Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger salutes remarkable comeback win

Arsenal will face the winners of the Middlesbrough versus Sunderland replay in the fifth round

Arsene Wenger saluted his Arsenal players after scoring three times in seven minutes to come from two down and knock Aston Villa out of the FA Cup.

The Arsenal manager and his men were booed off at half-time after Villa established a commanding 2-0 lead through Richard Dunne and Darren Bent.

But two Robin van Persie penalties, either side of Theo Walcott's fortunate equaliser, turned the game on its head.

"We wanted to stay in the Cup," said the delighted Gunners manager.

"The players deserve credit for not giving up.

"I felt 2-0 was very harsh for us at half-time, but it was a question of scoring and keeping our structure and not doing anything silly.

"Fortunately we got an early goal to make it 2-1. The players showed a lot of character.

"It was a good test of our mental qualities and we passed the test well.

"If you want someone to take a penalty you want Robin, if you want someone to then take a second penalty, you want Robin again, because he is so clean and so accurate in his shooting and that is fantastic."

After Sunday's 3-2 comeback victory, Arsenal must now travel to the North East to meet the winners of the Middlesbrough-Sunderland replay in the fifth round.

And, with both Manchester United and Manchester City out, the Gunners, who have lost three on the bounce in the league, are among the favourites to win the Cup and end their seven-year trophy drought.

"It is an opportunity," admitted Wenger. "But you can see today how difficult the games are.

"It is important that we came back from some disappointing results. Hopefully we can transfer that now to the Premier League."

With the transfer deadline looming this week, Wenger said: "I cannot say nothing will happen but it would be a little bit of a miracle now. For us the biggest thing is to get our players back."

Having not won a trophy since beating Manchester United on penalties at the Millennium Stadium in 2005, Walcott, scorer of Arsenal's second goal, emphasises the team's determination to end that long run without success.

"This cup means masses to us, because we haven't won anything for a long time," said the England international. "We want to win this trophy.

"It shows we've got great character, when no-one thinks we do.

"It was a very dodgy first half, but we've always got to believe we can win and we went at them. We need a bit of luck and perhaps our luck has changed now."

Villa manager Alex McLeish called on the Football Association to investigate an alleged elbow by Van Persie on Carlos Cuellar.

McLeish believes the Holland international was fortunate to escape a red card following an incident involving the Spanish defender.

Referee Mike Jones took no action, but McLeish would like the FA to watch the incident on video and decide whether the Arsenal player should be punished.

"If it was an elbow in the face, yes I would like them to look at it," said McLeish. "I don't like to point the finger at players but it's something you don't like to see.

"I saw it in real time. I haven't seen it again on television. It looked like he hit him in the face with his elbow. Cuellar is not someone to go down if he hasn't been hurt."

Top Stories