Reading and Arsenal Amass 12 Goals in Cup Match
Reading and Arsenal played the most amazing match in the history of the League Cup on Tuesday Night. After taking an astounding four goal lead over the club that Reading has never beaten, they were pulled back to a draw in the final minute of injury time, only to be beaten in extra time, after four more goals were scored.
Arsenal went into the game as favourites, despite changing all 11 starting players from the weekend win over QPR. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has always used this competition to blood new talent, but Tuesday’s line up was slightly different, in that it was mostly an experienced side, despite still being youthful in the main. Players like Jenkinson, Djouruo, Koscielny, Coquelin, Arshavin, Frimpong and Chamakh have plenty of Premier League and even Champions League experience.
Despite all of that experience Reading started the match brightly and created the early chances. Arsenal gradually came into the game after about 10 minutes then Reading scored against that run of play. For the remainder of the first half Reading scored at will, with 4 goals in 35 minutes, aided by an own goal by Koscielny, a mistake by rookie goalkeeper Martinez and some sloppy defending all around.
On the brink of half time Andriy Arshavin put a through ball down the middle of the field that split the Reading defence and Theo Walcott collected it with only the goalkeeper to beat, which he did assuredly. Arsenal went in at half time 4-1 down and many Arsenal fair weather fans had already left for London at 4-0. But the faithful stayed and sung “We want our Arsenal back”.
Immediately after half time Reading started off on top again and looked like they could pick up a fifth goal any time. Arsenal gradually improved but continued to let themselves down in the last third of the pitch, at both ends.
On 62 minutes Wenger made a double substitution bringing on Giroud for Frimpong and 19 year old German, Thomas Eisfeld for his 17 year old compatriot Serge Gnabry. Now Wenger often seems to me to make substitutions based on factors other than tactics for the game. Frimpong certainly needed to go off, he had had an awful game, but Gnabry had created chances and was one of the players on the field more determined to attack. Whereas Chamakh had been the worst forward in my opinion and I certainly would have replaced him. But the substitutions proved fruitful and those fans that say ‘In Arsene we trust’ were proven right again. All though at times at does seem to require blind faith.
Arsenal moved to a very aggressive 4-2-4 formation and Giroud got on the end of a Walcott corner, only 2 mins after coming onto the field and headed past Reading keeper Federici, who up until now had made some good saves to keep Reading well ahead. But the score remained at 4-2 in the 89th minute, when Koscielny repeated the feat, heading in another Walcott corner to compensate for the goal he had scored for Reading, but not all of his poor defending at the other end.
Four extra minutes of injury time were to be added, but it was in the 96th minute that Walcott scored another goal of his own. Nicky Shorey kicked the ball out of the goal from behind the line and neither the referee nor the linesman seemed to have seen that it had gone over. Fortunately Jenkinson was on hand to collect the rebound and fire it into the back of the net, to leave no doubt.
There was much complaining from Reading players and staff about the additional playing time, but they tended to ignore the fact that the referee had spent a long period giving a talking to two Reading players in the scheduled 4 minutes about their heavy challenges and that they escaped with only two yellow cards to Arsenal’s six, despite a deliberate handball and repeated industrial strength tackling.
A comical moment arose at the end of regular time. With Arsenal leveling the score at 4 – 4 Frenchmen Giroud and Coquelin believed it was all over, took off their shirts and threw them into the crowd. When they realised that they had to play extra time, they had to go to the Arsenal fans and ask for them back.
In the first period of extra time Arsenal took the lead through Marouane Chamakh who fired through the legs of Reading defender Kaspars Gorkss and beat the un-sighted goalkeeper. Good thing he wasn’t substituted!
But Reading‘s fight was not over, despite some of their fans leaving now. On 116 minutes of play Paval Pogrebnyak headed past the Arsenal keeper to level the scores again at 5 – 5. The game looked to be heading for a penalty shoot-out. But no, in this most remarkable of matches Theo Walcott scored another goal to complete his hat trick.
Reading threw everything into attack to try to level again, but Arsenal cleared, Arshavin put another long ball into space for Chamakh to pick up and lob over the keeper for his second goal of the match. The final score Reading 5 Arsenal 7
What a match, what a comeback, what a result!
It could be just what Arsenal needed after being so lost since the International break a few weeks ago. Since then losing to cellar dwellers Norwich, Schalke 04 in the European Championship and an unconvincing 1 – 0 home win over QPR who are sitting firmly bottom of the Premier League.
Undoubtedly wholesale changes will be made for the side that faces Manchester United on Saturday. But this result can bring nothing but confidence to players like Walcott, Giroud, Chamakh and Arshavin, whether they start, or come on as substitutes in the next few fixtures.
Of course Saturday’s match will be the first time that Arsenal face their former captain Robin van Persie at his new club. No doubt Arsenal fans will give him the warm welcome that he deserves. But I hope that it does not persist throughout the game and those real traveling fans get behind their side like they did at Reading.