Arsenal 4 Birmingham City 1 (aet)
Portuguese winger Luis Boa Morte was proclaimed a new Highbury hero as Arsenal's £10million reserve team came from behind to beat Birmingham in extra-time of a bizarre Coca-Cola Cup tie in which both sides had a player sent off.
Boa Morte, Arsene Wenger's £1.7million capture from Sporting Lisbon, scored
twice in front of a 27,000 crowd who cheered a comeback victory on one of the
strangest nights at the old stadium.
Wenger had risked the wrath of the Football League by resting all his
front-line stars and handing out half-a-dozen debuts to his multi-national
They included 19-year-old defender Jason Crowe, who was sent off 33 seconds
after substituting for skipper Lee Dixon at the start of extra-time.
And Wenger looked as if he would be punished for his audacity when Birmingham
took an 18th minute lead through midfielder Tony Hey, who cracked home an
opportunist strike against the run of play.
The young Gunners battled on and Boa Morte equalised - following bad misses at
the other end by Paul Devlin and Peter Ndlovu - with a sweet left-foot volley
set up by Spanish midfielder Alberto Mendez.
Arsenal looked set for victory when Birmingham's Darren Wassall was sent off
for a second bookable offence after body-checking Boa Morte in the 84th minute.
But it needed the bravery of Austrian goalkeeper Alex Manninger to force
extra-time when he blocked Hey's close-range strike four minutes later.
The extra period began with Birmingham again missing chances and finally
sending on giant striker Kevin Francis as a substitute to test the metal of
Wenger's young braves.
But nine minutes into the additional period and after he had hit a post with a
curling low shot, Boa Morte was brought down in the box by Birmingham veteran
David Platt, one of the few instantly recognisable faces in the Arsenal
line-up, drove home the penalty to give them the lead for the first time.
Two goals in four minutes finally settled it for the Gunners, with Boa Morte
sliding home a Mendez pass just seconds after Francis' header from a corner had
hit the bar at the other end.
Then Mendez, who had a sparkling debut, grabbed the goal he deserved at the
end of a link-up between Boa Morte and Stephen Hughes on the left.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon (Crowe 91), Platt, Wreh, Grimandi,
Upson, Boa Morte (Muntasser 119), Mendez, Marshall, Hughes,
Subs Not Used: Bartram.
Sent Off: Crowe (91).
Booked: Marshall, Dixon, Upson.
Goals: Boa Morte 62, 108, Mendez 113, Platt 99 pen.
Birmingham: Bennett, Wassall, Grainger, Bruce (Johnson 100),
Ablett, O'Connor, Devlin (Bass 84), Hey, Holland (Francis 105),
Sent Off: Wassall (83).
Booked: Grainger, Wassall, Ndlovu.
Goals: Hey 20.
After Extra Time
Ref: U D Rennie (Sheffield).