Thursday, 26 September 2013

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal: Nicklas Bendtner stars as young Gunners hold nerve in dramatic penalty shootout win

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal: Nicklas Bendtner stars as young Gunners hold nerve in dramatic penalty shootout win

Wenger's inexperienced side were held by the Baggies but held their nerve to set up Chelsea clash in League Cup's last 16
Eis man: Thomas Eisfeld scores the opening goal
Eis man: Thomas Eisfeld scores the opening goal
Arsene Wenger saluted Nicklas Bendtner after the striker returned from the wilderness to help set up a home Capital One Cup fourth round tie with Chelsea.
Bendtner was back in Arsenal’s starting line-up for the first time in over two years.
After being loaned to Sunderland and Juventus, the Dane was also close to joining Crystal Palace on deadline day. But the deal collapsed and ­Bendtner was back in the thick of it last night as the Gunners won a penalty shoot-out.
He threw himself into the match – literally, as he charged into a goalpost going for a Ryo Miyaichi cross.
But he recovered to lay on the Gunners’ opener for Thomas Eisfeld with a clever pass in the 61st minute. Saido Berahino headed in an equaliser 10 minutes later from Shane Long’s cross to take the tie into extra time.
And, after Albion spurned two great chances, the visitors progressed on spot-kicks having watched Bendtner coolly convert their first attempt.
Kristoffer Olsson, Chuba Akpom and Nacho Monreal also scored from the spot while Craig Dawson and Morgan Amalfitano blew the Baggies’ last two kicks.
Delighted boss Wenger said: “Nicklas overall had a good game for a guy who has not played for so long.
“He did very well on his own up front for nearly two hours. He showed heart and he has quality to come back as well.
“I don’t question too much his confidence.
“For Bendtner the most ­important thing is to stay fit physically because he has the talent.
“I know him well. It’s important he is consistently present and works hard. He has top qualities.”
Wenger saw midfielder Eisfeld score his first senior goal for the club and fellow youngsters Olsson and Akpom net penalties.
He added: “I am very proud, we had many young players. They showed they are good players and can fight as well.
“I decided to go for young players on the penalties and they coped well with the pressure.”
Wenger rested Jack Wilshere and was without the influential injured trio of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski.
Walcott is not expected back until after next month's international break following minor abdominal surgery.
In their absence, keeper Lukasz Fabianski had to play well to deny Dawson and Steven Reid in the first half.
And the Gunners were ­fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men when Isaac Hayden clattered Youssouf Mulumbu with a late challenge.
Fabianski was called into action again in the 60th minute with a brilliant one-handed save from Mulumbu.
Arsenal scored just a minute later. Bendtner made the goal with a precision pass to split the defence for Eisfeld to score in front of the away fans.
But Albion were level when ­Berahino headed in Irishman Long’s cross.
It then took a brilliant tackle on Bendtner, when clean through, by Dawson to thwart the Dane in normal time.
Albion looked the more likely to win it in extra time as on-loan substitute ­Amalfitano hit the bar with a rasping shot.
Fellow sub Markus ­Rosenburg had a goalbound shot cleared by Per Mertesacker after rounding Fabianski.
But the Gunners prevailed to set up an exciting home tie with London rivals Chelsea.

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