By Richard Clarke
Jeremie Aliadiere struck twice, the second a superb individual goal, as Arsenal beat Wolves 5-1 at Highbury and reached the Carling Cup fifth round.
The Frenchman capitalised on a sloppy back pass to give Arsène Wenger's side the lead. Then, after Kanu had doubled the advantage, he produced a stunning second. Weaving one way as he sped through the centre, the 20-year-old fooled two Wolves defenders before curling a right-foot shot into the corner of the net.
Sylvain Wiltord added another towards the end before Alex Rae replied for Wolves but Arsenal were to have the final word when Wiltord set up Fabregas. The Spanish midfielder prodded into the open goal to become Arsenal's youngest ever scorer. He had become the club's youngest ever player in the last round.
So overall Wenger will be delighted with the night's accomplishments, especially as captain Patrick Vieira came through his first 90 minutes since the Champions League opener against Inter Milan. This game should give him hope of being back into the groove for the final game of Group B at home to Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday.
As expected, no one who started Sunday's game against Fulham was involved tonight. But there were still big names in the side. Captain Vieira started a match for the first time since he picked up a thigh injury in the home game with Newcastle on September 26. Sylvain Wiltord was available for the first time in four games after a groin problem.
There were full debuts to American centre back Frankie Simek and Bentley. The latter would have played in the last round of this competition against Rotherham but he injured his knee the day before the game! This time the highly-rated midfielder took his place in the side alongside most of the youngsters who had excelled on an epic night that ended in a 9-8 victory for Arsenal on penalties.
Unsurprisingly Arsenal started with urgency. Kanu missed a sitter in the fourth minute. Justin Hoyte crossed from the right and the Nigerian got a fortunate deflection off his marker to go clear six yards out. Incredibly he slipped his shot past the post with only keeper Andy Marshall to beat.
Kanu was revelling in the space. In the seventh minute he fooled three players in trademark style on the byline just a few yards from goal but flicked his shot against the post.
Bentley was also on-song, fluttering around the edge of the Wolves' penalty area looking for angles in which to release the strikers.
The visitors had plenty of experience in the shape of Paul Ince, Alex Rae, Paul Butler and Nathan Blake but they were being given the runaround.
The opening goal, when it arrived in the 24th minute, was product of this youthful exuberance. Under pressure from Kanu, Wolves defender Lee Naylor attempted to prod the ball back to his keeper. But he did not reckon on Aliadiere's pace. The French striker, who put Arsenal ahead in the last round, stole the ball, rounded Marshall and steered his shot home from the angle despite the keeper getting a hand on it. The goal brought Arsenal to 300 in this competition.
Rae flashed a long-range shot narrowly wide five minutes later but Bentley replied immediately by curling a free-kick a foot over the bar.
However Wolves had upped their game. Ince hit a volley into the ground from Rae's corner. It bounced up nastily but Graham Stack flicked the ball over the bar. A few minutes later Blake slid his shot past the post.
At the start of the second half, Kanu nearly dribbled the ball into the net again only for Marshall to block at his near post. Then Aliadiere and Wiltord combined for the latter to shoot. Marshall half-saved and it took the backtracking Joey Gudjonsson to hack the ball away as it rolled toward goal.
Arsenal lost Hoyte just before the hour. He went down after stretching to cut out a through ball and was stretched off in some pain. Olafur-Ingi Skulason came on and the change did not disrupt the pattern of play.
Francesc Fabregas tested Marshall from just outside the area and then Kanu forced the keeper to tip over the bar from a similar distance.
The second arrived with 23 minutes left. The youthful Arsenal defence were toying with the ball and nearly lost it. But the quick feet of Fabregas fed Skulason, he side-footed a pass up the right flank for Wiltord, who raced forward and looked up for options.
He decided to arrow a low cross to Kanu who clipped the ball with one foot to beat the diving Marshall then tucked the ball away his second.
Then came Aliadiere's second. Beautiful, simply beautiful.
Wiltord soon slipped a fourth past Marshall as Arsenal took control but Rae cracked Wolves some consolation towards the end.
However Wiltord's pass beat the Wolves defence, and the assistant referee's flag, allowing Fabregas to poke home a record-breaking fifth into the open goal.
Another great night in the Carling Cup.
|Jeremie Aliadiere opens the scoring||Kanu doubles our advantage|
|A blazing finish from Aliadiere||Sylvain Wiltord makes it four|
|Francesc Fabregas caps a fine display||David Bentley holds off Henri Camara|
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