By Chris Harris
Manuel Almunia was preparing for penalties at the Reebok Stadium last night.
The Spanish goalkeeper is no stranger to shoot-outs after performing heroics in Cup ties at Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers in the past two seasons. Almunia was ready to step into the spotlight once again before two extra-time goals took Arsenal past Bolton Wanderers in their FA Cup Fourth-Round replay.
"At the start of the second half of extra time I was thinking about penalties a little bit," revealed Almunia. "I was remembering other seasons when I saved penalties in Cup matches and I was preparing my mind for another shoot-out.
"Then Freddie Ljungberg and [Emmanuel] Adebayor scored.
"It was a fantastic game for us," he added. "The team played very well throughout but we missed two penalties and that made it hard for us. We had to recover our performance when they equalised. We knew Bolton would put a lot of balls into our penalty area but we defended well and we were very happy afterwards.
"In the first half I think one more goal for us would have finished the game off because we were in control. We expected Bolton to be much more aggressive in the second half and get more balls into the box. I knew I would have to make a few saves and that's what happened, but I was happy with my performance."
Almunia has kept goal admirably throughout Arsenal's Cup runs this season. He is almost certain to start the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea next week and, with Liverpool and Bolton out of the way in the FA Cup, the Spaniard's intentions are clear for the rest of the season.
"I expect to play more games in the FA Cup, get to the Final, play in the Final and win the Final," he said. "All the teams want to get there because the new Wembley is very important for England and the English people. This year is a big one for the FA Cup."
You can read the full interview with Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal v Blackburn official matchday programme.
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Feb 2007