Goalless for Gunners

Arsenal are forced into a replay after a frustrating FA Cup tie in Cardiff.

Cardiff City's Gabor Gyepes contests for a header with Arsenal's Robyn van Persie in a goalless FA Cup fourth round tie at Ninian Park.
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CARDIFF // Arsenal were made to endure a frustrating afternoon in the Welsh capital - but it could have been far worse for Arsene Wenger's side as they settled for a replay. Backed by a vociferous support, Cardiff showed just why they are expected to challenge for a place in the Premier League next season with a committed display.

With slightly more composure and quality in the final third, City may have even sneaked a winner late on, but Ross McCormack's stunning free-kick smashed against the crossbar. Wenger had elected to leave Emmanuel Adebayor, William Gallas and first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia on the bench while young defender Kieron Gibbs started at left-back. Aaron Ramsey made an emotional return to the club he left last summer in a £5million (Dh25m) move, but there was little room for sentiment from the home crowd once the game began, with Cardiff making a strong start.

Joe Ledley was instrumental in the early stages and his pinpoint cross picked out Ross McCormack at the far post, only for the striker to drag his effort horribly wide. With less than 15 minutes played Cardiff should have taken the lead as Ledley's pass dissected the visitors backline, but McCormack screwed his shot wide after running clear. While the home side were left to reflect on their wastefulness in front of goal, Arsenal appeared determined to make Cardiff pay and only a sharp stop by Peter Enckelman deprived Samir Nasri of firing his side ahead.

Arsenal gradually began to find their feet and the flowing football which Wenger's side are so renowned for almost brought an opener as Robin Van Persie's touch teed up Gibbs, but the youngster's fierce effort flew inches wide of the post. While Arsenal's threat continued to grow at the start of the second half, the home side were not to be outdone and Lukasz Fabianski fleew across his goal in acrobatic fashion to push away McCormack's fierce 30-yard drive.

Yet as the game wore on, Wenger's side began to stretch their opponents and Enckelman was once again forced into a sharp stop at his near post as Van Persie threatened to break the deadlock. Adebayor was thrown into the fray with just over 20 minutes remaining and he went close with an effort soon after coming on. With Cardiff looking weary and their defenders dropping ever deeper, Arsenal went for the jugular and Enckelman stood tall to keep out Nasri's delightful curling effort after neat interplay with Adebayor.

Despite Arsenal continuing to look the more likely to claim victory, Cardiff continued to battle fiercely and they came within inches of recording a famous victory right at the death. McCormack, who has already scored 15 goals this season, unleashed a 30-yard free-kick which crashed against the Arsenal crossbar as the visitors held out for a draw. sports@thenational.ae