By IAN HOLLIDAY
Arsenal hasnt won a trophy since it hoisted FA Cup in 2005, but the Gunners have a golden opportunity to end their trophy drought in this seasons Carling Cup. Arsenal will face Championship side Ipswitch Town in on of the competitions two-legged semifinals next month, with a berth in the Feb. 27 final at Wembley on the line. West Ham United and Birmingham City will contest the other semifinal.
The Gunners defeated Wigan Athletic 2-0 in their quarterfinal match on Tuesday, outshooting the visitors 12-2 and looking comfortable in the process. Now, with a favorable semifinal draw and its two potential final opponents currently placed 14th and 20th in the Premier League, Arsenal is the odds on favorite to win the competition.
For that, the Gunners can thank West Ham, which emphatically defeated Manchester United 4-0 in Tuesdays other match. Defender Jonathan Spector started in midfield for the Hammers and netted the clubs first two goals. It was a dream appearance for the American, who has seen next to no playing time since Avram Grant took over as the clubs manager.
West Hams victory over Man United wasnt the only upset of the round. Ipswitch got a 69th minute goal from Grant Leadbitter on a penalty kick and held on to defeat Premiership side West Bromwich Albion 1-0 on Wednesday. Ipswitch is currently in 17th place in the English Championship, 24 places below West Brom. Thats the largest gap between opponents in any of the quarterfinals.
Also qualifying for the semifinals on Wednesday was Birmingham City, which defeated its crosstown rivals Aston Villa 2-1 in dramatic fashion. After exchanging first-half goals, the clubs remained tied at 1 until the 84th minute, when Nicola Zigics shot deflected over Brad Friedel and into the Villa net. Despite being thoroughly outplayed by Villa in the second half and managing only three total shots on goal, City held on for the victory.
First-leg matches of the Carling Cup semifinals are sheduled to take place during the week of Jan. 10. The return legs will be played during the week of Jan. 24. Ipswitch and West Ham will host the first-leg matches.
What did you think of this weeks Carling Cup action? Surprised by the upsets? Hoping Spector gets a look at defensive midfield with the USMNT? Share your thoughts below.