Arsenal 4 Birmingham City 1 (aet)

  • By: Bill Pierce, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: May 22 2012, 10:01 BST

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

second string.

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

Steve Bruce.

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.

Teams

Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon (Crowe 91), Platt, Wreh, Grimandi,

Upson, Boa Morte (Muntasser 119), Mendez, Marshall, Hughes,

Vernazza.

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),

Robinson, Ndlovu.

Sent Off: Wassall (83).

Booked: Grainger, Wassall, Ndlovu.

Goals: Hey 20.

After Extra Time

Att: 27,097

Ref: U D Rennie (Sheffield).