Monday, February 16, 2009

FA Cup Liveblog: Arsenal v. Cardiff City

The ominous ball of Champions League, EPL and FA Cup matches begins to gain in size and gather steam.

Through the hilarity of scheduling, we present a fourth-round replay for the Gooners, despite their fifth-round opponents already playing to a replay next week, and despite the fact that the quarter-final draw has already been made.

I love the FA sometimes.

So, will they get it done tonight, or will fixtures continue to pile up for Arsenal like a giant Katamari?

Lineups and livebloggery after the jump.

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Gibbs, Nasri, Song, Denilson, Vela, Eduardo, Bendtner.
Subs: Almunia, Van Persie, Ramsey, Wilshere, Clichy, Bischoff.

Cardiff: Heaton, McNaughton, Rae, Purse, Johnson, Parry, Ledley, Kennedy, Burke, Bothroyd, McCormack.
Subs: Capaldi, Whittingham, Johnson, Comminges, Scimeca, Blake.

The big news is that Eduardo is in the starting XI, next to the world's most egotistical/delusional striker, Nicklas Bendtner. Even though he's certifiably insane, you have to admire his gusto.

Couple of issues with a feed, but I'll be in business shortly. It's not like anything ever happens in the first 5 minutes!

5 mins: Bendtner proves why he shouldn't start every game, heading over from close range. To be as fair as possible, the cross was high, and he did well to reach it, but still - shouldn't the best Arsenal striker tuck those away with ease?

6 mins: Bendtner is denied again, as Tom Heaton (on loan from Manchester United) makes two good saves in quick succession, the first to parry a venomous shot from Carlos Vela, and the second with his legs as NB pounced on the rebound. All Gooners, all the time.

11 mins: A rare attack by Cardiff! Chris Burke gets behind Gibbs down the right wing and puts in a decent enough cross, but the linesman reckons that crossed the touchline first.

The difficulty of liveblogging with an Arabic audio feed is becoming apparent. Despite most English-language commentators being absolutely insufferable, they do help in at least keeping you up to speed. This is like watching a game live; you have one chance to see it, process it, and write it down. Most times, the audio at least gives you a second chance. It's also impossible to keep up with who's currently in possession.

14 mins: Eduardo decides to shoot from the center circle, apropos of nothing, but it's always heading wide. Heaton was back anyway.

15 mins: Sagna has a go down the right, lofting a cross in front of Eduardo's run but it's too strong and Heaton collects on the edge of his area.

Nice flowing football by Arsenal, which is par for the course at this point. However, the inability to play a simple pass behind the defense is still as apparent as ever. No, it can't be a simple pass. It has to be a backheel or chip, or sidefooted tap. It must be taking years off Wenger's life expectancy.

17 mins: Lovely move by Arsenal again on the edge of the box, as Eduardo does get behind the backline, but his square pass is blocked by captain Darren Purse and cleared. Crisis averted.

Oh, and Bendtner again! Lovely run by Vela down the left, cutting it back from the touchline and somehow finding NB in front of goal. His first touch beats his man, but he lingers too long to shoot and its blocked by two sliding tackles at once. Think one of 'em was Darren Purse again. The window of opportunity was small, but you'd expect better from the great Arsenal striker.

20 mins: NB plays Eboue in behind Purse but his shot is easily smothered by Heaton. Will Cardiff ever manage to get the ball beyond the halfway line?

21 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and finally Cardiff crack. Another lovely bit of play down the left, as Eduardo releases Vela, and Vela's cross floats right along the six-yard box, sitting up perfectly for Eduardo to power in a header, leaving Heaton with no chance. Wonderful interplay by Vela and Eduardo. NB was right there for the rebound, it must be noted. That lad is special. Meanwhile, the heartwarming recovery of Eduardo continues. He's engulfed by teammates at the corner flag, and rightly so. Good to see him getting his form back. Arsenal 1, Cardiff City 0

24 mins: Poor Bluebirds. The rout is surely on, as Cardiff's backline looks as stiff and useless as the Maginot Line. Arsenal appear to have no trouble getting 'round the back. This time, it's Vela again, but Eduardo can't control and shoot under pressure from Purse.

27 mins: Cardiff winger Paul Parry works hard for the money, so hard for it honey. He wins a corner off Sagna but makes a mess of the delivery, and it's time for the Gooners to play keepaway for the next 15 minutes.

28 mins: It's Nasri's turn to sting Heaton's palms, scurrying through the midfield and shooting from 25 yards, causing the goalie far more trouble than it should have.

30 mins: Some 6 or 7 minutes since Nicklas Bendtner offered anything of merit to proceedings, making me wonder if the poor fella's only gone and overrated himself with his own hype and bluster. Eduardo and Vela appear quite useful without him, it must be said.

32 mins: We are slowly entering into that lull that's commonplace in a game like this. Lukas Fabianski tries to avert the boredom by coming out some 35 yards from his line to shin the ball to safety. Gallas and Toure were both there to clear, but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun, would it?

34 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and it's the great, the epic, the legendary, the gargantuan Arsenal great, Nicklas Bendtner. He gets his broad Danish noggin on a fine inswinging corner by Nasri, directing it nicely inside the far post. He did well there, momentarily living up to his own billing in coming all the way across the area to outjump both Cardiff defenders to get on the end of that one. Arsenal 2, Cardiff City 0

38 mins: I've solved the audio problem by muting the bugger and enjoying some Gordon Ramsay on the TV at the same time. The day is truly complete; sumptuous, free-flowing football on the computer, and profane cookery on the telly.

Cardiff look shellshocked. They earned their big-money replay at Emirates, make no mistake, but they're horribly outmatched this evening. Ex-Gooner left-back Lee Dixon on the BBC reckons they're giving Arsenal too much respect, but could it be something much simpler, like a gulf in class? If I were an Arsenal fan (thankfully I'm not), I'd be watching this game in two minds: one greedily enjoying the quality of play from the team, the other wondering just where on earth these performances are week in, week out. Maybe I'm overanalyzing considering that they're playing Cardiff, but still.

45 mins: Tom Heaton is rather good. It makes me sick to think he'll end up back at Manchester United at some point. He saves twice from close range to deny Eduardo and Bendtner (related question: where on earth are Cardiff's center-backs?), although Nicklas does well to deny himself, hitting the post with Heaton sprawling and the goal wide open. Moron.

To recap: Eduardo's initial turn-and-shoot was parried to the Amazing Bendtner's feet, and with time to shoot, he sidefoots the ball against the post with Heaton stranded. Bendtner collects his own rebound and shoots again, by which time Heaton had recovered enough to make another diving save.

The ref's seen enough, and I'm surely not far behind.

HALF TIME: Arsenal 2, Cardiff City 0
One of the more deserved leads you'll ever see, although the wunderkind Bendtner must reconsider his own greatness after missing that sitter on the stroke of half-time.

Now to watch Gordon cook a chicken leg with bacon before the second half. Oh, and time to make some Bagel Bites, the official half-time snack of any self-respecting liveblogger.

The feed I'm watching has a rather wonderful half-time show, consisting of the two presenters, both sporting facial hair, beer guts, and the hangdog look that one develops through years of being hungover every single day, superimposed over highlights of the first half. It's glorious in its low budget, green-screen approach, and I applaud their minimal aesthetic. When compared to the sturm und drang graphics-gasms frequently provided by ESPN.

To elaborate further: the two men are perched atop bar stools some two feet apart, no table or podiums to lean on, and the lad with a mustache has a clipboard that he is fixated upon. Sportscasting 101: look at the f*cking camera. Still, they're better than JP Dellacamera.

They're back out and ready to kick off. NB is ready to atone for that ghastly miss with a second-half brace, surely. If Arsenal hold on, they'll play their fifth-round tie the same weekend that the quarter-finals are happening. Hilarious.

46 mins: Cardiff begin brightly with 40 seconds of possession in Arsenal's half, but order is quickly restored. Nasri whips in a free-kick from the left wing, but it's easily cleared. Expect the Gunners to pass Cardiff to death from here on out.

49 mins: The Edu-and-Vela Show continues, but this time, Carlos' low cross from the left is lacking in menace. Still, those two play a 1-2 better than anyone else at the moment. Are they twins? They play with the awareness of a pair separated at birth.

50 mins: For all their poetry in motion, it must be noted that there's still an ugly side to Arsenal's play, and it's ex-skipper William Gauloises. The Frenchman ploughs through Jay Bothroyd like a runaway train, picking up a yellow despite all his best "who, me?" gestures. It matters not, as the Bluebirds bugger up the free-kick. Based on this game so far, you'd think Lukas Fabianski has the easiest job in soccer.

54 mins: Lovely footwork by Vela gets him right through the Cardiff defense, as he skips inside and wrongfoots defender Roger Johnson, but Johnson recovers just in time to block Vela's shot.

57 mins: Don't look now, but it's a Cardiff counter-attack, and their first shot of the game! Jay Bothroyd gets a yard of space as Gallas plays back, and JB duly obliges. He skips to the top of the box and shoots well, forcing Fabianski to fall forward and smother. Be proud, Bluebirds fans... it only took 57 minutes.


GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and Eduardo converts the spot-kick he earned. He sends Heaton the wrong way after being shoved down by Gavin Rae. Cruise control now for Arsenal, although it's been like that since kick-off. Arsenal 3, Cardiff City 0

Wenger looks to be warming up and instructing a couple of subs... presumably Eduardo will be brought off to spare that ankle any potential distress. He's had a wonderful game, and the pairing of Vela and Edu is tough to defend. Why they don't play in the EPL together is anyone's guess.

65 mins: Free-kick Cardiff, in decent position: 25 yards out, just to the left of goal. Luke McCormack gives it a good effort and wins a corner as it deflects off the top of the wall.

Cardiff's best chance of the game, which was barely a chance at all. The outswinging corner found a Bluebird head in the area, and it took some scrambling by Sagna to get it clear. Fabianski didn't look interested in doing it himself.

Then, the Gunners surge down the other end. Eduardo turns his man inside out and puts it wide right for the Stupendous Bendtner. He beats his man round the back and puts a low cross in, but Eduardo can't finish.

It's his last bit of work, too, as he comes off to rapturous applause. He's back, Gooner fans.

Double sub for Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey and RvP on, replacing Nasri and Eduardo.

Cardiff then do the same, bringing off midfielder Paul Parry for Peter Whittingham, and Darcy Blake on for Darren Purse. The Cardiff skipper hasn't had a very good game.

70 mins: Cardiff are getting more possession in the Arsenal half, but it's to be expected when the home side have their fifth-round berth comfortably secured. Sagna breaks down the right wing and feeds the Marvelous Bendtner in the middle, but NB fouls in trying to spin past his marker. No-one at Emirates is surprised in the slightest.

73 mins: Kieran Gibbs snuffs out a one-man Cardiff break for goal, and the passes along the backline have begun. That's the mind-numbing stuff you don't normally see until the 85th minute.

Oh, I didn't see that first time. When Eduardo came off, he was limping slightly and headed right down the tunnel after coming off. I don't wish to be alarmist, but he could have taken a little knock.

Final Arsenal sub: Carlos Vela comes off after a wonderful shift, replaced by Amaury Bischoff.

Cardiff match Wenger with their final sub at the same time (they realize they can sub at any time, right?), removing Gavin "I'm sure he did well in midfield somewhere" Rae with the immortal/33-year-old Riccardo Scimeca, who played for Villa and Notts Forest back in the 90s.

77 mins: All sorts of sideways passing by Cardiff as they forage unsuccessfully for a consolation goal. They might have to make do with their share of the gate receipts, as they've looked rather useless up-front. I'd rather chalk it up to their ineptitude than the brilliance of Toure/Gauloises, because I think the latter to be impossible.

Pass-pass-pass-pass-sidefoot-pass by the Gooners ends with RvP getting the ball a shade offside (but no flag!), and his fierce shot is well covered by Heaton. The scoreline's a bit unfair to the Cardiff goalie, who's generally looked good despite the constant action in his area.

79 mins: Dear, oh dear. The Fantastic Bendter comes in an hour late on Kevin McNaughton, with both feet up (studs showing!) and catching the midfielder on his foot. Another yellow for the Gunners, and another black mark against the Godsent Bendtner, Our Lord's Gift to Football.

81 mins: Bischoff gets free on the left and just misses making it 4-0, whisking his shot across goal and past the far post. Heaton at full stretch looked to get a toe on it, but no corner.

83 mins: After that talk this morning (yes, I realize I'm beating a dead horse, but it's fun) by Nicklas, aside from that goal and hilarious miss, all he's managed to do is get himself booked for a shocking challenge, and that's about it. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to open my mouth at work about how brilliant I am, I'm not going to follow-through by sleeping at my desk and shitting my pants. The statement and the action just doesn't correlate.

86 mins: The Outstanding Bendtner is in the thick of it again, sliding in to Heaton's gut and introducing his studs to the goalie's pancreas. RvP put him clean through with a neat pass, but it was too heavy and close to the goalkeeper, but it wasn't going to stop our favourite Dane! The ref gives him the benefit of the doubt, but really, he was nowhere near collecting that one. Bit lucky, in my opinion.

87 mins: It's all happening now! Sagna sprints from box-to-box, as only Sagna can, and goes down in the Cardiff box, but not much of a penalty shout.

88 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and The Wonderful Bendtner atones for his recent fouling. He puts Robin van Persie through the middle with a lovely pass, and RvP slots home past a helpless Heaton. Bit unfair at this point, as Cardiff have shown some guts in the last 20 minutes. Arsenal 4, Cardiff City 0

90 mins: Two minutes of stoppage time to come, not that it'll matter. A great, confidence-building display by Arsenal today, as Vela and Eduardo turned on the style this evening and things went very much according to plan.

90 mins + 2: Could have been 5! The Peerless Bendtner floats a ball to the far post, and RvP heads wide from 6 yards out. He stands frozen for a moment, stunned by his own profligacy.

FULL TIME: Arsenal 4, Cardiff City 0
That'll do. Wenger must be encouraged by the performance tonight, and he must be close to starting Carlos Vela regularly. With all that offensive firepower, he's going to have a hard time fitting them all in. Can Vela play left-back?

Goodnight all, thanks for following along. I'm all Gooner'd out.


The NY Kid said...

we could theoretically play Gibbs, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere and Bischoff at the same time in this match.

Crazy kids.

The NY Kid said...

It's not like anything ever happens in the first 5 minutes!

Oops. 3 great saves from the Cardiff keeper already.

Lingering Bursitis said...

They were in the 6th and 7th minutes, jerkoff

The NY Kid said...

hey, my feed is so tiny I can't see the time.

Andrew said...

In class, can't get TV feed, relying solely on liveblog. Make it good, LB, like you always do.

The NY Kid said...

EDUARDO! Welcome back, boy!

Andrew said...


The lad came in when Henry went, Eddie Eddie
He's scored more goals than Darren Bent
Eddie Eddie
He broke his leg but now he's back and Darren Bent still is cack
Eduardo Silva, Arsenal's number nine

Lingering Bursitis said...

Cheers Andrew, I'll do my best!

Lingering Bursitis said...

Andrew: I think you've stolen the Fernando Torres song. Please give it back.

The NY Kid said...

@LB - the ManUre supporters were singing a version yesterday as well

Andrew said...

@LB: sorry, forgot to put the copyright in: courtesy of Liverpool FC, LLC

Lingering Bursitis said...

Cheers Andy, good lad

The NY Kid said...

shit. Bendnter scores and now there's no stopping his ego

Andrew said...

Bendtner? Lad's a god, should start every game. I wish someone would speak up and say so.

Andrew said...

Of course Nasri is involved in the goal. Him and Vela as wingers/attacking mids are phenomenal. Wenger must start thinking about starting both in the Prem.

And I just remembered that we're playing Cardiff, so we'll look good regardless.

The NY Kid said...

Gordon Ramsey is an absolute twat, and I love him for it.

The NY Kid said...

what a travesty - one of the French announcers on my feed just said "Le keeper" instead of "Le gardien (de but)", that anglicizing bastard.

The NY Kid said...

WTF just happened there? oh, Nicklas, hitting the post with an open goal. You are truly one of the greats.

Andrew said...

LB: I'm of those two minds; I know it's Cardiff, but scoring goals always boosts a teams morale. And if anything, it may encourage the first teamers to work harder while on the pitch.

Nathaniel said...

nowhere else but on UF would i see the term "anglicizing bastard."

god, i love Unprofessional Foul.

and more pics of Jaciara Dias, please.

GeneralGametime said...

My feed is currently showing an ad for Aston Villa TV. I believe my computer is taunting me.

Lingering Bursitis said...

NY Kid: it was one of the better misses you'll see all year.

Andrew: Arsenal are constantly like this, or so it seems. Brilliance when it perhaps matters least. I just don't get it.

Nathaniel: we'll gladly give you more pictures, although the fucker turned down that Playboy shoot! We'll keep searching.

General: that is the cruelest punishment.

The NY Kid said...

oh, good. Highlights of Tim Cahill's incredibly shitty goal. I hate that man.

Andrew said...

Bendtner misses a wide-open net and then botches the rebound? Rafa attention has been piqued.

Andrew said...

LB: I'll see your "sturm und drang" and raise you a "Gotterdammerung."


Lingering Bursitis said...

Andrew: well done. Shit. I am lost for words, which is not good if I'm going to keep going for the second half!

The NY Kid said...

Gotterdammerung always reminds me of the Bugs Bunny "Kill the Wabbit" opera

MoonshineMike said...

it's good to see Eduardo back!

Andrew said...

Apology: I got my iconic German literary heroes mixed up. I should've done /Wagner'd. My bad.

The NY Kid said...

When he's open, he hits the post
Nick-las, Nicklas
He still thinks that he's the most
Nick-las, Nicklas
He should start in every match
Tho he has sand inside his snatch
Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal's twenty-six!

Lingering Bursitis said...

Absolutely brilliant, NYK. I am amazed that it came from you.

The NY Kid said...

because it's against a Gooner, or because I'm an idiot incapable of putting together an applicable song?

Oh, and if you want shitty tackling from Frenchmen, watch PSG. Makelele picked up his 132 YC of the season this weekend (and deserved a RC)

Andrew said...

@NYK: Don't take that from LB. I'd like to make those songs for every Gooner. Except Eboue. Fuck that guy.

Lingering Bursitis said...

NYK: I kid, I kid. Where's that Gallic sense of humour?!

The NY Kid said...

Gallic sense of humour?

You are aware that my people enjoy Jerry Lewis, yes?

Lingering Bursitis said...

I used to enjoy Claude Makelele in the EPL. He was a one-man circus: ringleader, clown, and liontamer.

The NY Kid said...

oh boy, Cardiff give up the PK by bowling over Eduardo.

FOR THE BRACE! Welcome back, indeed.

At 3-0, I am off to travel home. If I get there and find that Cardiff have pulled off a miracle, I am kicking Bendtner in the baby-maker.

Andrew said...

Eduardo with the PK? Why not Bendtner?

Oh. Yeah. That's right.

Andrew said...

I'd love to see the interplay between Vela-Eddie in the Prem. The images are dancing in my head. So much more interesting than this political research class.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Andrew: the continual non-use of Vela with Eduardo is almost Benitez-esque on Wenger's part. He must know something we don't.

MoonshineMike said...

Bursitis, Wegner knows we *want* to see Eudardo/Vela, and he's denying us until we sing his praises some more.

Andrew said...

I'll take Eddie with one foot over Bendtner with two.

Not worried about the knack, I'm sure its just some soreness leftover from last week.


Andrew said...

God's Gift to Football (GGtF) plays for a good (note: I didn't say great) team in the best league in Europe, he's the starting striker for his national team, he lives in the world's greatest city where he makes shit-ton cream, and he's only twenty-one. He's a fratboy. I'm not an apologist for his remarks, but everything that comes out his mouth should be taken with a HAH-UGE grain of salt.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Andrew: fair enough, but the daft bastard needs to keep a lid on it, especially when that team isn't doing as well as it should be. His comments were bone-headed, and he's looking at a long spell on the bench now that Wenger brought in Arshavin.

Andrew said...

LB: Agreed. Wenger needs to form a good core for the coming years, and I don't see Bendtner in that core (except maybe, MAYBE, as a winger on the right). I'm all for getting rid of NB, what with Arshavin, Vela, Nasri, and Walcott all better equipped to play the winnger/striker role than Our Boy. But, yes, with team morale potentially a problem, NB needs to shut his mouth.

Andrew said...

Much thanks, LB, for the liveblog.

Lingering Bursitis said...

You're welcome, Andrew!

Re: Bendtner
Don't convert a striker to a right-winger. It's a disaster waiting to happen, akin to the Kuyt Theorem. (although to be fair, he has made a space for himself on the right due to his high workrate, and that's something Bendtner doesn't have.)

Andrew said...

The Kuyt Theorem? This is something that should be explored. I smell blog-post!

jjf3 said...

Holy Crap...

Is Gabrielle Marcotti on Setanta the same guy whose picture is posted on his occasional posts, or was that photo from like 15 years ago?? Jebus, I dropped nearly 50 pounds over 2 years, and then gained 15 back in the year since, and I don't have that kind of swing in visual images...

Adam said...

Andrew, RE: Arsenal jerseys to get
I now vote Eduardo, I was thinking about a Nasri, but might have to change that.