Sheffield United 1 Arsenal 0
Howard Kendall's managership of Sheffield United was gilded by its first hint of fantasy last night when his charges caused one of the surprises of the FA Cup third round by defeating Arsenal.
Five draws had marked Kendall's tenure at Bramall Lane until this replay, but last night far surpassed that meritorious, if slightly dull, achievement. Now Cup glory can be added and a fourth-round tie against another Premiership team, Aston Villa, savoured. Arsenal, meanwhile, have just the Coca-Cola Cup, scarcely the real thing, to concentrate on.
The tie was settled 68 minutes into a game that simmered rather than boiled. Dane Whitehouse had been a persistent pest on the United left, but Lee Dixon had just about managed to suppress him. When the full-back had to go off with an injury on the hour, however, he profited from Andy Linighan's relative inexperience on the flank.
Cutting inside and then outside an opponent more suited to central areas, Whitehouse left Linighan trailing and then crossed low towards the penalty spot. Carl Veart, an Australian virtually neglected by his new manager, stooped to head past David Seaman.
"That was one of the best Cup moments of my career," Kendall, who won the trophy while in charge of Everton in 1984, said. "We showed quality. We denied international players and we could have scored more goals." On Veart, he said: "I've only played him once, in my first game here, and I was very disappointed with him. But I felt tonight it was right to give him another opportunity. He was a revelation."
Veart's goal was a climax to a match that promised much and delivered little. The first half was a wasteland as far as Arsenal were concerned and even when they managed to justify their supposed superiority by stringing together a move or two, they hardly looked worthy of their status among the competition's favourites.
David White gave the first hint that this might not be the Londoners' night in thumping a shot against the bar from Chris Short's pass after 23 minutes and virtually all of what followed confirmed it.
Arsenal's left flank was a particular mess, with Glenn Helder relinquishing any suggestion of defensive responsibility and leaving the inexperienced substitute for the suspended Nigel Winterburn, Gavin McGowan, to face the music provided by Mitch Ward and Short.
Until United scored, the Gunners had largely misfired, although Ian Wright almost took the game beyond its 90 minutes with a left-foot shot from 20 yards that hit the post six minutes from time. Even then, United nearly got a second. A cross from Short was met by Veart who was only denied by a brilliant save from Seaman. "We were very disappointing," Bruce Rioch, the Arsenal manager, said. He could say that again.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Short, Vonk, Tuttle, Nilsen; Ward, Cowans, Patterson, Whitehouse (Hodges, 84); White, Veart. Substitutes not used: Heath, Tracey (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon (Linighan, 59), Adams, Keown, McGowan; Merson, Platt, Jensen (Clarke, 84), Helder; Wright, Bergkamp. Substitute not used: Dickov.
Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).