One of the most extraordinary nights ensued in Football League Cup history back in 2012 when Arsenal met Reading in the fourth round of the competition.
Arsenal’s then boss, Arsene Wenger fielded a rather younger squad as he didn’t expect much of a fight from Brian McDermott's Reading.
The match got off to a flyer, which was almost a sign of what was to follow. Arsenal were behind when Jason Roberts shook off his marker Laurent Koscielny inside the six-yard box to convert Hal Robson-Kanu's cross into a goal in the 12th minute.
Six minutes later, Arsenal found themselves two goals down much to the fury of Wenger who was steaming on the side-lines. This time it was Koscielny who put the ball back into his own net when he glided a Garath McCleary cross away from his goalkeeper to give Reading a stronghold in the first half of the game.
The situation only worsened for the visitors as in the 20th minute, striker Marouane Chamakh gave away the ball and the Gunners’ goalkeeper was unable to keep a strike from Mikele Leigertwood out of bounds. It was Reading 3 – 0 Arsenal.
Arsenal misery was far from over as they were about to be bludgeoned further by the hosts. In the 38th minute, another McCleary cross made sure that Noel Hunt was there to turn into a goal. And so it occurred, which made some of the visiting fans leave the stadium in utter disgust, realizing that their team is now beyond help.
Just on the cusp of half-time, the Gunners pulled one back after Theo Walcott found space between the defenders and was able to stir the ball over the goalkeeper. This goal was prominent in laying the foundation of a solid comeback that was due in the second half by Wenger’s men.
The Gunners started the second half strongly and were duly rewarded in the 62nd minute when Olivier Giroud entered the opponent’s penalty box and cautiously glided the ball at the back of the net. Arsenal had now scored two goals and shook the nerves of the Reading players who were now on the verge of exposing their nerves.
But the game lacked the element of drama until the 89th minute when Koscielny made up for his mistakes committed earlier in the first half when he headed a corner to make it 4-3.
But it was the time for Arsenal’s first half scorer, Walcott who stepped up and equalized in stoppage time, forcing the game into extra time. The Reading fans were furious and were almost on the verge of breaking down.
Extra time proved to be a riveting spectacle as Arsenal's ineptitude in the first half turned into a totally unexpected comeback as they lead for the first time with a strike from Chamakh in the 103rd minute. The odds changed swiftly in favour of the visitors but only for a short duration until Reading scored their fifth goal of the match in the 116th minute and the scores were levelled once again.
The match was heading towards a penalty shootout, but Arsenal had other ideas. Reading have never beaten the Gunners in any competition and the trend was about to continue. Walcott completed his hat-trick following a quick counter-attack led by Koscielny and Andrey Arshavin.
Chamakh, finally, hammered the final nail in the coffin as he made good of a defensive mistake and chipped the ball over the head of Reading’s keeper to secure an astonishing 7-5 win in favour of the visitors.
It was a historic night and one of the defining moments in Arsenal’s history as they defied all odds to see them through turbulent times.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/Adrian Dennis