By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Nicklas Bendtner fired a hat-trick as Arsenal brushed aside Leyton Orient to set up a mouthwatering FA Cup Quarter-Final tie with Manchester United.
Arsène Wenger’s challenge for the Carling Cup may have ended in disappointing fashion but they are alive and kicking in England’s other knockout competition.
A Bendtner brace and Marouane Chamakh’s first goal since November put the home side in control in the first half. The Dane completed the second treble of his Arsenal career from the penalty spot on the hour. Then, 15 minutes from time, Gael Clichy fired home only his second goal in 255 games for the Club.
It was nothing more than we expected but, all the same, it was welcome catharsis after Sunday.
Arsenal have massive games with Sunderland and Barcelona in the next seven days. Games which, like last Sunday, could shape their season.
After tonight, they are clearly on the way back.
Having debuted Ignasi Miguel in the game at Brisbane Road, Wenger chose to give Conor Henderson a bow in the return game this evening.
The 19-year-old is a former Irish youth international and a current Reserve team regular. He took his place on the left of midfield.
In fact there were only three changes from the game at Brisbane Road. Henderson for Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboue for Bacary Sagna. Meanwhile Alex Song dropped out and Abou Diaby returned after a month out through suspension and a calf injury.
Ignasi reprised his role alongside Sebastien Squillaci at centre back. Tomas Rosicky was the only survivor from Wembley at the weekend.
In the first game, Leyton Orient, like Birmingham, had caught Arsenal late.
But in the circumstances this replay was welcome. After Sunday, Wenger’s men needed to get themselves going again as soon as possible. Manchester United’s defeat at Chelsea the previous night had put them back in control of their title bid once more. And, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side also lay in wait in the last eight.
It was a bitterly cold North London night but Arsenal’s start was sparky and they quickly put themselves in front. Diaby’s early drive was charged down then, in the seventh minute, Rosicky raced to the byline and cut the ball back for Chamakh to sweep home a shot.
It was the Moroccan’s first goal since the Premier League trip to Aston Villa on November 27.
Orient responded with all the valour we had seen in the first game. Ben Chorley’s shot hit team-mate Scott McGleish in a crowded area and deflected over the bar. Then Alex Revell steered a shot wide at the near post.
Russell Slade’s side had lost only one game in four months - and you could tell why. Committed and organised, they made it hard for Arsenal, who seemed happy to soak up the visitors’ energy and make their quality tell when they could.
And, on the half-hour, they did.
Kieran Gibbs whipped in a cross to the far side of the six-yard box where Bendtner looped a header back across goal and beyond the outstretched hands of Orient keeper Jamie Jones.
Arsenal were in control. Now they just had to keep it that way in order to reach the last eight.
Meanwhile that second goal seemed to deflate Orient and a little slackness would gift the home side a third on the stroke of half-time. The visitors took a throw to Thomas Carroll on the right but he was robbed by Rosicky. The midfielder’s prod fell to Bendtner, who cut inside and blasted his cross-shot beyond Jones.
It appeared that game was now beyond his team aswell.
Within five minutes of the restart, Denilson had thumped a long shot into the chest of Jones then Diaby played a one-two with Chamakh but dragged his shot just beyond the far post.
Orient tried to respond but, on the hour, it was 4-0. Gibbs weaved inside Andrew Whing but was hauled down by Revell. Bendtner fired home his hat-trick goal from the spot.
The goal allowed Wenger to make a change. Rosicky had been brought down before the penalty incident. After it, he walked gingerly round the pitch and down the tunnel. Samir Nasri came on.
Shortly afterwards, the manager replaced Diaby and Bendtner with Jack Wilshere and Clichy.
Sixteen minutes from time, the latter would plunder a fifth. Eboue's cross was dummied by Chamakh and Clichy rifled home. It was his first goal since November 2008.
From there, Arsenal hit the button marked ‘cruise control’. Orient went close in injury time when Dean Cox thundered a shot just wide but Wilshere and Nasri spurned similar efforts in the dying minutes.
This was just what Arsenal needed. A safe, controlled victory in which the goals will have bred confidence as much as the clean-sheet at the back.
Now they must build again on this foundation.
- Almunia (C)
- Diaby 66 Yellow Card
- Chamakh Goal!
- Rosicky 62
- Bendtner 66 Goal! Goal! Goal!
- Nasri 62
- Clichy 66 Goal! Yellow Card
- Wilshere 66
- Cox Yellow Card
- Chorley Yellow Card
- McGleish 65
- Crowe 65
- Revell 79
- Spring 65
- M'Poku 79
- Tehoue 65