LONDON -- Arsenal reached the Carabao Cup quarterfinals after a 2-1 win over Blackpool despite a fairly chaotic ending as both teams finished with 10 men.
The Gunners looked to be cruising when Emile Smith-Rowe doubled their lead shortly after the break, with Stephan Lichtsteiner having netted his first goal for the club in the opening half.
But Matteo Guendouzi's second booking handed Blackpool a lifeline and Paudie O'Connor pulled a goal back with a header in the 66th.
With Blackpool pushing for an equalizer, O'Connor was then sent off for a reckless tackle on substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, allowing the hosts to see the game out.
The kids are alright. Unai Emery doesn't play quite as many academy youngsters in this competition as Arsene Wenger sometimes did, but he gave centre-back Julio Pleguezuelo his debut and started two teenage midfielders in Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi. The latter two repaid the faith with a goal and an assist, respectively, while Pleguezuelo hardly set a foot wrong. Forgotten man Carl Jenkinson may have taken a big step toward resurrecting his career as well with a strong performance.
It feels harsh to criticize Guendouzi, who was one of Arsenal's best players for the opening 55 minutes, but the teenager made things unnecessarily difficult for his teammates by getting sent off. One can argue that his second booking was harsh as Jordan Thompson went to ground easily after a slight tug, but there was no need for Guendouzi to take the risk. He'll have to be smarter in the future to avoid having opponents take advantage of his inexperience. Petr Cech also offered up another reminder that he isn't very good with his feet, nearly gifting Blackpool an equaliser with a horrendous error.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Emery fielded a blend of youth and experience but managed to keep tight control of the game until Guendouzi's sending off. He was quick to react, sending on Lucas Torreira and Alex Iwobi to shore things up. This was obviously a game Arsenal should win, and Emery found a way to navigate the fixture while resting most of his starters for Liverpool on Saturday.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 5 -- Was lucky not to pull off a Halloween horror show as he gave the ball away while trying to dribble in the box as Arsenal hung on to their 2-1 lead, only for the offside flag to bail him out. Didn't have a save to make apart from the goal but also misjudged a corner that resulted in Blackpool hitting the post.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 7 -- A well-taken goal to open his Arsenal account and a solid display throughout. His experience was much needed in this makeshift back four.
DF Julio Pleguezuelo, 7 -- Finally made his first-team debut after five years in the Arsenal academy. Grew into the game after a slightly shaky start, reading the game well and showing excellent composure on the ball.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 4 -- Showed poor one-on-one defending early on and was at fault for Blackpool's goal after completely misjudging the ball.
DF Carl Jenkinson, 7 -- Back in an Arsenal shirt for the first time in over 700 days after injuries and time on loan, and had to fill in at left-back instead of his usual position on the right. Did remarkably well under the circumstances, setting up the second goal and playing well throughout. Only his left-footed crossing held him back from creating even more on his flank.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 6 -- Lovely ball over the top to set up the first goal but spoiled an otherwise excellent performance by needlessly getting sent off for a second booking.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 5 -- Returned from a leg fracture he suffered on opening day of the season and looked a bit rusty. Struggled to control the ball at times but delivered a dangerous cross into the box that nearly resulted in a first-half goal. Taken off after an hour with Arsenal down to 10 men.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 6 -- Made plenty of runs into the box but rarely had a ball to get on the end of. Good work rate but he should be more dominant in a game like this.
MF Emile Smith Rowe, 7 -- Another goal for the youngster who showed again that he might be a special talent. Didn't impose himself on the game but certainly looked like he belongs at this level.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 6 -- Showed plenty of ambition with the ball, taking defenders on and looking for a shot, but couldn't make much happen. Might be trying too hard after a frustrating few weeks.
FW Danny Welbeck, 5 -- Toiled and ran and tried but didn't have much to show for it. Not entirely his fault, though, as he had precious little service up front.
MF Lucas Torreira, 7 -- Solidified the midfield when Blackpool were in danger of getting back into the game.
MF Alex Iwobi, NR -- Also helped Arsenal see the game out, helping them control possession and push forward more effectively.
MF Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, NR -- His pace forced O'Connor to commit the foul that earned him a red card, ending Blackpool's hopes of a fightback.