Managers clash over dismissal

COCA-COLA CUP QUARTER-FINALS: Wright's two opportunist goals settle electric encounter at Highbury
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The Independent Online
MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 0

There was sound and fury at Highbury last night; it signified nothing good for Newcastle.

The Premiership leaders lost a hectic Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final through two opportunist goals from Ian Wright late in each half. But it was the 68th-minute dismissal of their volatile Frenchman, David Ginola, for elbowing Lee Dixon, and the televised touchline row it led to between rival managers, Arsenal's Bruce Rioch and Kevin Keegan and his assistant, Terry McDermott, which dominated the occasion.

The Football Association has announced an inquiry into the row. An FA spokesman said: "Obviously we have to have a look at the referee's report, but this might be one of those occasions when we will need the report by first thing in the morning. Clearly we have a responsibility to look into events at Highbury tonight."

When McDermott arrived and began jabbing his finger in Rioch's direction the Scotsman advanced with chest thrust out, and a policeman was required to make a timely intervention.

"Handbags at five paces," was the way Keegan described the incident. Rioch was similarly dismissive. "Kevin was indicating that Ginola had had his shirt pulled all evening," Rioch said. "I was saying that was still no reason to strike a player. I was saying this when another comment was made by another person which I wasn't happy with."

Keegan began the night with food for thought as he was established as the bookies' favourite to succeed Terry Venables as England coach - something he would not drawn on. He ended the night concerned about keeping his French star. "He is a very different character from [Eric] Cantona but these kind of players do have difficulties playing over here. He is very down at the moment, and we are trying to talk him round."

Ginola, whose reputation for embellishing the effect of the fouls upon his quicksilver person now precedes him, ended an evening he found increasingly frustrating by flattening his marker off the ball with what the linesman indicated was an elbow.

The Frenchman, to his consternation, had been booked by Gerald Ashby of Worcester after 35 minutes after what appeared to be a foul on him by Nigel Winterburn. Twenty minutes earlier, a brutal sliding tackle on him by Dixon had gone unpunished. As he continued to invite challenges with his darting style, and continued to be jeered for reactions which, in English eyes, are over dramatic, his frustration hardened into malice.

Keegan said that he had not seen the incident that led to the sending off, but he questioned whether the incident would have occurred in the first place had Ginola not been booked in the first half. "If we don't look after our creative players we are going to lose them," he said. "David got no protection tonight."

At the start, the Toon Army tried to rouse their heroes to put an end to their 20-year wait for a cup win in London. Almost from the first kick, the omens looked bad. Only 17 seconds had elapsed when Ian Wright was presented with - and wasted - a clear header after Glenn Helder measured his cross.

In the 10th minute, Pavel Srnicek had to make instinctive saves, from Dennis Bergkamp and Paul Merson, to prevent Newcastle from falling behind.

They recovered a measure of composure as a team, but the same could not be said Ginola, who lost his after his booking. Arsenal ended the half as they had begun it. When John Jensen, brought on for the hamstrung Steve Bould after eight minutes, supplied Wright in the right-hand corner of Newcastle's area, the striker produced a vicious cross-shot which Srnicek allowed inside his far post.

Newcastle took a grip on midfield and forced Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley went close. Mr Ashby made another eccentric decision after 64 minutes when he booked Helder, who had apparently been fouled by Howey, but that did not console Ginola.

Down to 10 men, Newcastle needed drastic defensive action from Darren Peacock and Warren Barton stopped Arsenal doubling their lead in the 75th minute, but Wright did that in the last minute with a diving header.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, (Jensen, 8), Adams, Winterburn; Merson, Platt, Keown, Helder; Bergkamp, Wright. Substitutes not used: Dickov, Clarke.

Newcastle United (3-6-1): Srnicek; Peacock, Howey, Albert; Barton, Watson, Lee, Beardsley, Ginola, Beresford; Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Kitson, Clark, Elliott.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester)

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