Bradford claim the upper hand in shoot-out to send Gunners spinning
Arsenal suffered an embarrassment of epic proportions as they lost 3-2 on penalties to a battling Bradford City side whose achievement should rank among football's all-time giant-killing feats.
Phil Parkinson's npower League Two players did not just beat Arsenal in last night's Capital One Cup quarter-final, for much of this match they outplayed Arsene Wenger's woeful Gunners to reach their first semi-final.
The spot-kick specialists won their ninth successive penalty shoot-out 3-2 after Thomas Vermaelen struck a post.
The Arsenal skipper had earlier appeared to rescue the Gunners with a header three minutes from normal time to equalise Garry Thompson's first-half volley. But goalkeeper Matt Duke defied the Barclays Premier League side to send the tie to a shoot-out – and glory for Bradford.
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The defeat in sub-zero temperatures, and another failure in Arsenal's seven-year quest for silverware, will chill the veins of Wenger as he contemplates the season so far.
The humiliation was further intensified by Wenger's breaking his long-held rule and fielding a full-strength side in the League Cup.
The 23,971 sell-out crowd, Bradford's biggest since 1960, had groaned as the teams were read out but they were soon cheering when their top scorer Nahki Wells out-muscled Vermaelen and forced a sprawling save from Wojciech Szczesny.
Hope turned to jubilation for the Bradford fans in the 16th minute when a free-kick led to Thompson's goal.
Vermaelen had blocked Wells and Gary Jones caused mayhem to Arsenal's zonal markers with his free-kick, Will Atkinson flicking it on for an unmarked Thompson to gleefully fire home.
It could have been 2-0 after Jones' corner found Rory McArdle and only Kieran Gibbs' clearance on the goal-line prevented further embarrassment for Wenger's men.
As the temperature dropped so did Arsenal's spirits, with Per Mertesacker being regularly beaten in the air by James Hanson.
Bradford's goal took on a charmed life when an Arsenal move ended with Gibbs driving in a cross and Gervinho, from two yards out, somehow contriving to let the ball go through his legs.
The Gunners' frustrations continued in the second half and it was well past the hour when Duke was forced into his first save, parrying Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first-time shot from fellow substitute Tomas Rosicky.
As time ticked down, Duke was in action again to deny Wilshere from the edge of the box.
The desperation finally paid dividends with three minutes of normal time remaining. After his corner had been half-cleared, Santi Cazorla whipped in a delicious cross for Vermaelen to head home from close range.
Two brilliant saves in quick succession by Duke from Cazorla took the game into extra time.
Finally, Arsenal started to look like the Premier League side as Rosicky and Wilshere started to pull the strings. Duke's stunning save denied Gibbs, then Sagna's header was cleared off the line by Jones.
Cazorla nearly won it with a stunning, swerving effort from fully 30 yards that struck the crossbar, but Bradford held out for the shoot-out.
Arsenal were always on the back foot from when Cazorla had their first spot-kick saved, even more so when Marouane Chamakh hit the post.
Bradford could even afford to see Wojciech Szczesny deny Ritchie Jones and Stephen Darby before Vermaelen's miss sent Valley Parade into ecstasy.
Andreas Weimann struck twice as Aston Villa came from behind to book a place in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup with a 4-1 win at Norwich City as manager Paul Lambert enjoyed a triumphant return to his old club.
The former Canaries' boss, who is in dispute with his old employers after an acrimonious departure during the summer, enjoyed the last laugh as substitute Weimann hit a second-half brace to turn the tie around after Brent Holman had cancelled out Steve Morison's opener.
Christian Benteke cracked in a fourth during stoppage time.
James McClean turned the clock back a year as Sunderland handed manager Martin O'Neill a long overdue Barclays Premier League victory, 3-0 against Reading at the Stadium of Light last night.
Twelve months to the day since making his senior debut for the Black Cats as a substitute in O'Neill's first game in charge, a 2-1 win over Blackburn, the Republic of Ireland international fired them into a third-minute lead which they were never in danger of relinquishing.
Striker Steven Fletcher increased the advantage with an audacious 28th-minute backheel, before Stephane Sessegnon rounded visiting goalkeeper Adam Federici at the death to secure just a third Premier League win in 24 attempts and the first against 11 men since March.