two FA Cup matches since the start of 2001, but for the first leg in Bayern Munich's Olympic Stadium they have to try to improve a European record that is not nearly so solid.

After the whodunit of Saturday lunchtime, Arsenal move on to face up to their Champions' League hoodoo tomorrow evening. This draw against Sheffield United meant the Gunners have still lost only two FA Cup matches since the start of 2001, but for the first leg in Bayern Munich's Olympic Stadium they have to try to improve a European record that is not nearly so solid.

The Gunners' failure to even reach the semi-finals of the Champions' League is a mystery to all, but first they will have to clear up the questions over Dennis Bergkamp's 35th-minute dismissal for attacking Danny Cullip.

There is no doubting that Bergkamp squared up to the Blades central defender, but what he did appeared too innocuous for a red card. A gloved hand that belonged to Jose Antonio Reyes seemed to swing in Cullip's direction and in the fracas it is possible that the referee, Neale Barry, thought that it belonged to Bergkamp instead.

Wenger said he would appeal against the sending-off - the Dutchman's third in the Cup - although television evidence may simply indict Reyes for a three-game ban instead. Either way, after Kolo Touré's recent three-match suspension, imposed on video evidence, there are increasing signs that Arsenal's bad habits are creeping back.

Wenger was, however, also angered by what he felt was Cullip's intentional stamping on Cesc Fabregas' head which sparked the mêlée, although that will be even harder to prove when the Football Association reviews the match.

In some ways it was what you expect from a Cup match involving Neil Warnock's side. As the United manager said: "Every time I play in the FA Cup there's incident. TV should have us every time. Today was special for us, coming here. They've beaten two Championship sides already but we had a go."

Modest as ever, he added: "I think we brought the magic back to the FA Cup. It's great we filled the Clock End with 5,200 fans. The lads know how special I think it is and I think it's still the greatest Cup in the world."

Warnock's tactics were predictable, with his players staying down if fouled and going in hard on every Arsenal player, and Wenger himself could have foreseen that. After all, the Gunners struggled to win against Warnock's men in the 2003 Cup semi-final and they struggled to impose themselves here.

Wenger picked a young outfield team, except for Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg, aged between 17 and 23, and after surviving a strangely disallowed Cullip first-half "goal", they dominated without really prospering. The introduction of Robert Pires was crucial as it was he who scored by following up Paddy Kenny's save from Mathieu Flamini's shot.

However, Wenger's other substitution proved just as decisive, bringing on the hapless Pascal Cygan. Four minutes later his miscued clearance was met by Cullip and Philippe Senderos blocked the ball with his hand. Andy Gray's penalty was neatly slotted away.

Wenger at least achieved one thing here, namely resting Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Pires, in part, and Lauren before the first leg of their last 16 match against a Bayern side who won 5-0 against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. He must also wait on the fitness of Ashley Cole and Edu.

The Arsenal manager acknowledged how difficult the tie against Germany's league leaders is, saying: "With the Champions' League, everybody has expected it from us for a few years but we cannot give a guarantee we will deliver. The deep desire is there, we want to do well but it is Bayern. They have great experience and have won it four times so they are difficult to play against." With words like that, it sounds as if Arsenal's European jinx will continue.

Goals: Pires (78) 1-0; Gray pen (90) 1-1

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Eboue, Touré, Senderos, Clichy; Ljungberg, Flamini, Fabregas, Reyes (Cygan, 86); Bergkamp, Van Persie (Pires, 65). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Larsson, Owusu-Abeyie.

Sheffield United (5-3-2): Kenny; Geary, Bromby, Cullip, Jagielka, Harley; Montgomery (Forte, 82), Thirlwell (Shaw, h-t), Tonge; Liddell, Gray. Substitutes not used: Cadamarteri, Quinn.

Referee: N Barry (North Lincolnshire).

Booked: Arsenal Reyes, Fabregas. Sheffield United: Liddell, Thirlwell, Cullip. Sent off: Arsenal Bergkamp.

Man of the match: Fabregas.

Attendance: 36,891.

Comments