Jack Wilshere struck with just four minutes left on the clock to finally settle this FA Cup tie at the second time of asking and send Arsenal through to the fourth round at Swansea’s expense on Wednesday.
After a quiet first half in which Swansea hit the bar, Arsenal gradually built the pressure in the second period. After missing a succession of chances, Wilshere made no mistake with a well-taken shot. Unlike in the first match between the two Premiership outfits 10 days ago, where there were three goals in the final 10 minutes, there was to be no late equalizer for Swansea this time around.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will doubtless feel vindicated having fielded a strong lineup in a competition that provides their best chance to end their long trophy drought this season. Swansea on the other hand, who look well positioned to make the final of the League Cup, made several changes to their lineup. Notably the club’s top scorer Michu, as well as fellow Spaniard Pablo Hernandez, began the replay on the bench.
In an opening half of few chances, Swansea almost took the lead against Arsenal for the third time in as many games this season. Wayne Routledge supplied the cross into the box but Kyle Bartley was just unable to keep his header down and the ball cannoned back off the bar.
The opportunities came thick and fast after the break, with few in the Emirates surely able to fathom how it took their side so long to break the deadlock.
Theo Walcott was arguably the chief culprit and he got the ball rolling with a poor miss in the first five minutes of the second period. Bursting clear of Chico down the right of the area, the lighting-fast forward tried a little dink over Michel Vorm but the ball dribbled wide of the far post.
Olivier Giroud, who was restored to the central striking role, with Walcott switched back to the right, also had a less than ruthless night in front of goal. The France international really should have done better than flash a header across goal from six yards out from a corner, while later in the half he shot on target but too close to Vorm.
There was more to come from Walcott too. First the man who is expected to sign a new contract in the coming days side-footed wide after cutting inside a defender cleverly from the left. He came even closer later on, but really should have done better than to aim a flicked near post header onto the post.
Swansea posed little threat, but almost put the Emirates faithful’s hearts in mouth as substitute Ki Sung-Yueng had a low effort saved and then from the resulting corner Chico headed just wide into the side netting.
But as the match moved into the final 10 minutes, Arsenal’s pressure became incessant. Defender Dwight Tiendalli twice had to clear off the line in matter of seconds, first from Per Mertesacker’s header and then more impressively from Giroud’s drive.
Then with time ticking away, the breakthrough finally arrived to spare both sides 30 minutes of extra time. It was a lovely goal too, as Giroud touched the ball perfectly into Wilshere’s path on the edge of the area and the midfielder struck the crispest of left-footed strikes past Vorm.
Arsenal can now look forward to a fourth-round tie away at Brighton in 10 days time. As for Swansea and Michael Laudrup, they can now focus on holding their two-goal advantage over Chelsea in the semifinal of the Capital One Cup as well as maintaining their impressive league form.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.