Goals from Fran Merida and Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal a 2-1 win over Liverpool in their Carling Cup fourth round encounter at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Victory in the entertaining affair between two of the Premiership’s “Big Four” means Arsenal have qualified for the quarterfinals of this competition for a seventh straight season.
While Arsenal’s Carling Cup runs during previous years have seen more youth in the lineup for matches, last night’s game featured a side more balanced with some veteran first-teamers recovering from injuries. That number included Bendtner, whose effort in minute 50 broke a 1-1 deadlock and provided the final margin.
Merida opened the scoring just before the 20-minute mark of an open and exciting first half. Kerrea Gilbert broke up a Liverpool clearance, and the Spaniard collected at the edge of the box before turning to deliver a brilliant, left-footed strike past keeper Diego Cavalieri.
Liverpool’s Emiliano Insua equalized not long after, with his own superb long-range effort that Lukasz Fabianski couldn’t keep out of the net. That left things level at 1-1 at halftime, although Arsenal had more of the chances on goal before the break, including a couple during a goalmouth scramble after a corner that were each blocked.
With the Bendtner goal coming early in the second period, Liverpool did have chances to level again, but Arsenal were able to hold on and thus hand ‘Pool its fifth loss in six games.
“I believe overall it was a game of top quality with two teams who really went for it,” said manager Arsene Wenger in his post-match interview from http://www.arsenal.com. “You had the quality of the passing, sometimes the ball was played through a very short space but at a high pace.
“Liverpool came back to 1-1 and we still managed to win the game. That shows as well we have mental resources,” added the manager. “It was more of a European Cup night than a Carling Cup night, quality wise. We have seen two very, very good teams who play at the top level.”
Asked about goalscorer Merida in the interview, Wenger responded: “He is a quality player and he comes from a very good school (in Spain). I believe we had some top quality on the pitch in midfield, and in that kind of game that is very important. … He came (to Arsenal) at a very young age but our school is on line with the way he was educated, and he shows perfectly the way we want to play football.”
“I scored my first goal for the club so I am really happy and also because the team won against a really tough side,” said Merida, who recently returned from the U-20 World Cup with Spain. “The Carling Cup is really important for young players. We have to show what we can do and also enjoy it because we don’t get many first-team games.
“We know that it will be a really tough cup because there are some strong teams left in the competition,” added the Spaniard in an interview from the club’s official site. “There is no one to fear because we can beat anyone.”