Arsenal pay the penalty
English League Cup Quarter Final: Bradford City 1 Arsenal 1, After extra time Bradford win 3-2 on penalties:Arsenal suffered an embarrassment of epic proportions as they lost on penalties to a battling Bradford side whose achievement should rank among football’s all-time giant-killing feats.
Phil Parkinson’s League Two players did not just beat Arsenal in this League Cup quarter-final, for much of this match they outplayed Arsene Wenger’s woeful Gunners to reach a first ever semi-final.
The spot-kick specialists won their ninth successive penalty shoot-out 3-2 after Thomas Vermaelen struck the post. The Arsenal skipper had earlier appeared to rescue his side with a header three minutes from normal time to equalise Garry Thompson’s first-half volley.
But keeper Matt Duke defied the Premier League side to send the tie to a shoot-out — and glory for Bradford.
Wenger could not be accused of putting youth development before silverware on this occasion. The Arsenal manager used the luxury of an impending free weekend in the Premier League to select eight of the side that beat West Brom on Saturday against the League Two club.
As expected, Arsenal took the game to their lower-league hosts from the kick-off and the former Liverpool reserve team captain Stephen Darby had to be alert to clear at the back post as Kieran Gibbs closed in on a Bacary Sagna cross from the right.
Thomas Vermaelen headed over from Santi Cazorla’s corner when, having peeled away from his marker to connect from eight yards out, the captain should have struck the target. Lukas Podolski also had a good chance in the air following superb one-touch approach play from the visitors but had his back to goal when Jack Wilshere’s cross arrived and flicked over.
For all Arsenal’s possession they rarely got through the Bradford defence on the floor and indeed it was their central defenders, Per Mertesacker and Vermaelen, who looked uncomfortable against the strength of James Hanson and the pace of Nahki Wells. Wells, a Bermuda international, had shrugged aside Vermaelen in the opening minutes only to be penalised for a foul by Mike Dean but the roles were reversed with devastating consequences for Arsenal in the 16th minute.
Arsenal’s captain conceded a free-kick on the right with a body-check on Wells. His Bradford counterpart, Gary Jones, delivered an inviting set-piece, the ball was flicked to the back post and Garry Thompson connected with a volley into the roof of the net.
Bradford resisted the inevitable response through a relentless performance from every player, and with admirable adventure whenever the opportunity arose, but their lead should have gone by the interval.
Francis Coquelin weaved through several City players only to strike the outside of Matt Duke’s post from the edge of the area, but their next miss was simply reckless. Podolski released Gibbs on the left and when his low cross evaded Duke the equaliser from Gervinho beckoned, but he failed to make contact.