Newly appointed Ipswich manager Paul Jewell watched from the stands and will have been wondering how, under Roy Keane, the club had managed just three wins in the league so far this season, such was his new side’s composure and willingness against an Arsenal side, which on paper at least, was far superior than the East Anglian outfit.
Ipswich, currently lying in 19th place in the Championship should have been outplayed by the London club, who find themselves in third place in the Premier League, as well as in the last 16 of the Champions League. Ipswich were battered 7-0 by Chelsea in the FA Cup last weekend, leaving Ipswich fans travelling to the game in hope, rather than expectation. However, it was the lower placed side that looked sharper in the early exchanges, with Colin Healy willing to run at the Arsenal midfield while Carlos Edwards was able to get the ball down and cross dangerously in to the area on a number of occasions.
It was only an matter of time before the side from Portman Road threatened the goal of Wojciech Szczesny and their best early chance came after 14 minutes as Tamas Priskin fired a shot just wide of the Gunner’s right hand goal post after Edwards had seen his shot blocked by England full-back Kieran Gibbs just a minute before.
This finally seemed to spark Arsenal into life as they sent Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, both full England internationals at such a young age, down opposing wings to put some pace into the attach and stretch the home side’s defence. Walcott had a number of opportunities to put quality into the box but struggled to find an Arsenal player.
It would have been easy and understandable for a side in Ipswich’s position to have sat back and tried to absorb the Arsenal pressure as the three times Premier League winners found their feet at Portman Road, however they looked to have found renewed confidence after their drubbing at Chelsea.
With this new lease of life Ipswich pushed forward as Mark Kennedy and then Edwards both went close, the latter having his shot stopped by a smart save from Szczesny.
It was obvious that Arsene Wenger was taking this competition seriously, even if he had been accused of not having done so before. If the selection of a host of international players as well as World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas was not enough to prove this, then the way his side began the second half clearly was.
Wengers players came out brightly, and put together several good moves. The introduction of French striker Marouane Chamakh was quickly followed by a further two shots by Walcott, this time both saved by former Sunderland stopper Marton Fulop. Just as it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before Arsenal brike the deadlock, the relegation threatened home side struck a hammer blow of a goal to send Portman Road into raptures.
Priskin latched onto a long ball from Healy and his first touch set the ball in front of him and with the goalkeeper caming out, Priskin opened his body and calmly slotted the ball low into the right hand corner of the Arsenal goal.
Although Arsenal again began to attempt to turn to screw, Ipswich were able to hold on for a famous victory. Ipswich must still pay a visit to the Emirates Stadium, a tough place to visit for any team in Europe, for the second leg of this semi-final matchup but they’ve given themselves the best possible chance of keeping their dream alive.