Arsenal stunned as Bradford win Cup shoot-out
LONDON (AFP) -
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen missed the decisive spot-kick as League Two minnows Bradford City stunned the Gunners with a 3-2 penalty shoot-out triumph after a 1-1 draw in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Garry Thompson’s volleyed strike after 16 minutes gave the underdogs a shock 1-0 lead at Valley Parade, but Arsenal thought they had got out of jail when Vermaelen netted three minutes from the end of normal time.
However, Bradford went on to win their ninth consecutive penalty shoot-out with Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh missing the first two kicks for the Gunners before Vermaelen’s blunder consigned Arsene Wenger’s side to arguably the most humiliating loss of the Frenchman’s 16-year reign.
Wenger, who has often opted to field a weakened side in this competition, decided to name eight of the players that had beaten West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
But there was no sign of any momentum from that win as Arsenal, looking totally out of sorts in temperatures that were below freezing when the game got under way, hit a new low in an already traumatic campaign.
Bradford forward Nahki Wells forced Wojciech Sczesny into an early save after breaching the visitors’ backline and the home fans were soon celebrating as Thompson picked an opportune time to claim only his second goal of the season.
The former Morecambe and Scunthorpe attacker converted Gary Jones’ free kick from the right as Bradford, in front of their biggest crowd at Valley Parade since 1960 of 23,971, threatened to cause a major cup upset.
Arsenal showed signs of improvement late in the half as French midfielder Francis Coquelin went close to his first goal for the Londoners, striking his left footed shot against a post from the edge of the area.
Gervinho then missed right in front of goal with Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke beaten after Kieran Gibbs had set up the chance with a cross from the left.
The hosts could have been 2-0 up at half-time though as Wells slotted just wide of the post after James Hanson had headed on Duke’s long kick.
Bradford, who had previously won on penalties at Premier League side Wigan in the last round, continued to defend in committed fashion at the start of the second half.
But Arsenal were not helping their cause as their wayward finishing continued when Aaron Ramsey sliced a shot wide after an incisive move from the visitors.
Gervinho was next to fire a shot well wide of its target and Wenger opted to send on Chamakh, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as his side desperately searched for an equaliser.
Oxlade-Chamberlain immediately tested Duke from distance on 70 minutes, Arsenal’s first shot on target in the entire game, but they could not find any momentum.
Bradford, who have already played a total of 31 matches this term, showed no signs of fatigue, defending in numbers as they tried to protect their lead.
Wilshere forced Duke into another save with a left footed shot from outside the area while Cazorla had a shot deflected wide.
But Arsenal eventually found a late equaliser two minutes from time with Vermaelen heading home from six yards out following Cazorla’s cross from the left.
Cazorla could have won it for Wenger’s team inside 90 minutes with two efforts that were kept out by Duke but the game went into extra-time.
Duke saved well from Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain while Cazorla hit the crossbar in the second half of the added 30 minutes but the visitors could not find the goal to prevent penalties.
Cazorla’s first kick was saved by Duke and then Chamakh hit the post.
Bradford missed penalties from Stephen Darby and Ritchie Jones, the latter, but Vermaelen hit the post with the final kick as the hosts reached the last four for the first time.