Things were looking very bleak for Arsenal after 37 minutes. They were 4-0 down at Reading and looked like they didn’t have much interest in the League Cup this season. Around 1,000 visiting fans decided they had seen enough when Noel Hunt put the home side up 4-0 and headed for the exits. Little did they know what they were going to miss...
At four goals down, Arsenal could have packed up the tent and folded. They could have turned their attention to the big game against Manchester United coming up on Saturday, but they didn’t. They kept fighting and Theo Walcott pulled a goal back right before halftime. To some it might have seemed like a meaningless goal at the time, but it definitely wasn’t.
Getting a goal before the break changes the mindset of the players at halftime. It gave them some much-needed momentum and belief they could get back into the game.
The second half, though, didn’t start very well for Arsenal, as Reading so easily could have made it five. Another Reading goal would surely have killed off the match, but it didn’t come. Then, the match started to turn back towards the Gunners.
Oliver Giroud was brought on in the 62nd minute and he made an instant impact. He scored from a well-taken header off of a corner kick. Arsenal had 23-plus minutes to go and suddenly the comeback didn’t seem so improbable.
Arsenal pushed forward, but were denied on a couple of occasions by very good saves from Adam Federici. Finally, they would get the goal when Lauernt Koscielny scored. Again, it was a header from a corner kick. There was only five minutes to go with stoppage time and it looked like Arsenal would run out of time.
With seconds remaining, Arsenal knocked the ball long and it was headed into the path of Theo Walcott. Federici got a piece of the shot, but it still went on target. The Reading defender tried to scramble it off the line, but the goal was given. Carl Jenkinson left no doubt, as he knocked it back in just in case.
Reading were mad Arsenal had been given five-and-a-half minutes stoppage time,—the fourth official announced four would be given. However, Reading made a substitution during injury time, and Jason Roberts took his time getting off the field. Therefore, the time the referee added was not unreasonable.
Arsenal had pulled off a miracle comeback, but the job was not done as some of the players thought. Giroud and Frances Conquelin threw their jerseys into the crowd thinking the match had ended as a draw and would go to a replay like the FA Cup, only to realize it was going to extra-time.
In extra-time, Arsenal rode their momentum and took the lead through Marouane Chamakh. It looked as if the comeback was complete and Reading were done for. Somehow the Royals dragged themselves back into the match and equalized when Pavel Pogrebnyak diverted a deflected shot into the goal. Astonishingly, the game was 5-5 and looked to be going to penalties.
However, there would be another twist.
With a couple of minutes remaining, Andrei Arshavin went on a darting run down the left. He elected to shoot from a tight angle instead of cutting the ball back to a wide-open Theo Walcott. The shot was cleared off the line by Nicky Shorey, but Walcott followed it up to put Arsenal in front. Just moments later, the game was sealed when Chamakh caught Federici in no mans land with a beautiful lob.
The match was an absolute thriller. At 4-0 down it looked like the game was over, but Arsenal refused to give in. It may be an old cliché, but you should never give up until the game is over. You never know what could happen.
Arsenal didn’t give up and they pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in history—one that will be remembered for a long time and may end up helping them to end their trophy-less drought.