Arsenal crashed out of the League Cup at Bradford last night, on what was a very embarrassing night for the club. Arsene Wenger said before the match that he would field an ‘experienced’ side. If you read my preview, you would have read me expecting the likes of Squillaci, Chamakh and Arshavin to be his experience, with a few first-team players thrown in there. However, Wenger surprised many by naming a full strength side and looked as if he was taking the competition seriously. Even players like Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski, who weren’t expected to be anywhere near the starting line-up due to recent injuries, amazing started the game.
This was a proper cup tie. Arsenal hadn’t met Bradford since the 2000/01 season when Bradford were a Premier League side. There were now 65 places on the Football League ladder that separated the two sides, with Bradford in League Two. However, their fans were clearly up for it and that helped them to give the performance that followed.
Lukas Podolski and Thomas Vermaelen wasted headed chances early on as Arsenal looked to take control from the off. However, Bradford delivered warning signs themselves with Nahki Wells and James Hanson giving Wojciech Szczesny some problems early on. 16 minutes in and Bradford were in dreamland. Gary Jones whipped in an inviting free-kick before a flick on landed at the feet of Garry Thompson, who volleyed the ball into the net to give the hosts the lead.
The one thing at that point was it was early days. Bradford had a long time to hold onto that lead. You knew that Arsenal, especially with their first-team out would create chances and you knew that Bradford would eventually tire.
Francis Coquelin went extremely close to finding the equaliser when he went past two defenders before seeing his shot bounce back off of the post. Santi Cazorla had a chance on the rebound after Bacary Sagna played it back to him and the Spaniard’s first time effort went way over.
Just before the break, Arsenal should have been level. Wilshere picked out Gibbs who saw his low cross present Gervinho with pretty well an open goal, but the Ivorian somehow diverted it wide of goal. A poor effort.
Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey wasted chances once more early in the second half before Wenger made two subs with just over 20 minutes left to play. Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced the disappointing Ramsey and Podolski. The other substitute, Marouane Chamakh, headed over the bar shortly after and then Jack Wilshere drove forward and his stinging shot was parried away by Matt Duke and no Arsenal player could get to the rebound.
It was better from Arsenal. You could sense a late Arsenal goal was coming, one that could break Bradford hearts. Oxlade-Chamberlain fired wide with 6 minutes left on the clock, but Arsenal continued to hunt the equaliser. It came with just 2 minutes left. Cazorla’s delightful cross was headed in by Thomas Vermaelen to force extra-time.
To be honest, extra-time was all Arsenal. You could tell Bradford were playing for penalties now. They were tired and rightly so. They had worked their socks off. It was down to Arsenal to find the winner in extra-time or face the lottery of a penalty shootout.
Santi Cazorla forced a couple of good saves out of Duke, whilst Sagna, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain went very close to being heroes. Cazorla went closest when his shot rocketed off of the crossbar.
Bradford held on in extra-time. Arsenal now had to hope for the best in the shootout. To be honest, when it went to penalties, I felt the writing was on the wall. We had hit the post and the bar in normal and extra-time, missed an open goal and not managed to kill them off. We sent our first-team out against a League Two side and were lucky to get extra-time. Did we honestly deserve to go through?. Bradford were superb all night and gave us a hell of a game. It would have been extremely cruel for them to lose on penalties, but of course I wanted us to go through and that after all is football sometimes.
Final thing I have of note is WHEN will Wenger realise that Podolski and Ramsey are not wingers?!. Podolski is a striker. Play him there once in a while instead of out wide. I wouldn’t say Ramsey is good enough in his actual position, let alone out of position. It does baffle me how someone paid that much money can’t see this. Also, Gervinho is NOT a striker.
Bradford went first. Nathan Doyle stepped up and scored. 1-0 Bradford.
Santi Cazorla was Arsenal’s first penalty taker. He saw his penalty saved by Duke. 1-0 Bradford still.
Gary Jones was next up for the hosts. 2-0 Bradford.
Marouane Chamakh up for Arsenal. Hits the post. 2-0 Bradford.
Stephen Darby steps up for Bradford. Saved by Szczesny. 2-0 Bradford.
Jack Wilshere stepped up to the spot confidently. Cool as you like. 2-1 Bradford.
Alan Connell is up for Bradford. Scores. 3-1 Bradford.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain confidently steps up. Goal. 3-2 Bradford.
This to win it. Ritchie Jones can be a hero here. His spot kick is saved by Szczesny!. 3-2 Bradford.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has to score here otherwise his team are out. Hits the post!. Bradford are through to the semi-finals of the League Cup!