TOTTENHAM (1) vs ARSENAL (4)
AET, 1-1 after 90 mins
ARSENAL schemer Samir Nasri conquered his spot-kick superstition to smash two extra-time penalties and earn the Gunners cup revenge over bitter rivals Tottenham.
Nasri’s double within five minutes proved the killer blow long before Andrey Arshavin’s fourth, after Robbie Keane had dragged Spurs back into contention by cancelling out Henri Lansbury’s opener.
But the Frenchman only agreed to take the first penalty after manager Arsene Wenger told him to abandon his habit of refusing to take spot-kicks that he had earned himself.
“He had a superstition to think that when a penalty is made on you not to take it,” said Wenger. “But I tried to prove to him that that’s solely based on fear. He realises now that it was a bad superstition.”
The Gunners dropped two valuable points at Sunderland after Tomas Rosicky missed a penalty that Nasri had won but declined to take.
“I provoked the foul and then I didn’t take the penalty,” Nasri recalled. “But after I talked with the boss and said, ‘Next time I will take the penalty’, and I scored.”
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp accused Nasri of diving for the spot-kick, which came in the first minute of extra-time after a challenge from Sebastien Bassong. “I thought the first one was harsh,” said the Spurs boss. “He fell over. Really I think he dived for the first penalty.”
Wenger, who watched the third-round clash from the stands after accepting a one-match ban for improper conduct, showed a rare appetite for the competition by naming a strong side. It paid off, as a callow Spurs side tired and allowed Arsenal to avenge the 5-1 Carling Cup thrashing they received at White Hart Lane three seasons ago.
An injury to Kieran Gibbs was the only negative for Wenger, who revealed the young left-back had hurt a metatarsal, sparking a fears of a repeat of the foot problem that sidelined him for most of last season.
Youth team product Lansbury, the only reserve in Wenger’s starting line-up, met a fizzing low cross from the superb Jack Wilshere to slide the first on 15 minutes. Just after half-time substitute Keane escaped the offside flag to gather a Kyle Naughton pass and slot an equaliser past Lukasz Fabianski, who ought to have saved.
But Nasri’s brace dealt Spurs a blow they never recovered from and Arshavin rifled a smart fourth after a quick free-kick.