By Declan Taylor
Arsenal strolled into the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round after a hat-trick from substitute Gilles Sunu secured a comfortable victory against Wolves at Underhill on Tuesday night.
The Frenchman replaced the injured Rhys Murphy just after the half-hour mark and set about dismantling the visiting defence with a series of cool finishes.
Just before the interval he thundered home a corner from close range and two clinical second-half strikes put the tie to bed.
The only blot on an otherwise spotless copy-book was provided by Wolves striker Sam Winnal four minutes from time. Despite being the smallest man on the pitch, the striker rose highest at a corner to glance a header past James Shea.
Record-breaking Jack Wilshere was deployed in the ‘Bergkamp role’ just behind lone striker Murphy who had notched twice in the victory at Aston Villa in the Third Round. However it would be a night to forget for the England Under-19 marksman, who left the field on a stretcher with a serious ankle injury.
The recent sub-zero temperatures had made way for a slightly soggier North London evening and a healthy serving of rain, in the lead up to kick off, provided a perfect surface for passing.
And in the early exchanges, both sides took full advantage.
Lansbury had already gone close for the hosts before Wolves dangerman Winnal had the visitors’ most notable chance of the half. But, after beating Arsenal’s high line, the diminutive striker could not beat Shea from an acute angle.
That would be the best it would get for the visitors in a thoroughly entertaining first half.
Almost immediately, a typical Arsenal breakaway led by Lansbury, was delivered to Murphy. The striker burst into the box but, under heavy pressure from two Wolves defenders, prodded his shot past the upright.
Emmanuel Frimpong, who had twice tried his luck from distance either side of the 20-minute mark, was next to shave the post after he latched onto a superb Wilshere through-ball.
Arsenal were beginning to turn the screw but they could have been forgiven for being knocked out of their stride after Murphy’s withdrawal 15 minutes before the break.
That was not to be the case.
In fact it was Muprhy’s replacement, Sunu, a scorer against Wolves in a League fixture back in August, who would finally provide the telling blow within minutes of his introduction.
One of many Arsenal corners, this time swung in by Wilshere, caused mayhem among the Wolves backline and Sunu, with his back to goal, swivelled to fire high into Richard Woolley’s net from close range. It was the least Bould’s boys deserved.
Wolves were fortunate to go into the interval only one down as Lansbury, Wilshere, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Sunu all spurned chances during the lengthy stoppage time.
Wolves started the second half with renewed vigour and the Gunners were lucky to emerge unscathed after a quickfire trio of golden opportunities for the lively Winnall.
But as the visitors pressed in search of an unlikely equaliser, Arsenal delivered a glorious sucker-punch.
Wilshere’s cute flick on the halfway line was collected by Lansbury, who powered down the line and into the box before delivering low to the waiting Sunu. The Frenchman shook off the attention of his marker before slotting past Woolley from eight yards. It was a goal that Arsène Wenger’s seniors would have been proud of.
Arsenal were now firing at will and the substitute would not have long to wait for his hat-trick. This time, Frimpong’s through-ball and Sunu’s run were both inch-perfect and the latter made no mistake with only the keeper to beat from 12 yards.
With time ebbing away for the visitors, Winnal got his deserved goal but it was nothing more than a consolation.
Onwards, and indeed upwards, to Sunderland, who prevailed in extra time at Preston. Bould will be especially pleased - the Arsenal legend counts the Black Cats among his old clubs.
- Frimpong 80
- Murphy 35
- Watt 80
- Sunu 35 Goal! Goal! Goal!
Wolverhampton W. Res
- Reckford 78
- Hemmings 73
- Winnall Goal!
- Malone 78
- Mendez-Laing 73