Reading 5 (Roberts 12, Koscielny (O.G) 18, Leigertwood 20, Hunt 37, Pogrebnyak 115) – Arsenal 7 (Walcott 45, Giroud 64, Koscielny 89, Walcott 95, Chamakh 103, Walcott 120, Chamakh 122)
Man of the Match – Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Dafuq did I just watch last night? Was it a dream? What the hell was that? No, seriously! Oh bloody, it was one of the most entertaining games of football I have ever watched. It was sensational, stunning and an absolute epic. And I am glad, that despite all my exam tensions, I stayed all the way up to 4:00 AM in the morning, to watch each and every moment of this epic, once in a lifetime’ game! 😀
At the end of it all, I was absolutely exhausted, and just wanted to get some shut eye, but this game had everything. Had me fuming after 20 minutes, had me cringe after 37, made me jump with joy on 95, and then cry like a baby at the 120th minute. And they said football is just a sport!
There were no surprises in the Arsenal line-up, and the same side that I had predicted to start yesterday, started. However, Reading made 6 changes to their side, from the one that drew 3-3 with Fulham over the weekend.
And it was the Royals who immediately started on the front foot. In as early as the second minute, a header from Sean Morrison off a Nicky Shorey cross struck the post, with young Arsenal goalkeeper Damian Martinez, scrambling away. Reading looked more decisive and hungry in midfield, and Arsenal’s defensive midfield duo of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin looked naive.
The Coq-Pong axis was exposed, when on 12 minutes, former Arsenal youth player Hal Robson-Kanu came charging from the left, and his cross beat all Arsenal players, including Laurent Koscielny who should have cleared it, into the path of Jason Roberts, who tapped home.
Arsenal were slow to react, and Reading, banking on the opening goal, scored again minutes later, when some fine work on the right, resulted in Chris Gunter’s cross, striking Laurent Koscielny and into the net for an own goal.
It was all going downward, when, 2 minutes later, Reading were in dreamland. Mikele Leigertwood unleashed a ferocious shot, which Martinez could only watch striking him and into the net. Arsenal were 3-0 down in under 20 minutes.
However, Arsenal still weren’t able to get their passing sorted out, and were losing possession cheaply over and over again in midfield. A fantastic away support kept singing, even though Tony Adams from the stands, and Steve Bould from the bench may have preferred to look away.
Minutes later, the tie was as good as over, when a cross from Gareth McCleary was headed in by striker Noel Hunt. Arsenal were well and truely stuttering, as a barrage of tweets followed. From the moderate ones saying “Arsene out” to the ones that said “I would eat dog shit if Chamakh scored”. I wonder if that guy deleted his twitter account after the game.
Anyways, Arsenal looked to muster a response before half time, and created more chances in the final 5 minutes of the first half, than they had done in the entire game. Walcott raced in on a brilliant Arshavin through ball to make it 4-1.
The second half seemed like it could be a mirror of the first half, as Reading came out all guns blazing again. Mikele Leigertwood tested Martinez twice, in the space of as many minutes, once hitting the crossbar. Walcott almost scored a second goal, when a rare left footed shot, was kept out by Adam Federici.
Arsenal needed some freshness and directness, and Arsene Wenger decided to replace the ineffective Serge Gnabry and Emmanuel Frimpong with Olivier Giroud and Thomas Eisfeld. And the difference was there for everyone to see, as 2 minutes after coming on, Giroud directed a perfect header off a Walcott cross into the net. Game on.
Arsenal failed to create too many opportunities, even though Thomas Eisfeld and Andriy Arshavin looked to fashion something. With 89 minutes gone, it was almost a case of too little, too late, when Laurent Koscielny jumped over the Reading defence to make it 4-3, with almost no time left.
Arsenal were almost done and dusted, as Reading made a substitution, and the referee made Martinez take a goal kick twice. This resulted in some more time, and a hooked ball forward was met by a Chamakh header, falling perfectly into the path of Walcott, who poked the ball home, which just about crossed the line. And to double sure of it, Jenkinson scored off the rebound.
The comeback was well and truely completed, and Arsenal had got out of jail with that. The momentum was clearly with Arsenal, and even a bit of Jason Roberts altercation with the 4th official, about time added on, couldn’t change the scoreline.
Some Arsenal players thought the game was over, and Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin threw their shirts into the away fans end, and had to go back browsing for it, when they were informed that this was not the French League Cup.
Both teams looked a bit slow as extra time started, visibly exasperated with what had just happened. However, it was Arsenal who took the lead, and thus actually completing the most remarkable of comebacks. Olivier Giroud beat a defender on the left, to meet Arshavin, who delightfully set up Chamakh, who took a shot from outside the box.
Surprisingly, this touch of Chamakh was golden, as the ball was too far away for Federici to save, and Arsenal were leading 5-4. Reading were not giving up, and started the second half with much intent. Martinez had to use his legs to thwart a Morrison header, and some nervy defending, resulted in Gunter left open on the right.
His attempted shot, deflected off an Arsenal defender into the path of Pavel Pogrebnyak, who made it 5 each on the night. Penalties loomed, or did it.
Andriy Arshavin, tireless throughout, darted in from the left, and his shot was cleared off the line, only to come to Walcott who scored what surely was the winner in the 120th minute. Reading looked to muster a response, but a clearance from Johan Djourou was met by an onrushing Marouane Chamakh, who lobbed Federici to seal a memorable 7-5 win for the Arsenal.
1-0,2-0,3-0,4-0,4-1,4-2,4-3,4-4,4-5,5-5,5-6,5-7. Ah, the stuff of dreams. Surely, if this cannot turn around our season, then I don’t know what will.
Yes, we conceded 5 goals against a piss poor Premier League opposition, but we scored 7 as well, and it goes bounds to say about our confidence, as we rallied from 4-0 down to win 7-5.
Ah, I am exhausted with typing and emotion. Positives and negatives, some other time. 😛
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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