Arsenal youngsters spare Wenger`s blushes

London: Arsenal`s youngsters spared Arsene Wenger`s blushes as the troubled Gunners were forced to come from behind before beating League Two minnows Shrewsbury 3-1 in the League Cup third round on Tuesday.

Wenger`s side have made the club`s worst start to a season for 58 years and Saturday`s dismal 4-3 loss at Blackburn left them languishing just above the Premier League relegation zone.

In the circumstances, Wenger desperately needed an emphatic victory, ideally with some vibrant displays from his new signings, to lift some of the gloom around the north London club.

Instead, the Gunners boss was forced to endure a nervous evening as James Collins headed Shrewsbury into the lead on 16 minutes, while the visitors - who had already hit a post -- also squandered a golden chance to increase their advantage.

Arsenal`s quality finally showed through when England Under-21 defender Kieran Gibbs equalised in the first half and teenage winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired them ahead after the break before Yossi Benayoun, on loan from Chelsea, wrapping things up late on.

Wenger - who earlier received the full backing of chief executive Ivan Gazidis in the wake of an appalling run of results -- had named a youthful team, with starts for South Korean forward Park Ju-Young and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Shrews keeper Benjamin Smith was called into action after just four minutes to tip over a close-range header from Marouane Chamakh.

The Moroccan was then denied again, this time by Smith`s legs, when he turned Francis Coquelin`s cutback goalwards.

But Shrewsbury weren`t overawed and the visitors nearly took the lead when Mark Wright burst into the left side of the box and drove his shot off the far post.

The 5,000 travelling fans did not have to wait long before erupting in joyous celebration when Collins got above a static Arsenal defence to head the League Two side into a deserved lead after 16 minutes.

Wenger looked on despondent as chants of "you are getting sacked in the morning" rang out from the jubilant away end.

Reuben Hazel headed wide when he seemed certain to put Shrewsbury 2-0 up and that was the turning point.

Left-back Gibbs equalised with a header from Carl Jenkinson`s cross and Arsenal went ahead on 58 minutes through Oxlade-Chamberlain.

There looked little on when the 18-year-old former Southampton trainee collected the ball 25 yards out, but he promptly drilled a low strike under Smith.

With the pressure off, Arsenal started to stroke the ball around, before a confident Oxlade-Chamberlain stung Smith`s hands with a fierce angled drive.

On 70 minutes, Japan teenager Ryo Miyaichi was handed his competitive debut, replacing Park.

Wenger handed another youngster a taste of first-team action when 18-year-old Dutch midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup replaced Emmanuel Frimpong.

With 12 minutes left, Benayoun made the tie safe when he swept home from close range following good work in the right side of the Shrewsbury penalty box by Ozyakup.

Bureau Report

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