2006-01-07

Arsenal beats Cardiff City: 2-1

French player Robert Pires underlined his case for a new deal to stay in the club. At the same time, he scored two goals to guide Arsenal into the FA Cup quarter finals. Pires, whose future is still not clear, managed to strike twice in the first 18 minutes to seal victory.

Robert, whose contract expires this summer, is looking for a new two-year deal. However, the Gunners usually offer 12 months to any player over 30.

Arsenal FC rested not only Thierry Henry. Also Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell and Cesc Fabregas were dismissed for this clash, and the inexperienced defence was made with youngsters Kerrea Gilbert and Johan Djourou, as well as the nervous Philippe Senderos.

Cardiff threatened after less than a minute: Neal Ardley clipped an excellent through ball over the head of Senderos. The Swiss international took time to turn, and that enabled Jerome to nip in ahead of goalkeeper Manuel Almunia only to lob his shot just over the bar.

The Gunners nevertheless steadied themselves and regrouped. Although their defence looked suspect, they were a completely different squad going forward, with experience and class in equal measure.

With just six minutes gone, Arsenal scored. Dennis Bergkamp picked out Jose Reyes and the Spaniard weighed up his options before clipping a superb pass into the path of Pires, who had beaten the offside trap.

He controlled the ball with his first touch before picking his spot and burying his shot inside the far post.

Senderos was still looking shaky and was fortunate not to be penalised when he accidentally tripped Jerome as they got to their feet together after a challenge.

The Swiss international got a booking soon afterwards for a clumsy late challenge on Joe Ledley, but Arsenal were in a class of their own going forward and went further ahead on 18 minutes.

This time van Persie was the architect of Cardiff's downfall, delivering an incisive pass to Bergkamp, who in turn picked out the run of Pires and the Frenchman's finishing was again exemplary.

After the mid time, they were still suspect and when Jerome powered forward onto a long ball, he picked out Kevin Cooper in space inside the penalty area only for his shot to be blocked.

Almunia, who was pushed by a fan who ran onto the pitch amid the amazing finale, clasped onto the ball amid one scramble in the Arsenal area but the home side held on for victory.