10 years on: The night Town shocked mighty Arsenal and turned Fabregas into a moody schoolboy
- Credit: Alex Fairfull
It is 10 years to the day since Ipswich Town recorded their memorable 1-0 win over Arsenal, in a Carling Cup semi-final first leg tie at a jam-packed Portman Road.
And so it's also 10 years, this week, since Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas launched an astonishing attack on Town, despite his side having succumbed to a shock defeat on Suffolk soil.
I have many fond memories from that night, when a crowd of 29,146 enjoyed a stirring Cup tie - and there haven't been many occasions in recent times when Town have 'stirred' the imagination in a Cup tie!
Tamas Priskin was the most unlikely of heroes, the Hungarian striker having been more accustomed to firing blanks than scoring goals since his big-money move from Watford.
Yet it was Priskin who kept his cool to deliver a blow to the Gunners, on 78 minutes, latching onto Colin Healy's well-weighted pass and fending off the challenge of Ivory Coast defender Johan Djourou before sliding his shot beyond the reach of keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
So a mere 33 years after Roger Osborne had scored a 77th minute winner in the 1978 FA Cup Final, against Arsenal, it was quite apt that another unfashionable name should score the all-important goal in another 1-0 win over the Gunners, at about the same stage of the match.
Obviously Town's joy was short-lived, a decade ago, with Arsene Wenger's men gaining revenge via three second-half goals to win the second leg 3-0 at the Emirates and so clinch the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
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But, for a few days at least, success-starved Town supporters, who had seen their manager Roy Keane axed less than a week earlier, could gloat over a stunning win over Arsenal and also dream of a big day out at Wembley.
And they could also raise a smile after a post-match rant from Fabregas, who really did take on the role of a moody schoolboy, unbecoming of one of Europe's finest talented midfielders.
The Spanish star, who was to leave for Barcelona in a £35 million deal just seven months later, refused to give Ipswich any credit that night.
At the time, I found his words a bit insulting, and I'm sure that caretaker boss Ian 'Charlie' McParland (in the dug-out) and newly-appointed manager Paul Jewell (watching from the stands) were also unimpressed by Fabregas' forthright views.
"I don't know if it is a long ball or it is a rugby kick, but it worked for Ipswich," rued Fabregas, then aged 23.
"In England a lot of teams play like that, and it works well for them. Ipswich played well, but Arsenal played the football.
"The other team refused to play football, and they were lucky to score with that long ball."
Furthermore, Fabregas, an FA Cup winner with Arsenal in 2005, even had a pop at the Portman Road pitch.
"It's not the same to play at Stamford Bridge as it is to come here," remarked Fabregas, with reference to Town's 7-0 thrashing at Chelsea in the FA Cup just three days earlier.
"Here Ipswich play in front of their own fans, they are more motivated, and the pitch is not as good as Stamford Bridge."
Sour grapes indeed.
Naturally, Fabregas went on to have the last laugh by scoring the Gunners' third in the second leg.
But I will always remember him more for that moody post-match whinge which followed the first leg, than for his trickery and skill which bemused Town during the second half of the second leg, two weeks later.
And let's not forget McParland, who had endured such horrors in the first of his two matches as caretaker boss, a 7-0 thrashing at Chelsea.
"The players sweated blood tonight," enthused McParland, with a dash of pride.
"I thought they were fantastic, all 11 of them. They showed a lot of character to bounce back from Sunday's game at Chelsea, and I knew we would put in a fine performance."
And although Fabregas refused to give Town credit for their achievement that night, at least Gunners boss Wenger was more complimentary.
"Ipswich did fine for this win. I congratulate them," said Wenger.
"Ipswich defended with heart and intelligence, and they gave us problems on the counter-attack.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Ipswich. We have had a warning tonight," added the Frenchman.
IPSWICH: Fulop, Peters, McAuley, Delaney, O'Dea, Kennedy, Edwards, Norris, Healy, Wickham, Priskin (sub Murray, 90). Unused subs: Lee-Barrett, Smith, Eastman, Civelli, Lambe, Hourihane.
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs, Denilson, Fabregas, Wilshere (sub Song, 68), Walcott, Bendtner (sub Chamakh, 68), Arshavin (sub Vela, 81). Unused subs: Ramsey, Eastmond, Miquel, Shea.