Arsenal’s night at the Madejski stadium on Tuesday will go down as one of the most incredible ones the club has ever been involved in.
Thankfully, the result – a 7-5 thriller – was in favour of the Gunners. But for much of the game, the odds were by no means in favour of Arsenal. Indeed, a woeful start had seen Wenger’s men manage to concede four unanswered goals to Reading as the home side raced to into a shocking and seemingly unassailable 4-0 lead through strikes from Jason Roberts and Leigertwood which were sandwiched by a Koscielny own-goal and then wrapped by a header from Hunt after 37 minutes. But Theo Walcott – sent through on goal by Arshavin – provided a cool finish and what appeared to be a consolation goal on the stroke of half-time to make it 4-1.
Consolation goal? Maybe not. Perhaps the start of a comeback if you are one brave Arsenal team. The visitors netted a second through substitute Giroud’s header from a corner after the break but Arsenal had to wait until the final minute of the 90 for Koscielny to head home a third from another corner.
Still, this looked to be an agonizingly close and unfinished comeback similar to the two-legged 4-3 affair with Milan last year because for much of injury time, the Gunners had huffed and puffed for an unlikely equalizer and failed to find a breakthrough. But with their final throw of the dice, Giroud set up Theo Walcott who battled his way through the heart of Reading’s defense to shoot and snatch an equalizer which seemed to have been cleared off the line but then smashed back into the net by Jenkinson anyway. 4-4 it was.
Arsenal had done to Reading what Newcastle did to them in 2011. But this was no Premier League outing and so by rules of the League cup, this game was not over.
Hilariously, Coquelin and Giroud had to retrieve their shirts thrown into the crowd during the full-time whistle as extra-time proceeded. For once, it was Wenger’s men who had their tails up from the momentum of leveling matters from 4-0 down. Reading’s back-line was tiring and so Arsenal capitalized when Chamakh exchanged passes with Giroud and then Arshavin before carving out some space outside the box to send a terrific low shot into the net. Unbelievably the Gunners were 5-4 ahead. Ignasi Miquel was then forced to end his participation in this thriller through an injury as he was stretched off the pitch.
Like Miquel, the home side looked to have surrendered the battle until the closing stages of extra time when Pavel Pogrebnyak beat the offside to head home an equalizer for Reading. At an intriguing 5-5, this was the end-to-end scene no one saw coming at the Madejski stadium as both sides went after a winning goal.
Arsenal broke on the left through Arshavin and the Russian dribbled all the way to send a low effort across the mouth of Reading’s goal. The ball was cleared into the path of Walcott and he smashed the Gunners into a 6-5 lead from point-blank range.
Reading had not been put to bed yet and indeed it was their desperate piling of firepower upfront which created a lot of room for Chamakh to do just that for Arsenal. The Moroccan striker won possession in the air, beating Reading’s last man at the back before chipping the ball over the goalkeeper to seal an astonishing 7-5 victory for the visitors.
That was the final say in a match which was easy to forget after 37 minutes, but will now be remembered for a long, long time.