Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to fire 10-man Arsenal into the FA Cup fifth round as the Gunners narrowly saw off League One Huddersfield.
The game’s riveting culmination looked unlikely at the start, as the seemingly overawed visitors defended deep and allowed the home side to come forward, with Andrey Arshavin blazing over a good chance after only two minutes. The Russian, sometimes out of sorts in recent weeks, was seeing plenty of the ball on the left-hand side up against Hunt, a 20-year-old right-back making his first Huddersfield start.
Arshavin skinned the youngster at the first opportunity and crossed for Bendtner, who could not direct his close-range effort on target.
Arshavin then fired weakly at Huddersfield goalkeeper Ian Bennett from a good position, before cutting inside Hunt and shooting against the outside of the post.A comical Bendtner air-shot then brought ironic cheers from the 5,000 Huddersfield fans massed behind the Clock End goal, before the Dane was involved in a fortuitous Gunners’ opening goal. Latching on to a pass from Marouane Chamakh, who appeared to control the ball with his arm in the build-up, Bendtner raced clear and fired off target, only for his shot to get a helpful diversion off the sliding Clarke and into the far corner.
After dominating the first 40 minutes of the match, Arsenal found themselves on the back foot following Squillaci’s deserved dismissal. Then things got even worse when Alan Lee headed home an Anthony Pilkington corner after some poor marking by Arsenal. .
Wenger, keen to avoid a replay in an already congested season, sent on captain Fabregas as the north Londoners pushed forward, only to be repeatedly thwarted by Clarke.
The Terriers defender looked to make amends for his earlier lapse, first with a brave block to deny a dithering Bendtner and then with a superb saving tackle on the Dane, before Fabregas broke the League One side’s resistance.
The Spain midfielder sent in a pass for Bendtner, who went down under McCombe’s challenge, allowing Fabregas to calmly slot past Bennett from the resultant penalty. There was still time for Gary Roberts to send a free-kick just over the bar, while Lee spooned Huddersfield’s last chance high into the away fans, whose dreams of beating Arsenal for the first time in 40 years were extinguished. However, Samir Nasri picked up an injury and will be out for at least three weeks.