By Richard Clarke
Goals from Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal safe passage to the FA Cup Fourth Round with a 2-0 win at Burnley on Sunday.
The Croatian completed a cool finish after only nine minutes, his sixth goal in his last four starts for the Club. The Championship side did have their moments in a highly-competitive first half but their challenge faded on the hour after Kyle Lafferty received a straight red card for a foul on Gilberto.
Fifteen minutes from time, Bendtner ended the argument when he danced around the keeper and slotted home.
Saturday had seen a number of FA Cup shocks but, if Burnley had pulled off a win this afternoon, it would have dominated the back pages for days.
That was never really on after Eduardo's strike. Arsenal were competent, composed and controlled as, once again, they avoided this perennial banana skin.
They march on.
Wenger had said his side would be "a mixture" and he was good as his word. Only three were retained from the starting XI against West Ham on New Year's Day. Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure were playing their last game before going to African Nations Cup. Eduardo was asked to continue his striking success over the festive period.
The Croatian's partner was Bendtner, who was back from suspension. Gilberto and Denilson formed an all-Brazilian central midfield while Armand Traore came in at left back for only his second start in this competition. Johan Djourou named on the bench for the first time since returning from his loan spell at Birmingham. He was joined there by two Carling Cup wannabees - Mark Randall, 18, and Henri Lansbury, 17.
Burnley had been struggling in the Championship under new manager Owen Coyle recently but Turf Moor was buzzing with anticipation for Arsenal's first visit in over 30 years.
And the Clarets nearly took the lead with their opening attack in the fifth minute. Andy Gray escaped down the right-hand side and crossed to the far post where Lafferty arrived to power a header against the bar. The ball bounced down and Arsenal scrambled it away but the effort could only go down as a major let-off for the visitors.
Wenger's men had hardly settled but, in the ninth minute, they snaffled the opening goal. It was not a clear-cut chance. Toure's chipped pass forward sent Eduardo through but the bobbling ball would not come down and the 24-year-old was being pursued by a couple of Burnley defenders. However the Croatian is fast becoming the coolest finisher in the top flight. He took his time before tapping a trickling shot past Gabor Kiraly and just inside the upright
It was harsh on Burnley but you don't always get what you deserve in FA Cup football. They responded with what you would expect - gusto. Gray threaded a shot through and then Robbie Blake thundered a drive over the bar. However you sensed that Arsenal were relatively comfortable with the situation. They expected the home side's onslaught and were confident they could cope with it. They were also causing the home side some problems on the break.
In the 20th minute, Arsenal might have grabbed a second when Gilberto met Denilson's corner with a stooping header. It deflected towards Graham Alexander at the near post and he scrambled the ball off the line.
Burnley continued to pressure but the visitors continued to enjoy the best opportunities. Most of them fell to Eboue on the right. He hammered the best chance over the bar midway through the half and then he nearly flicked the ball past Kiraly from close-range.
Eight minutes from the break, Traore dallied over his clearance at the far post and Wade Elliot harried him into a mistake. Chris McCann blazed his effort over the bar when he should have done better.
Kiraly saved Bendtner's overhead kick just before half-time and, at the interval, Arsenal were content.
They should have all but completed the victory six minutes after the restart when Bendtner found Eduardo unmarked 12 yards out. It was a much more straightforward opportunity than the ones he had netted recently against Everton, West Ham and earlier this afternoon. However he steered an inexplicable shot a yard wide.
Burnley might have responded in the best fashion when Blake's free-kick picked out the unmarked McCann at the far post but, wastefully, he nodded over the bar from six yards out.
The Clarets were perhaps exercising their last throw of the dice. Certainly Lafferty gambled and lost on the hour when he caught Gilberto on the knee with a nasty-looking challenge. Referee Alan Wiley had little option but to send off the Northern Irish international.
The dismissal only fuelled a match that was already starting to boil. Senderos nodded Elliot's cross off the head of Gray as the Burnley striker threatened at the far post.
However, 15 minutes from time, Arsenal made the game safe. Eduardo exploited gaping holes in the Burnley defence to feed Bendtner. The Dane skipped around the keeper and tucked his shot past Kiraly.
Burnley were now a spent force. Two goals and one man down, they failed to mount a response.
Arsenal held on with comfort. But, in a straightforward afternoon, they had barely been out of their comfort zone from the moment Eduardo had given them the advantage.
- Traore 71
- Bendtner Goal!
- Eduardo Goal!
- Hoyte 71
- Caldwell Yellow Card
- O'Connor 76
- Lafferty Red Card
- Gray 79
- Blake 79
- Gudjonsson 76
- Akinbiyi 79
- Jones 79