The last time Blackburn made it to the semi-finals of the League Cup it counted for so little that their manager, Kenny Dalglish, did not mention a word of it in his autobiography. Should Matt Jansen publish his life story, plenty of space ought to be devoted to describing his first hat-trick for Blackburn which demolished an experimental, inexperienced Arsenal side that, in the words of their manager, Arsène Wenger, "was too young to fight against adversity once things began to go against them".
Wenger is like Dalglish in his disregard for the competition, believing the winners of the Worthington Cup should not qualify for Europe. "I would give one more place to the championship," he said.
In 1993, Dalglish's Blackburn, like Arsenal now, had their sights on loftier matters, although with Jansen, Tugay and Damien Duff showing flashes of often sublime skill, Graeme Souness would probably fancy his chances of taking the club to a first final in the competition. "The story of our season at home has been one of missed chances," said the Blackburn manager. "Here, our finishing was clinical."
Within the space of 10 first-half minutes, Souness's pre-match statement that Blackburn had received the toughest draw in the Worthington Cup quarter-finals was made to appear ridiculous. Wenger had made nine changes to the team that had staged such a remarkable recovery against Aston Villa on Sunday and at times it seemed Arsenal, whose back four was made to appear amateurish by the quality of Keith Gillespie's crosses, were aiming to create a tactical two-goal deficit.
Tugay was instrumental in three of Blackburn's goals. Having wrested possession from Junichi Inamoto in the 11th minute, he swept his pass out to Jansen, who transferring the ball from right to left foot, cut inside Matthew Upson and clipped a gorgeous shot into the corner of the net.
Moments later, Stuart Taylor palmed a Gillespie cross into Duff's path and although his shot was blocked, Tugay drove it back into the box and a flick of Jansen's boot did the rest.
In the 31st minute Giovanni van Bronckhorst failed to clear Duff's cross properly and Mark Hughes, one month into his 39th year, profited from the rebound with the kind of shot, struck from 10 yards, which the old warhorse could have driven home in his sleep. Up in the directors' box, the Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, burst out laughing. Had Duff's shot not struck the post and Hughes not scuffed the rebound over, his club would have been four down at the interval.
Although their position was hopeless, Arsenal put together a far more coherent performance in the second half. Jermain Pennant and Edu went close while Kanu, virtually on the six-yard line, stood on the ball. Blackburn were scarcely bothered and in the 68th minute Jansen was gifted his hat-trick by Duff, who running on to Tugay's drilled pass, presented him with a square ball that allowed the striker to pick his spot. He chose beautifully.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Kenna, Johansson, Taylor, Curtis; Gillespie, Tugay, Dunn, Duff (Ostenstad, 72); Hughes (Grabbi, 67), Jansen (Mahon, 72). Substitutes not used: Berg, Filan (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-2): Taylor; Tavlavidis (Halls, 82), Upson, Keown, Van Bronckhorst; Edu, Inamoto (Stepanovs, h-t), Grimandi, Pennant (Aliadiere, 65); Wiltord, Kanu. Substitutes not used: Svard, Holloway.
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).Reuse content