Julio Baptista was both villain and hero as Arsenal’s youngsters dented Spurs’ Carling Cup hopes by coming back from 2-0 down to finish with a 2-2 draw last night in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at White Hart Lane. Arsenal were 2-0 down at half time following Berbatov’s header and an own-goal by Baptista. However, Arsenal gradually started to dominate the match, and produced some fine football, especially in the second half. Spurs were dangerous on the break, and Almunia had to make a couple of fine saves, but as the match progressed it became all Arsenal.
Fabregas was excellent as usual, and Baptista made up for his earlier mistake by scoring twice. For the first one he showed great strength and determination to get through the Spurs defence and fire past Robinson. The equaliser came shortly after with a lovely pass from Fabregas over the defense to meet Hoyte’s run, who placed an exquisite cross into Baptista’s path to tap in for the equaliser.
It was a great comeback in a match that never became dull, and yet again the youngsters showed why Arsene Wenger places so much faith in them. With two away goals and the return leg to come next week in The Emirates stadium, it’s looking more likely that Arsenal will be meeting Chelsea in the final.
The only downside from the match is injury worries. Aliadiere was playing well but had to go off injured, to be replaced by Eboue, who played in midfield. Diaby was later replaced by Hleb, after having a hit-and-miss match with some good spells, but getting caught in possession too often and too many passes going astray. He still needs some work to complete his return from his nasty ankle injury last year. Later in the match Hleb himself had to come off, after pulling up injured. Flamini came on to replace him, and played well as usual. Things got a little worrying towards the end as Eboue seemed to get injured again – possibly the same injury as seemed to affect him towards the end of the Manchester United match on Sunday. Unfortunately he had to play on, and seemed to run off the worst of the affects, but that may have worsened the problem in the long run. It will be interesting to see who plays in Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Bolton, and who may be rested for the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final next week against Spurs.