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13 Jan 2011

Tamas Priskin scored as struggling Ipswich Town stunned Arsenal to deservedly win the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final at Portman Road.

Arsenal had struggled against Championship opposition when they were held by Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday - and they again found it difficult against a side from the second tier.

The decisive goal came in the 78th minute when Priskin ran on to a through ball from Colin Healy and took one touch before drilling his strike into the bottom corner beyond Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

And it would have got even worse for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's team had Szczesny not saved a late effort from Carlos Edwards.

Ipswich keeper Marton Fulop twice saved from Theo Walcott and Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas failed to convert a cross that dropped invitingly inside the six-yard box, but across the 90 minutes the visitors had precious little to show for their efforts.

The Tractor Boys had been thrashed 7-0 by Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday, lie 19th in the Championship and had caretaker boss Ian McParland in charge after sacking manager Roy Keane last Friday.

But with new boss Paul Jewell watching from the stands before taking charge of the team on Thursday, the home side belied a run of form that had seen them lose eight of their last 11 fixtures with a performance of tremendous desire and determination.

Ipswich grew in confidence as the match wore on, received tremendous support from the sold-out Portman Road crowd of 29,146 and will deservedly take their slender lead into the second-leg at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday 25 January.

The Suffolk side lined up with the dangerous Connor Wickham on the left side of a five-man midfield as Town successfully stymied their Premier League opponents.

Arsenal, hoping to use the Carling Cup to end a six-year wait for a trophy, threatened in the opening minutes and Fabregas was inches from connecting with a square pass from the largely ineffectual Andrey Arshavin.

Midway through the opening half, Ipswich midfielder Edwards inadvertently forced keeper Fulop into action with a looping header towards his own goal.

But the north Londoners, despite the presence of Fabregas, Arshavin, Walcott and Jack Wilshere in their starting XI, were poor and their Championship opponents grew in confidence as the match wore on..

Arsenal full-back Kieran Gibbs made a decent block from a shot by Edwards after 15 minutes, while Priskin went close with a vicious strike across goal after picking up the ball on the left and cutting inside just after the half-hour mark.

The home side created a flurry of half-chances close to the break, the most notable of which came when Wickham showed great skill to create the space to cross from the left but skipper David Norris could not quite connect with his attempted header

Priskin had the ball in the net with a spectacular overhead volley but he was offside and the Hungarian striker missed with a long-range strike as Ipswich worked up a head of steam against a sluggish Arsenal side.

The Tractor Boys continued to play on the front foot after the restart, with veteran Mark Kennedy exemplifying the surging self-belief by attempting to chip Szczesny from close to the halfway line.

In contrast, Arsenal's flagging form was epitomised when the disappointing Denilson played team-mate Laurent Koscielny into trouble with a weak pass across the face of his team's penalty area.

Arshavin shot wide from the edge of the box in a rare opening for the Gunners, while at the other end it took a last-ditch clearance from Johan Djourou to deny Priskin after a long-ball upfield from Jaime Peters unlocked the visiting team's defence.

Prior to conceding, the north Londoners had finally started to build some pressure, with Fulop smothering a Walcott effort from a tight angle and Fabregas failing to convert Gibbs's cross.

The goal came when another ball over the top caught out the Gunners, with Priskin's crisp low finish no less than his team deserved.

Wenger's men had 12 minutes of normal time to find an equaliser but Fulop again denied Walcott as Ipswich closed out the match to give themselves a lead to defend in the second leg.

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