Football: Eduardo Back With A Bang For Arsenal In FA Cup
Posted February 17, 2009on:
LONDON : Arsenal forward Eduardo made a triumphant return after his injury nightmare as the Croatian’s double clinched a 4-0 win over Cardiff in Monday’s FA Cup fourth round replay.
Eduardo last played for the Gunners 358 days ago when he fractured his leg and ankle in a challenge with Birmingham’s Martin Taylor, but all the long, painful hours of rehabilitation will seem worthwhile after his inspired performance booked a fifth round clash at home to Burnley.
The 25-year-old was just beginning to hit his best form for Arsene Wenger’s team before the horrific injury at St Andrews nearly a year ago.
It was as though he had never been away.
Showing remarkably little rust, Eduardo scored the opener midway through the first half and added his second with a penalty after Nicklas Bendtner had doubled Arsenal’s lead. Robin van Persie hit the fourth to complete Cardiff’s misery.
With Eduardo back and a winnable home quarter-final against Hull or Sheffield United awaiting the Gunners if they beat Burnley, Arsenal have a golden opportunity to reach the semi-finals.
There has been little cause for optimism around the Emirates of late as Arsenal face up to the unappetising prospect of fighting to secure a Champions league place.
So Eduardo’s return was perfectly timed. He had played for Croatia in midweek but this was his first start since the injury and his name was cheered to the rafters by the Arsenal faithful before kick-off.
Spirits clearly lifted, Arsenal tore into their Championship opponents.
Carlos Vela caused havoc in the Cardiff defence with a surging run and shot that Tom Heaton could only parry out to Bendtner. To his credit, Heaton recovered quickly to block as Bendtner tried to side-foot home the rebound.
After months of spluttering displays, Arsenal were rediscovering the verve that usually marks their play. Kieran Gibbs whipped a deep cross to William Gallas and the Arsenal defender’s header forced Heaton to save with an outstretched leg.
Cardiff were creaking and Eduardo’s crowning moment arrived in the 20th minute. He started the move with a pass to Vela, who delicately chipped into the penalty area and Eduardo timed his run perfectly to plant a header past Heaton.
It was Eduardo’s first goal since February 2 last year and no-one could begrudge him an extravagant celebration as he slide on his knees and punched the air.
Heaton, on loan from Manchester United, looked increasingly nervous as Arsenal went for the kill. He spilled Samir Nasri’s powerful strike and could only watch as the ball trickled just wide.
Cardiff, FA Cup finalists last season, had travelled to north London confident of claiming a famous win after pushing Arsenal hard at Ninian Park.
But this was one occasion when the phrase ‘men against boys’ could be used in praise of the boys.
Wenger’s side had a youthful look even by his standards but they completely outclassed Cardiff’s collection of battle-hardened journeymen and scored again in the 34th minute.
Nasri curled over a corner and Bendtner out-jumped three defenders to power his header past Heaton.
Bendtner should have got a third before half-time but he somehow hit the post with his first effort before directing the rebound straight at Heaton.
Eduardo wasn’t content with just one goal however. He won a 60th minute penalty with a slightly theatrical tumble after Gavin Rae’s challenge and picked himself up to send Heaton the wrong way from the spot.
A smart stop from Heaton denied Eduardo his hat-trick and he departed to a standing ovation after 66 minutes.
Van Persie came on for Eduardo and stroked home a clinical strike in the 89th minute but all the attention rightly remained on the Croatian.
Revised draw for the FA Cup quarter-finals after Monday’s match between Arsenal and Cardiff:
Blackburn or Coventry v Chelsea
Swansea or Fulham v Manchester United
Arsenal or Burnley v Sheffield United or Hull
Everton v West Ham or Middlesbrough
Ties to be played on the weekend of March 7-8.
– AFP /ls
Channel News Asia