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Eduardo sends Arsenal into FA Cup 5th round

ARSENAL striker Eduardo da Silva had a dream return to club football nearly a year after breaking his leg, scoring twice in a 4-0 win over Cardiff in their FA Cup replay last night and ensuring the Gunners advanced to the tournament's fifth round.

Eduardo scored in the 20th minute with a header after fellow forward Carlos Vela struck a cross from the left and later from the penalty spot before being withdrawn with a slight hamstring strain in the second half.

The first goal was an emotional moment for the Croatia international, who ran towards the corner and fell to his knees and smiled before being enveloped by his teammates. Arsenal fans erupted into celebrations and sang Eduardo's name after the goal.

"Of course everybody is happy for him but I believe it was a good team performance, dynamic, convincing, mobile with the kind of game we love to play," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Eduardo played a big part in that and everybody is of course pleased for him tonight."

"He made a big step forward two weeks ago where you could see he found sharpness in front of goal, in his runs, got rid of a bit of apprehension in the tackling ... He's been extremely strong mentally (during the past year). I could never see one minute of doubt in his mind or one minute where he said 'No, today I don't want to do it.' "

The 25-year-0ld striker was also very active in the preceding minutes leading up to his first goal, trying to chip Cardiff goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who came off his line, but the shot was well over the bar.

In the 60th minute, Cardiff midfielder Gavin Rae brought down Eduardo in the penalty area and referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot. Eduardo then drilled the ball past Heaton, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Eduardo nearly had a hat trick a few minutes later but Heaton saved his shot. That was his last touch of the game and Arsenal fans gave him a standing ovation when Robin van Persie replaced him in the 67th minute. Van Persie scored Arsenal's fourth goal in the 88th minute after Nicklas Bendtner's throughball found the Dutch international who blasted the ball past Heaton with his right foot. He nearly made it 5-0 in the dying moments of injury time when a cross from Bendtner was headed onto the post by Van Persie.

Eduardo has had a long road to recovery since his left fibula was fractured and ankle dislocated after a tackle by Birmingham's Martin Taylor on Feb. 23, 2008. The injury was so horrific that broadcasters refused to show the replays, and it sparked a debate at the time about players who commit dangerous challenges.

Bendtner scored Arsenal's second goal in the 33rd minute, outjumping three Cardiff defenders to head past Heaton off a corner to the near post from midfielder Samir Nasri. But the Denmark international had a glaring miss right in front of goal just before halftime, striking the ball with his left foot and hitting the post after Heaton had parried a shot by Vela.

Cardiff, who nearly pulled off an upset in the final minutes of the first match at Ninian Park on Jan. 25, rarely ventured into Arsenal's territory in the first half Monday. The 22-year-old Heaton, who is on loan from Manchester United, was very busy throughout the match, making a series of stops including a fine double save in the sixth minute after first denying Vela and then Bendtner who collected the rebound and fired a shot at the 'keeper.

The Bluebirds' played marginally better in the second half and their best chance of the match came in the 57th minute when Jay Bothroyd struck a powerful shot from distance, but Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved it.

Cardiff manager Dave Jones acknowledged that his side put in a substandard performance.

"I'm the glad the game is over because I don't think we did ourselves any justice tonight whatsoever," Jones said. "I think we suffered for 90 minutes tonight ... I can look for as many excuses as I want, but I just don't think we performed as well as what we are capable of and what you've got to do is learn from it and bounce back from it."

The replay was initially scheduled for Feb. 3, but was postponed because of a snowstorm.

Arsenal now has a chance for revenge against Burnley, which knocked the Gunners out of the League Cup in December. Their FA Cup fifth-round match will be played March 7 or 8 at the Emirates. The winner goes on to face Sheffield United or Hull in the sixth round, depending on which team wins their fifth-round replay Feb. 26.


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