By Richard Clarke
Two goals from Jose Antonio Reyes saw Arsenal come from behind to beat Chelsea in Sunday's FA Cup fifth round clash at Highbury.
The Spaniard opened his account for the club with a rocket-fuelled effort into the top corner on 56 minutes to equalise Adrian Mutu's opener for Chelsea late in the first half.
Five minutes later, Reyes fired home from Patrick Vieira's pass to put Arsenal into Monday's draw for the sixth round.
Chelsea must be sick of the sight of Arsenal in the FA Cup. Arsène Wenger men have knocked out Claudio Ranieri's side in the last four seasons now. In the last two, Arsenal have won the trophy. Can a hat-trick, the first for over hundred years, be possible?
If Arsenal show similar appetite as they did today, mixed with a little of the quality shown by Signor Reyes, the answer must be why not?
There was good and bad injury news before the game. Thierry Henry was pulled out of the squad after bruising his foot in Tuesday's Premiership victory over Southampton. The Frenchman's absence meant the fit-again Dennis Bergkamp slotted in up front alongside Reyes.
On the positive side, Sol Campbell had passed a late fitness test on his groin to retain his place at the heart of defence.
A light shower just before kick-off did nothing to dampen spirits in this all-London cup tie. A boisterous beginning yielded little in the way of chances before Gilberto exchanged passes with Robert Pires to send the Brazilian through on goal. However, as he reached the edge of the penalty area, Chelsea centre back John Terry raced back to dispossess him with a well-timed sliding challenge.
Seconds later, Chelsea's other central defender, William Gallas, saw a near-post flick turned aside by Jens Lehmann.
But, on the quarter-hour, the Frenchman was back in familiar territory as he poked the ball clear of his own keeper just before Reyes ran on to Bergkamp's flick. It was our first real glimpse of the Spaniard's pace.
As the half went on, Arsenal began to warm to their task. Cole's cross was hacked clear by Terry on the edge of the six-yard box then Carlo Cudicini came out to collect just before Pires stole in.
In the 26th minute, Bergkamp's perceptive inside flick sent Cole scampering into the area. The left back managed to get his shot away but Cudicini came out to block with his feet. It was an indication of Arsenal's ever-tightening grip on the game and Bergkamp's ever-growing influence in the final third.
The unmarked Vieira scuffed wastefully wide from Pires' free-kick on the half-hour and then, on a rare break, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mutu set up Frank Lampard to fire wide.
Hasselbaink nodded wide soon afterwards and Gronkjaer even headed home 10 minutes from the break, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
Chelsea were coming back into it and, five minutes before the break, they were rewarded for their endeavour. Lehmann's goal-kick was flicked forward by Parker. Mutu collected the ball on the edge of the area, shuffled the ball onto his left foot and beat Kolo Toure before thumping a rasping shot into the far corner.
Cole went close just before the half-time whistle but, at half time, Arsenal were facing as huge task if they were to hang onto the trophy.
The start of the second half did not fill Arsenal fans with optimism. Chelsea were buoyant, bubbling even. Hasselbaink sent a ball dangerous ball across the face of goal and soon afterwards Parlour limped off to be replaced by Edu.
Then it happened. Reyes, left-foot, 25-yards out, 56th minute. In one swift movement, the little Spaniard sent a shot that went into the net with the pace and a trajectory of an arrow from a bow. Cudicini did his best but he was nowhere near it. The former Seville star was engulfed by his grateful team-mates after the goal and then, after they had finished, Reyes puffed out his cheeks in relief. What a way to open your account.
Cudicini was substituted four minutes later on the hour, presumably because of an injury. The first thing his replacement, Neil Sullivan, had to do was pick the ball out of the net. Vieira's angled pass sent Reyes clear on the left of the area, the Spaniard's shot was half-stopped but trickled over the line before Terry came in to clear. Even then the England centre back could only hack the ball into the top corner of the net.
Ranieri responded swiftly by bringing on Eidur Gudjohnsen and Joe Cole. The changes certainly helped Chelsea regain their composure after that double blow but they did not loosen Arsenal's grip on the game.
Reyes was substitute for Gael Clichy with eight minutes left. Highbury stood in unison.
The entire team returned the applause to those same fans at the full time whistle as a breathless crowed Highbury crowd went home happy.
|Melchiot tumbles under Bergkamp's challenge||Reyes scores our spectacular opener|
|Jose is played through by Vieira...||..his shot beats Sullivan|
|..and it's 2-1!||Jose celebrates his double strike|
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