Arsenal came from 4-0 down to win an astonishing match 7-5 in extra time
Preamble Good evening everyone for what, hopefully, will be an intriguing League Cup encounter. Both sides are trying to defy recent form, but only Reading are seeking to defy history. They've played Arsenal nine times in all competitions ... and lost all nine. Will tonight be any different? The bookies, who make Arsenal strong favourites, suspect not.
So what can we expect tonight? Hopefully a decent, open, game between two strong sides. Reading played a close-to-first-XI in their 3-2 victory over QPR in the last round. Arsenal, meanwhile, have often used the early rounds of the League Cup as a debutantes' ball, introducing hot new talent into society, but their 6-1 smashing of Coventry included Olivier Giroud, Andrei Arshavin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrei Santos, and only a couple of unfamiliar names - 18-year-old Swiss defender Martin Angha and 19-year-old midfielder Nico Yennaris.
It will be interesting to see how Angha and Yennaris develop. In the past such talent (think Sebastian Larsson, Fabrice Muama, Armand Traore) has blossomed elsewhere, or not at all (think Mark Randall). Sometimes, though, a raw diamond is introduced and shines ever brighter with the passing of time: Jack Wilshere made his first starting appearance against Sheffield United as a 16-year-old back in 2008.
Team news: Er, scrub that 'hopefully two strong teams' bit. Arsenal's side is weaker than I expected. They've made 11 changes to the team that sneaked past QPR at the weekend. Heck, even Marouane Chamakh starts. Reading's side is watered-down too, with six changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Fulham.
Reading: Federici; Gunter, Gorkss, Morrison, Shorey; McCleary, Leigertwood, Tabb, Robson-Kanu; Hunt, Roberts. Subs: Taylor, Harte, Pearce, McAnuff, Church, Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak.
Arsenal: Martinez; Jenkinson, Djourou, Miquel, Koscielny; Frimpong, Coquelin; Walcott, Arshavin, Gnabry; Chamakh. Subs: Shea, Yennaris, Squillaci, Bellerin, Eisfeld, Meade, Giroud.
We're off! Just so you know, while I'll be focusing mostly on this game I will be posting scores on the other Capital One matches too. Meanwhile Ryan Dunne writes: "Must say, I'm surprised to see you in the MBM hot seat tonight; thought there'd be like a reserve squad of MBM officiators, ready to take their chance in the diddy games and show their boss what they can do! It's easy to diss the League Cup (here in Scotland, our League Cup used to have genuine gravitas when the Glorious Glasgow Rangers and the Forces of Darkness were both gunning for feasible trebles) but I don't think Capitol are helping themselves with this official history. Highlights include 'In 1981, The League Cup had become the first major Cup competition to bear the name of a sponsor - The Milk Cup - following a ground-breaking deal with the Dairy Council'." That's a zinger, all right.
2 min Not a great start for the 17-year-old Gnarby, whose first touch is heavier than Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power. Reading then go up the pitch but a corner comes to nothing. They're again on the attack here.
3 min Another corner, and a chance for Reading! Morrison's header clatters the post, bounces off Martinez and Arsenal clear. The home side have started well; Arsenal are strangely woozy.
5 min No goals anywhere yet. "Weren't Wolves fined a couple of years ago for fielding a weakened side at Old Trafford in a league match?" asks Simon McMahon. Indeed they were. £25k if memory serves. "I take it the same rules don't apply in this competition. It's an old debate, I know, but what is to be done about the League Cup?" Answers please via email.
7 min A wonderful long ball from Frimpong spheres over Reading's central defenders and into Walcott's path. But he's unable to drag it down and Reading clear for a corner, which comes to zip.
9 min Save from Martinez! Roberts tips it to Tabb, who then slaloms into the box before having his shot blocked at close range. The Arsenal keeper then nearly undoes his good work, flapping like a James at a corner, but the referee awards an undeserved free-kick.
11 min Arshavin attempts the classic Arsenal near-post corner: chip, flick on, bundle home from 0.25 yards. But Morrison gets ahead of Djourou and Reading clear. We've had six corners already. Six! In 11 minutes!
GOAL! Reading 1-0 Arsenal (Roberts 12) Lovely goal by Jason Roberts gives Reading a deserved lead. Arshavin gives it away to Hunt, who plays it out to Robson-Kanu on the left. His cross is A1 perfect and Roberts volleys it in from very close range.
14 min It's till 0-0 in all the other League Cup games. "Since you are allowed to comment on other matches, so will I," says Bryan Tisinger. "Bent can't even get a start in the league cup for Aston Villa. What are the chances he goes to Liverpool in the January transfer window? 98.6%? 99.999%? Can the Premier League just open a special one-minute transfer window to get that deal done now? Or is Bent not a 'Rodgers type' player and I am totally off the mark here?" Would be surprised if it happened Bryan: Bent is good running onto the ball, or when he is played in, but he is much less effective when he has his back to goal or linking up play.
16 min Reading are still on the attack. They've been very impressive so far and have just won a corner ...
17 min ... which comes to nothing. "The Milk Cup deal did spawn this classic, points my colleague Philip Cornwall, quite correctly.
GOAL! 18 min: Reading 2-0 Arsenal (Koscielny 18) Oh dear oh dear. Gunter crosses from the byline, Koscielny stabs it towards his own goal, and it beats Martinez. What is it about Koscielny and own goals in the League Cup?
GOAL! Reading 3-0 Arsenal (Leigertwood 20) Incredible! Another Reading goal! After another corner, Leigertwood shoots from just inside the area but Martinez - instead of palming it clear - punches it into his net. An awful mistake that. At the Arsenal AGM last week, Arsene Wenger made it clear that the League Cup was fifth on his list of priorities. Their performance tonight is making that clear.
22 min Arsenal have been shocking so far. This a young team but they should be doing better than this. Sleeping zombies have shown more life than this.
25 min Arshavin tries to thread in Walcott. He fails. The Arsenal fans are in good voice, mind, they're singing: "We're love you Arsenal, we do." The players aren't giving much back.
27 min Still no goals in the other League Cup games. Speaking of the League Cup, this from William Marzouk, about possible improvements. "Leave it as is. It's a long, gruelling season and you can't expect a club to put out the same starting 11 in three, much less four different competitions, with no winter break," he writes. "And it's a good chance to give playing time to emerging and out-of-favor players. Plus most clubs, recognising they are not serving up the grade A merchandise, offer cheaper tickets on League Cup night. And with the novel line ups the matches/results can be surprising. So everyone wins."
28 min Arsenal are stroking the ball around the half-way line but Reading, who are lined up with two banks of four, are looking rock-solid.
30 min "Come on Arsenal," cry the away fans. After more non-threatening possession an overhit pass flies into Federici's arms. "Isn't this a curious XI that Wenger has sent out tonight?" asks Lou Roper. "I suppose Jenkinson and Miquel might count as 'hot new talent', but surely the rest count as never-weres (step forward Djourou, Chamakh and thug-in-chief Frimpong) and loss-leaders in the shop window (Walcott and Arshavin)? May I have your thoughts?" Think that's harsh on Frimpong, Lou. And Walcott still has plenty of admirers, although I'm not always convinced. The rest, yes.
32 min Christian Benteke has put Aston Villa 1-0 up at Swindon. Arsenal are still giving every impression of wanting to be on the M4 back to London.
34 min Tony Adams is watching this from the stands. His look is mod and dandy; his countenance is anything but. Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould also look like they're sucking pickled eggs on the sidelines.
36 min Michael Tonge has put Leeds 1-0 up against Southampton. The Reading fans are now ole'ing their team.
GOAL! Reading 4-0 Arsenal (Hunt 37) Oh dear oh dear. This is embarrassing for Arsenal. Chamakh is bundled over, but a foul isn't given, and Reading fast break. The ball goes from centre to right to centre - and Noel Hunt headers it home!
40 min McDonald has put Middlesborough 1-0 up away at Sunderland. Meanwhile Dave Briggs writes: "One thing I don't understand about this Arsenal line-up is why Wenger isn't giving Walcott a run out down the centre. After all, Walcott is always saying he wants to play there, and the manager isn't likely to learn anything new about Chamakh tonight, is he?" True. But that's a side issue here: Arsenal have been dreadful everywhere.
42 min Agbonlahor has put Aston Villa 2-0 up at Swindon. "Arsenal want to be on the M4 back to London?" asks Robin Hazlehurst. "But surely they'd prefer to fly? Reading is pretty close to Heathrow isn't it, they could fly to there from one of the London airports. Isn't that how they travel these days?"
43 min Chamakh, for the first time tonight, shows something that suggests he's not just hoovering up a monthly pay-cheque. He holds off his marker but his shot from a narrow angle is easily saved by Federici.
44 min Some fun and games in the Reading penalty area ends with Frimpong smashing it over the bar. "Isn't Tony Adams sitting by Lofty from Eastenders?" asks Steve Waterhouse. Indeed he is Steve. "Shocking that Gooners are leaving already." You'd think they'd give it till 60 minutes at least - getting away from the Madjeski is a bugger but still ...
45 min We'll have two minutes of injury time.
GOAL! Reading 4-1 Arsenal (Walcott 45+2) Walcott squeezes in between two defenders, Arshavin slides an excellent pass, and the Arsenal striker dinks it over the onrushing Federici. The first shoots of recovery?
Half-time Well, that was interesting. Arsenal have been so poor - shockingly so in fact, like a routed army in battle - but they've just got a sniff here.
46 min We're off again. "I just don't get the need for teams to prioritize the way they do," says Espen Bommen. "Back in the 70s and 80s players' pre-match meals were a pint and a Mars bar, and post-match a stop at the local chippy, pitches in January resembled mud baths and you played 42 league games, yet teams seemed to have no problem starting their best 11 every game, league or cup. I know the game is faster these days, but supposedly the players are way fitter too. I might have some slight sympathy for teams involved in Europe, but there's no way that two months into the season players are so tired they need a break." Didn't Liverpool once win the league with 14 players? QPR have used 37 in the Premier League this year. And Spurs 36.
47 min Martinez unconvincingly pushes away Hunt's header before Miguel nearly heads it into his own net. And somewhere in the mix Chamakh barges over Hunt in the box but the referee - strangely - decides it's not a penalty.
49 min Just watched the replays of that Chamakh barge. How did the referee not give a penalty there? That would surely have been game over. The ball is in Arsenal's net again but Morrison is judged to have bumped Martinez. Arsenal have not started this half at all. They're all at sea. Awful stuff.
50 min Should have mentioned earlier that Arsenal haven't made any changes at half time. Meanwhile my colleague Leo Benedictus writes: "Enjoying your summary of Arsenal's thrashing. You asked for League Cup anecdotes, so I have to mention Tim Sherwood's volley against Chelsea in the 2002 semi-final, which was - as far as I know - football's first postmodern goal."
Please explain, Leo. "You'll see that Darren Anderton appears to be playing the ball to Teddy Sheringham on the edge of the six-yard box, in what was then English football's best known set-piece, 'the Sheringham corner'. Instead, Teddy steps out of the way and Sherwood wallops it in, thus not only scoring a set-piece, but interrogating 'the set-piece' as genre. There may of course be earlier examples I don't know about." Incidentally Leo knows a thing or two about post-modernism; his post-modern novel - the Afterparty - is excellent.
52 min Chances at both ends. First Roberts skies over from 15 yards then Walcott, his legs roadrunning clear of Reading's defenders, hits the post. The first signs of life from Arsenal this half.
54 min I'm not sure if Gnarby knows what he's doing when he jiggles into the box but he keeps his composure and his cross just misses the far post. Meanwhile Chamakh shows more energy than he has in two seasons after appealing a Gunter handball in the box which isn't given. Arsenal should have had a penalty there - and Reading possibly a red card. No wonder Chamakh is enraged and, after ranting at the linesman, is booked for his troubles.
56 min Better this from Arsenal. Jenkinson's cross is met by Walcott, who slides it wide. Looking at the replays of the Chamakh incident, I reckon the Arsenal striker fouled first there.
57 min How's this for postmodernism? "I'm an Arsenal fan who actually left before getting to the game," says Joe Chapman. "I was stuck on the M4 so long the game had begun by the time I reached Junction 11. Seeing the massive queue from there to the ground I decided to cut my losses - not much point spending £8 at the car park to go and see a half of a match that only cost £15 - so turned round and came home. Just got in to see the latest score."
59 min Arsenal are having the better of this at the moment, but they don't look like they're going to score three goals in the next 30 minutes. "I don't mind clubs playing weakened teams but they should announce that intention at the start of the competition and charge reduced (much reduced) prices," says Gary Naylor, climbing on his high chair. "And let the sponsors know too."
62 min Arsenal subs: Frimpong off, Giroud on and Gnarby off, Eisfeld on. "It was Villa that won the league with 14 players in 1981," says Lavinia Bodisco. "Although I don't expect you to correct this error as most journos still prefer to believe Ipswich won the league that season." Consider it corrected.
GOAL! Reading 4-2 Arsenal (Giroud 65) What a header from Giroud, who - going backwards - steers a header from Walcott's thunderbolt corner into the top corner from eight yards. This is very interesting now.
66 min The Arsenal fans have recovered their voices, and their team has found its spirit. They're dominating now. "Re Espen's point: Spurs did the Double with 16 players," points out my colleague Kevin Mitchell. "And how I am loving this match."
68 min Possession stats for the last 10 minutes: Reading 39%, Arsenal 61%. "After careful consideration I've finally come up with a solution about what to do with the League Cup," says Simon McMahon. "It should be rebranded as the 'League League' and played in a league format with 23 groups of four; home and away fixtures, with group winners and the nine best runners up qualifying for the second league phase comprising eight groups of four, home and away, top two from each group qualifying for the knockout phase. The third place teams from the second group stage parachute into the FA Trophy. Just add TV coverage and a theme tune." Sounds like the old Champions League format.
70 min Arsenal continue to probe, but while the drive is back the precision is still a bit wonky. Liegertwood picks up a yellow card for sliding down Eisfeld. Arsenal have a free-kick, 25-yards out ...
71 min Walcott steps up ... and sidefoots it high over the bar. "This isn't something that hasn't been said before," says Kelvin Goodson. "But Chamakh looks like malnourished, half-drowned rodent has crawled onto his head, seeking solace at height and hoping to dry out in the floodlights."
73 min Giroud nearly scores again! His 20-yard trundler is pushed away from Federici. "It's a paradox but the fitter the players are, the more rest they need to avoid injury," suggests Gary Naylor. "They're like Frankel now, when they used to be like a carthorse. They should be able to deal with 60-odd matches in a season, but it's plain that they can't."
74 min: Reading subs: McAnuff and Pogrebnyak on, Hunt and McCleary off. Reading are hoping to tighten things up here, but Arsenal have a free-kick 25 yards and central. Giroud steps up ...
75 min: ... and clatters his shot into the wall.
77 min Arsenal, who have been a million times better than they were in the first half, zoom forward again but Eisfeld's shot isn't close. You sense they need a goal in the next five minutes to make this a grandstand finish ...
78 min And it nearly came there! Giroud's diving header is pushed away brilliantly by Federici. Giroud then picks up a yellow for a late challenge.
79 min Swindon have pulled one back against Aston Villa. They're now 1-2 down. Meanwhile a rare foray forward by Reading ends with a header over the bar.
81 min Another close-run thing for Giroud! Chamakh flicks on Walcott's corner, but it evades Giroud, who is loitering in the six-yard box, by this much.
83 min Miles Storey, an 18-year-old who made his debut at the weekend, has just scored his second goal in three minutes to make it Swindon 2-2 Villa!
85 min Reading have looked 13th-century-castle-door solid since they brought on the subs. Are they going to see this out now? "Tell Simon McMahon that the format he describes is called the Europa t," says Anthony O'Connell. "Imagine if Arsenal had to play in that, they'd play the kids of the kids!"
86 min Another Arsenal corner is headed clear. Cue cheers from Reading fans, who can see the finishing line in sight.
87 min Arsenal are playing with four up front here and when Roberts buzzes clear Koscielny cynically brings him down. Yellow card!
89 min Shorey's free-kick is saved, unconvincingly, by Martinez at the second attempt. "So Arsenal fans are now putting their faith in Giroud to save the day?" says Matt Dony. "The Capitol One Cup is weird." He's been excellent since he came on, Matt.
GOAL! Reading 4-3 Arsenal (Koscielny 89) The unmarked Koscielny scores from a corner from six yards out! They couldn't, could they?
90 min Koscielny should have got a second yellow card there for bundling over Roberts. We'll have four minutes of extra time. Time for an equaliser?
90+1 min So close! After a twiddling run, this way and that, Walcott misses by inches. It gets a deflection so Arsenal will have a corner ...
90+3 min ... Reading clear it though and they're now on the attack. Meanwhile Villa are now 3-2 up against Swindon.
90+4 min Reading sub: the excellent Roberts off, Church on. Reading are trying to kill the game here.
GOAL! UNBELIEVABLE! WALCOTT HAS SCORED AN EQUALISER! That's Reading 4-4 Arsenal (Jenkinson 90+6). After two minutes of extra injury time - making it six minutes in total - Arsenal equalise! Walcott shot hits Shorey's hand and it goes over the line but the assistant referee isn't giving it ... until Jenkinson makes sure by thumping home. So I suppose that's his goal. Incredible scenes. Giroud throws his shirt into the crowd before realising he still needs it. Extra time it is!
Full time Peep Peep! Well I hoped for a decent and open game in my preamble - and we got that and more. Arsenal fans will wonder why their team didn't show up for the opening 44 minutes; Reading supporters will wonder how they threw that away. Still, there's all to play for.
ET 1 min Everyone drawn breath? Good, because we're off again.
ET 2 min Great run from McAnuff - and superb save from Martinez. Meanwhile Simon McMahon asks: "Wonder what mbm reader Joe Chapman, who left the game before he even arrived (34 min), is thinking now?" Well, Joe?
ET 4 min Two good chances for Arsenal; and two hopeless finishes. First Eisfield ends a Brylcreem-slick passing move by fluffing his lines, then Arshavin toe-pokes it into the crowd.
ET 5 min This remains crazily open. Both teams are going for it, and damn the consequences. Arsenal are persisting with 4-2-4. "Sitting here in Providence RI, USA, and you must have heard me in Reading when Walcott goal went in!" says Paul Janaway.
ET 7 min Morrison heads Shorey's header over the bar. It was a half chance at best, mind. "A Reading fan in the pub I'm in has just lost his marbles, ranting: 'Five minutes! Big club additional time. Why bother supporting a small club? What's the point, let's all just raffle the names of everyone in the country and get them to support one of the big clubs, and then just have six teams play in a six team league'," says Owen Cameron. "It's kind of like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. I hope he doesn't have a gun."
ET 9 min This game is yo-yoing more than an 80s hipster. Walcott's corner evades Djourou at the back post and Reading clear.
ET 11 min The gaps are everywhere and Walcott is in his element. He pings over a decent cross but there's nobody in the box to finish it. "Can someone find that bloke who walked out at 4-0 so we can hear why he thinks getting in his car after 34 minutes was the right decision?" asks Bassim.
ET 12 min A lull. It won't last.
GOAL! Reading 4-5 Arsenal (Chamakh 103) Another miracle! Chamahk has scored! And it was a pearler too, through Gorkss legs and into the bottom corner. Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
ET 15 min Arsenal fans are singing about them being the greatest team the world has ever seen. Meanwhile Miquel is being treated for cramp. "I really can't believe that I'm a Reading fan at all," says Asher Klein in Chicago. "Yet here I am, sodden in my own tears. Are there any others? Why?" Why. Indeed. Isn't that what we are all asking?
ET 15 min Arsenal sub: Miquel off, Reade on. Meanwhile Joseph Chapman, who got to the outskirts of Reading before heading home because of the traffic, is back to answer suggestions that he might be gutted to have missed the game. "Given I'd still be in traffic it's a moot point," he says, rather sourly.
Half-time After three minutes of added time, the referee blows his whistle. Reading are on the ropes. Can they somehow find a way of getting back into this?
ET 16 min Here we go again. And, almost immediately, there's nearly another goal for Walcott, who was clean through only for Federici to save! "My house was 50 feet from flooding along the Jersey shore after Sandy hit," says Matt Horder. "I'm now sitting in my living room, in the dark, generously tipsy, using the last of my phone battery to follow extra time and email you. Please give me some good arsenal news...lie if you have to." No need for that at the moment, Matt. And hope you and the rest of our American readers are safe and well.
ET 17 min Now Martinez is trying to waste time with a goal kick. A little early for that, surely?
ET 18 min Djourou blunders into the back of Church, and Reading have a free-kick in a decent position right of centre ...
ET 19 min ... Shorey's free-kick is sent goalwards by Morrison and tipped over by Martinez. Although it transpires that Morrison was offside by a gnat's width.
ET 21 min Meade is sent spinning into the air by Sean Morrison, who picks up a yellow card for a lunging hack. That could easily have been red. "I'm from Australia and on my way to work, thanks for the live update," says Ryan Cheung. "I imagine the atmosphere will be the same for my team's (Brisbane Roar) grand final finish in 10/11 season. Went into extra time with nil all, Central Coast Mariners scored two goals really quickly. Fans started to walk away, the bloke behind me started crying. With five minutes to go, all hopes were lose when we equalised in the last mins of the game. Went into penalty kicks and the rest is history. One of the best moments in my life."
ET 23 min The Arsenal fans are singing about Giroud, who has been a lion tonight. But Reading aren't finished yet. "For those who deny the existence of momentum then this result is like all the other comebacks that end with a deflated team losing everything: momentum is real because players are only human," says Ian Copestake, who maybe angling for a place in Pseuds' Corner.
ET 24 min Reading chairman John Madjeski loudly applauds as Martinez is booked for timewasting.
GOAL! Reading 5-5 Arsenal (Pogrebnyak 115) Unbelievable! Reading are level! Arsenal are appealing for offside - and it might have just been - but Pogrebnyak's header from six yards counts.
ET 27 min Yellow card for Eisfield. Meanwhile Arsenal are still attacking, will they be caught on the counterattack? "This game reminds me that i grew up playing Wembley growing up and Port Vale were always in 5-5 draws," says Lee Woodward. "Always knew it was realistic. You can keep your Championship Manager!"
ET 28 min Not this time. And so Arsenal attack again. They couldn't, could they? They very nearly did: Giroud's skimmer only just went wide. "Blimey," exhales Andrew Patch. "I left to do the school run 4-0 down (I'm a Gooner who lives in Brisbane but from Exeter). I'm a bit confused on my return to see MBM? Are you lot having fun at my expense and in reality it is 7-0 to Reading." That's a long school run Andrew. Where do your kids live? Melbourne?
ET 29 min Reading. Arsenal. Reading. Arsenal. We'll have two minutes of extra time.
GOAL! ARSENAL HAVE SURELY WON IT HERE! Reading 5-6 Arsenal (Walcott 120) A brilliant jinking run down the left by Arshavin, a cross, a scramble and then Walcott smashes it in from three yards.
ET 30+1 Reading are refusing to quit - a long throw is thumped clear by Arsenal. They are seconds away from an amazing victory here.
GOAL!!!!!!!!! Reading 5-7 Arsenal (Chamakh 122) Astonishing. Simply astonishing. A terrible mistake from Gunter, who misses a simple header, gives Chamakh a one-on-one and he coolly lobs it over Federici. "Are you sure you are not watching a Fifa 13 game on Playstation?" asks Jeff Woodman, not unreasonably.
FULL TIME Well, what to say about that? What a game. What a recovery. Reading's players look gutted, and you can't blame them. They ripped Arsenal apart in the first half. And somehow it slowly, horribly, unraveled. On Sky Niall Quinn suggests it's the most amazing game he has ever seen. It's certainly up there. "Nothing wrong with the League/Carling/Milk/Cap One cup at all, is there?" suggests Brad Wilson. "Wish more Premier League games offered such a donnybrook." Meanwhile Andrew Patch says: "Precedent now set: whenever Arsenal are losing, kids are being dressed in their school uniforms and driven around Brisbane. Seeing as most games are on here at 1am the wife will be delighted." On Sky, Theo Walcott says: "That wasn't the real Arsenal in the first half, but we showed our character. Hopefully we can take that into the Premier League now." Thanks for all your many emails. Sorry I couldn't use them all. Cheers, Sean.