Arsenal produced a stunning comeback at the Madejski stadium in the Capital One Cup that saw them go from 4-0 down to win 7-5 after extra time.
At the Arsenal AGM, Arsene Wenger said that the League Cup is his fifth priority and that was clear to see when he named 11 changes from the team that beat QPR at the weekend in the Premier League. Despite the importance of the cup to the Frenchman, he couldn’t hide his delight when he saw his team fight back from four down, to win the game 7-5 and to proceed to the next round of the competition.
The home side couldn’t have wished for a better start to the game as they roared to an early 4-0 lead against the London side. The goals started in the 12th minute when a low cross was smashed into the back of the net by veteran Jason Roberts, who also scored for Wigan against Arsenal in the League Cup semi-final back in 2006. They then doubled their lead when another low cross was turned into the back of the net, but this time by Arsenal defender, Laurent Koscielny. Just the start Brian McDermott would have been dreaming of.
Two minutes later, it was 3-0 to the home side when a long-range shot from Mikele Leigertwood somehow beat Arsenal reserve goalkeeper, Damian Martinez. The young goalkeeper got his hand to the ball but seemed to have palmed the ball into the back of the net. Reading couldn’t quite believe the start they had made and neither could the Arsenal youngsters.
Seven minutes before half-time, it was four to Reading. A glancing header from Noel Hunt beat the grasping Martinez as the misery kept on going for Arsenal. The make-shift defence were all over the place in the first half and looked like they had never played together before and no-one in the Arsenal camp could believe what was happening. Not the performance Arsene Wenger and his side was expecting.
As the score moved to 4-0, a section of the travelling fans were actually seen leaving the stadium. As well as some fans leaving the stadium, chants of ‘We want our old Arsenal back’ were ringing out from the away end.
Maybe the most crucial goal of the game was the one that came in the 45th minute right on the stroke of half-time. Theo Walcott was set through behind the Reading defence and he beautifully chipped the ball over the advancing keeper. 4-1 to Reading at half-time and even the most optimistic Arsenal fan wouldn’t have predicted them to go on and win the game, but they did.
Surprisingly, Arsene Wenger made no changes at half-time.
The comeback began in the 64th minute when a drilled in corner from Theo Walcott found substitute Olivier Giroud’s head, who powered the ball past Adam Federici.
With the game nearing it’s end it looked like Arsenal could not achieve the amazing comeback, but another Arsenal corner from Theo Walcott was this time headered in by Laurent Koscielny in the 89th minute. The Frenchman had now scored for both teams.
The game ticked into stoppage time and the fourth official raised the board with four minutes on it. However, during this time, Reading made a substitute and also time was being wasted which saw the ref add on an extra minute at the end and that was when Theo Walcott pounced again to seal the comeback and make it 4-4. However after the game it was revealed that the goal actually went to right back, Carl Jenkinson, which meant it was his first goal for the club.
As Theo Walcott was put through one-on-one, his shot was saved by Reading’s goalkeeper, but the ball was still rolling towards to goal and then smashed off the line by a Reading player, but only as far as Carl Jenkinson who managed to volley home the ball into the empty net much to the delight of the away fans. That was then met with the full-time whistle. This game was by no means over.
At full-time, Olivier Giroud must have thought it was all over as he took off his shirt and lobbed it into the away end. However, luckily enough the fans threw him his shirt back much to the amusement of all involved.
During the full-time break, Reading striker, Jason Roberts was seen arguing with the fourth official, which is quite ironic as he was the man that took about two minutes to get off the pitch when the score was at 4-3 in the dying minutes of the game.
The first goal in extra time was struck by Moroccan international and the forgotten man, Marouane Chamakh. This completed the sensational comeback from Arsenal. The striker picked up the ball from just outside the box and then fired it past Federici to make the comeback dream turn to reality. 5-4 to Arsenal as they led for the first time in the game.
If you were to think that was the end of the scoring, you would be wrong. With just four minutes left, Pavel Pogrebnyak was left unmarked in the penalty area and guided home a cross to make it 5-5. For the first time in a long time, the home fans were bouncing and celebrating.
With penalties looming, it was the contract rebel, Theo Walcott who popped up again to make it 6-5 to Arsenal. After a low-cross from Arshavin, the loose ball fell to on-rushing Walcott who then smashed the ball into the top of the net in front of the travelling away fans.
There was one more goal left in the game and it went once again to Arsenal. A counter attack goal saw Marouane Chamakh lob Federici from 25+ yards out and that was that. The game finished: Reading 5-7 Arsenal, which left the commentator saying: ‘This is the greatest game this competition has ever seen’ and I don’t think anyone would disagree.
Arsenal’s man of the match Theo Walcott spoke after the game about the side’s determination:
“We showed everyone what we can do. We never gave up and we are absolutely knackered. We had to be very direct in our play, and Jason Roberts caused us problems all night, but we just showed our character, and a lot of young players gained good experience tonight. Hopefully we can take that into the Premier League. We were good going forward, but maybe we were not great defensively at times.”
Defender, Carl Jenkinson, admitted to the poor start, but praises the side’s mental strength to come back:
“To be honest we didn’t start, it was poor, it wasn’t Arsenal and it wasn’t good enough. But we summed up what we’re about, we were 4-0 down and no-one ever gives up at Arsenal and to come back shows a lot of strength and a good mentality.”
The Arsenal mananger was a lot calmer after the game however:
“There were so many turning points, I believe that our first goal at 4-1 was important, and when Olivier Giroud moved to a very offensive 4-2-4 we started to create chance after chance and then we got the miracle goal in the last minute. You cannot play for Arsenal and give up. The players understood that at half time. Give them credit they responded very well. The first set is for us, it was a tennis game today.”
Reading boss, Brian McDermott could not believe how the game ended, but insisted that his team have to focus on the weekend now:
“It came down to the goal we conceded before half time. We went in at 4-1 and we weren’t happy or comfortable. It was suicide what went on in the second half and extra time. You play each game on its merits but it was extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like it. We have to dig deep and move onto the next game versus QPR.”
So from 4-0 down, Arsenal managed to turn the game completely on it’s head and ended up winning 7-5 and advancing to the next round.
Alex William Batt