By Randy Osae
Cardiff’s resistance at Ninian Park meant Arsenal had to settle for a replay on Tuesday, February 3, in order to progress in the FA Cup.
Neither side can really rue the deadlock, even though clear-cut opportunities were not too scarce. Nor was it ever a formality that Arsenal would stroll past a Cardiff side posing well in the Championship, away from home and to a very hostile crowd.
Indeed, only the trip to Fenerbahce earlier this season had been more militant than today’s. Ninian Park was expectedly, not welcoming to Arsenal and – somehow ironically – former darling Aaron Ramsey. The Bluebirds were rampant from start.
Arsenal might have prepared but luck was their shield early on.
First, McCormack tested with a header and then a shot demanding Toure’s block. Following that were more openings for the buoyed home side. Jay Bothroyd fired over from distance, Joe Ledley launched a volley a bit high and Paul Parry spared the Gunners after Toure had been beaten.
Then you sensed Arsenal had to respond with a pesky punch after wasteful Cardiff had done all the talk.
Long range efforts by Song and Gibbs went begging and Van Persie turned and shot straight at the keeper after been found in the box. Arsenal would come closest when Nasri’s corner kick – earned from a rare counter attack – was headed wide by Bendtner from just inches out.
Wenger’s men saw much momentum after the restart, but Fabianski was still strained with headers and sharp shots at the other end. Adebayor replaced Eboue after 68 minutes and so did Ramsey’s dull return to Cardiff end with Diaby sent on.
Van Persie – who had threatened the most – set up arguably the best chance of the game for Adebayor. But the Togolese scuffed a shot right at the goalkeeper after Van Persie’s cross had been deflected into danger.
Conjuring a winner was in the Gunners’ reach or a replay had been acceded otherwise, but Cardiff could have squashed Arsenal’s FA Cup hopes right at the death had McCormack’s sensational free kick not met the crossbar.
It had been a tale of two halves – Cardiff were at sway in the first half but so were Arsenal after the break and fairly balanced this intriguing cup tie ended.