Cup replay means Arsenal will face five games in 13 days
2-2 final score at the Liberty Stadium after Michu gives Swansea the lead against Arsenal
ARSENE WENGER was proud of his side’s "spirit and character" as Arsenal fought back to take their third round FA Cup tie with Swansea to a replay. Three goals in the final ten minutes provided the climax to a Cup tie that took time to burst into life at the Liberty Stadium.
Goalless after a first-half in which chances were at a premium, Swansea took the lead against the run of play on 58 minutes when Michu coolly fired past Wojciech Szczesny just two minutes after coming on as a substitute.
The Spanish striker scored twice against the Gunners when Swansea won 2-0 at the Emirates in last month’s league encounter, and Wenger must have feared he was going to be responsible for ruining another day in his managerial life.
But then on 81 minutes one of Wenger’s own substitutions paid off as Lukas Podolski, on for Aaron Ramsey, swivelled and shot to draw the visitors level. Two minutes later Arsenal were ahead when left-back Kieran Gibbs swapped passes with Mikel Arteta before volleying the ball into the Swansea net.
The hosts were down, but not yet out, and three minutes from time they levelled as once again the Arsenal defence was found wanting. Kemy Agustien swung in a corner and Danny Graham found himself unmarked at the far post, lifting the ball over Szczesny for the equaliser.
It was what the Swans deserved for an afternoon of impressive industry and the two sides will reconvene at the Emirates on Wednesday week with a fourth round trip to Brighton the reward for the winner.
For Arsenal, that means the possibility of playing five games in 13 days, beginning with Manchester City next Sunday, followed by the replay three days later, then league clashes with Chelsea and West Ham (the postponed fixture from Boxing Day), and a potential FA Cup fourth round tie with Brighton on the weekend of January 26-27.
“I am frustrated because I wouldn’t want a replay," confessed Wenger. "But if that’s the choice between going out or staying in the hat I’ll take the replay."
In the day’s other FA Cup tie, Liverpool saw off a spirited Mansfield Town 2-1 but the Blue Square Bet Premier side were incensed by the manner of the Reds’ crucial second goal. Once again the man at the centre of the controversy was Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who came off the bench in the second half to put his side 2-0 up after Daniel Sturridge had given them the lead on his first game for the Reds.
Suarez controlled the ball with a hand prior to firing it past Mansfield goalkeeper Alan Marriott, who later said he couldn’t understand how the offence was missed by the referee. "When you see Luis Suárez laughing as he kicks the ball across the line... he knows himself what happened. Even Stewart Downing [Liverpool defender] said to us that he couldn't believe professional officials missed that. When it turns out to be the decisive goal, it's a sickener for everyone."
Matt Green pulled a goal back for Mansfield on 79 minutes but it wasn't enough and the club's chief executive Carolyn Radford was left ruing a game that has "been stolen from us".