Arsenal’s hopes of winning their first trophy since 2005 were dented when Championship side Ipswich Town beat them 1-0 at Portman Road here on Wednesday in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal.
A goal in the 78th-minute from recalled forward Tamas Priskin gave the home side a deserved victory, although the Premier League team will still be regarded as favourites to overturn the deficit in the second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
The elated Priskin told Sky Sports: “I think the whole team did great work. It was a fantastic display from the whole team and I’m really happy we won 1-0 and I scored the goal.”
Meanwhile Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted: “We didn’t create many chances. Ipswich defended very well and we were caught out.
“We had no spark, Ipswich were sharper than us and we made a defensive mistake which they took advantage of.
“But we’re at home in the second leg and that could make all the difference.”
Victory for second division strugglers Ipswich was all the more impressive as they came into this match on the back of a 7-0 FA Cup thrashing by holders and Premier League champions Chelsea.
Their poor form saw Ipswich sack Roy Keane as manager and this was caretaker Ian McParland’s final game in charge before new boss Paul Jewell, introduced to the crowd before kick-off, takes over.
“I’m delighted for the boys,” McParland said. “It shows their character, to come back from the 7-0 defeat against Chelsea.
“Now they have to carry on that hard work under the new manager and they’ll be fine.”
Wenger recalled Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, one of several internationals in what looked, on paper at least, a strong Gunners side.
The early chances fell to the visitors, although Andrey Arshavin, having been picked out in the box by Fabregas, shot tamely wide from the first.
Ipswich then saw lone striker Priskin let fly from long range and the Hungarian’s curling effort landed only just wide of Wojciech Szczesny’s left-hand post.
Priskin put the ball in the Arsenal net five minutes before half-time with a well-executed overhead kick but it was ruled out, correctly, for offside.
Connor Wickham, the 17-year-old who has already been linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham, was also looking dangerous and fired a powerful drive over from outside the box soon after.
Ipswich were applauded off at half-time by a Portman Road faithful pleased with the way their side were standing up to their Premier League opponents.
They started the second half strongly as well and won a corner when Wickham’s drive was deflected behind.
Mark Kennedy attempted an audacious lob from all of 40 yards having spotted Szczesny off his line but the Pole recovered to make a comfortable catch.
Arsenal had not threatened Marton Fulop’s goal for a long time and Fabregas tried to find a team-mate in the box when a shot was the better option.
Ipswich were more than holding their own and Wenger made a double substitution with just over 20 minutes remaining with Jack Wilshere and Nicklas Bendtner replaced having made little impression.
Marouane Chamakh and Alex Song came on and straight away Theo Walcott almost opened the scoring. Fulop denied him however, coming out to block his attempt to lift the ball over him from an angle on the right.
Fabregas put Arsenal’s best chance of the game over the bar from close range just before Priskin opened the scoring by outpacing Johan Djourou to reach a through-ball from Colin Healy and slotting calmly past the goalkeeper.
Fulop was required to make saves from Chamakh and Walcott to preserve the lead but Arsenal can have no complaints.
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