Arsenal have booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after defeating Blackpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium, despite playing much of the second half down to 10 men.
The Gunners took the lead through Stephan Lichtsteiner, with Emile Smith-Rowe adding greater comfort to Arsenal’s night with a second in the 50th minute.
Blackpool pulled it back to 2-1 shortly after Matteo Guendouzi’s red card for Arsenal, but with Tangerines also going down to ten men late on, Unai Emery’s men were able to hold onto their lead come full-time.
A whole host of changes saw only Shkodran Mustafi and Guendouzi keep their places in Emery’s starting line-up, with special attention been giving to Carl Jenkinson’s and Julio Pleguezuelo’s introduction into the Arsenal backline.
For all the possession enjoyed in the early stages of the game, the Gunners would struggle to create much by the way of chances, but they would eventually take the lead with their first genuine opportunity in the 33rd minute.
With Guendouzi collecting the ball within the final third, the Frenchman was able to spot the run of Stephan Lichtsteiner emerging inside the area, who added the finishing touch to the midfielder’s pass with an outstretched leg, finding the bottom-left corner.
The hosts pressed for a second and may have had one in the 44th minute via Aaron Ramsey, with the Welshman succumbing to the bounce on Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross before floating an effort back over the bar.
Smith-Rowe was on hand to double Arsenal’s lead coming into the second half, as Blackpool’s goalkeeper failed to clear Carl Jenkinson’s cross prior to the youngster’s finish inside the box, volleying home off the ground.
The Tangerines replied through Paudie O’Connor’s header from a corner in the 53rd minute, beating Petr Čech in the air before being denied by the top of the crossbar.
Mustafi then neared a third for Arsenal when glancing a header wide moments later, just as Emery’s task complicated itself following Guendouzi’s second yellow card, leaving the Gunners to defend a 2-0 lead with 10 men for the remaining 35 minutes of normal time.
The pressure was ramped up on the North Londoners in the 66th minute when O’Connor made his second crack at goal count with a headed finish low into Čech’s net, cutting Arsenal’s lead down to 2-1.
O’Connor’s night soured, however, after a late challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned the former Leeds United defender a straight red card, setting up a ten versus ten scenario for the final 12 minutes.
Regaining control, the Gunners were able to see out their opponents and cement a 2-1 victory at the Emirates.
By Patrick Ribeiro (@P_SRibeiro)
Player Ratings: Petr Čech (5) – Stephan Lichtsteiner (6), Shkodran Mustafi (8), Julio Pleguezuelo (7), Carl Jenkinson (6) – Matteo Guendouzi (7), Aaron Ramsey (7) – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5), Emile Smith-Rowe (7), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6) – Danny Welbeck (6)
Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Alex Iwobi (6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6)