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Arsenal 2 - 0 Wigan Athletic: match report

1 - 0 Alcaraz og 41'
2 - 0 Bendtner 67'

Arsenal advanced to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup with a convincing win over a hopeless Wigan at the Emirates yesterday afternoon.  An own goal from a Theo Walcott corner shortly before the half and a Nicklas Bendtner strike from a Carlos Vela cross ensured the Gunners' advancement.

The game began brightly for Arsenal, as Robin van Persie (excellent on the night playing as a sort of attacking midfielder/withdrawn forward/carousel driver) swung in a free kick that Nicklas Bendtner meant to head in, only he did not actually head the ball.  After that opening flurry, things slowed down for a while as Wigan slowed the pace of the game, actually dominating possession for long stretches of time even as it looked like they weren't really interested in attacking.

The Latics eventually settled into a pattern of shuffling the ball around the back until someone had space enough to loft it diagonally towards left winger Victor Moses, who managed to beat Emmanuel Eboué around the corner at one point only to find the side netting.  Arsenal then won a free kick on 12 minutes, only for Denilson to attempt to score from 35 yards.  Instead, somehow, he hit the two-man wall.

Arsenal continued to struggle linking together the final bits of attack, but gradually they exerted total influence over the match as the half continued.  van Persie lashed in another long free kick on 19 minutes which Bendtner did get to this time, but his header was off-target from a very tight angle.  Arsenal managed to create a series of little chances over the next seven minutes, and then a big one hit.

van Persie, with his back to net, accepted a pass from deep, which he backheeled through his marker's legs and directly into the path of a free Carlos Vela.  Vela, as he does, tried to chip the keeper, only to watch his shot spin and bounce about six inches wide of the post.  It was a miss made all the more horrible because it came at the end of pure magic from van Persie, a cracked note in the "Penny Lane" piccolo trumpet solo that was the build up play.

What chances Wigan had came mostly from Arsenal getting caught on the ball, Denilson and Johan Djourou guilty of this (Djourou mainly because nobody told him someone was coming from behind).  Wojciech Szczesny was up to the task, though.  In the 37th minute, Moses went down with what appeared to be a shoulder or arm injury, and had to leave the game.  Charles N'Zogbia replaced him.

Arsenal should have had an easy chance to go up 1-0 a couple of minutes later as van Persie was about to chest down in the box only to have Maynor Figueroa handle the ball in the box.  No penalty was given, though, and the match remained scoreless.  For another three minutes.

Arsenal won a corner after some good attacking play from Kieran Gibbs, Walcott swung it across perfectly, and Wigan skipper Antolin Alcaraz headed it directly into his own net.  A strange goal to concede, but 1-0 it was going into halftime.

Just after the restart, van Persie crumpled in a heap after a contested header, and Arsenal fans all thought the worst as the physios ran onto the pitch.  Thankfully he had only knocked his head pretty well, and continued playing brilliantly as he had in the first half.  The Arsenal front four kept switching places and sides, keeping the Wigan defenders slightly off-balance.  The second breakthrough finally came twenty minutes in as van Persie found Vela alone in space on the left, the Mexican lashed in a low cross, and for the first time in a while, Bendtner was there to slide in and steer the ball home.  2-0 to the Arsenal.

More chances came as Arsenal began to find through balls, but none were finished.  Changes rang on minute 72, Craig Eastmond and Samir Nasri on for van Persie and Jack Wilshere.  Both Walcott and Nasri came very close to increasing Arsenal's advantage, but the game eventually petered out with 2-0 the final, and Arsenal into the semifinals for the fifth time in eight years (according to Orbinho), more than any team in that same timeframe.  With Manchester United losing 4-0 to West Ham United, Arsenal are probably favorites to take the whole schmear now.