Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Reading 5 Arsenal 7: Hat-Trick Hero Walcott Leads Stunning Gunners Comeback

Amazing. Incredible. Breathtaking.

After another weekend of controversy, football was finally the winner at the Madejski.
Reading manager Brian McDermott might not see it that way after watching his side squander a four-goal lead. But even he will find it hard to deny his side were part of something very special.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed the Capital One Cup was rock-bottom of his priorities list at last week's fiery AGM. It certainly looked that way when his side went 4-0 down after 37 minutes.
But the Gunners somehow conjured a miracle — hauling themselves back into the game, forcing extra time with two goals in the last minutes of regulation and then claiming an unbelievable win.
Theo Walcott, who scored three of Arsenal's magnificent seven, told Sky Sports 2: 'It was an unbelievable game. I'm absolutely knackered now. Seven goals away from home — it was great going forward. Maybe defensively it wasn't great at times, but we're in the draw and that's what matters.'
Wenger described the results as a 'miracle' and added: 'Reading were playing very well and at a higher pace than us and we conceded goal after goal. The turning point came when Theo scored our first goal just before half-time to make it 4-1.'
McDermott admitted he was stunned by the result. He said: 'That was extraordinary. We have to pick ourselves up and move on. It is embarrassing but we have to take it on the chin and just move on.'
A night of heart-stopping action started in the 12th minute when the Royals were rewarded for their enterprising start as Jason Roberts slid home Hal Robson-Kanu's low cross.
flying down the flank before arrowing a low cross in the box that Laurent Koscielny made a mockery of clearing as the ball squirmed between goalkeeper Damien Martinez and his near post.
McDermott and the home supporters were in dreamland. So, goodness knows what must have been going through their minds in the 20th minute when midfielder Mikele Leigertwood picked up the ball 20 yards from goal before unleashing a powerful drive that Martinez could only parry into his own net.
It didn't seem possible, but Arsenal's night got even worse in the 37th minute when Noel Hunt climbed highest in the box to nod past the stunned Martinez after Garath McCleary's excellent cross.
That was the cue for dozens of Arsenal supporters to head for the exits. And who could blame them as they launched into cries of: 'We want our Arsenal back.' But how wrong they were to leave as the Gunners staged a scintillating comeback.
The early departures must have been kicking themselves as they listened to the game on the way home. First, Theo Walcott cooly  finished past Adam Federici after Andrey Arshavin's through ball on the stroke of half-time.
It was not enough to appease Gunners fans who booed their side off at half-time, but when substitute Olivier Giroud headed in Walcott's corner in the 65th minute, a sense of impossible hope took over.
Arsenal threw everything at their hosts and with a minute of normal time they cut the deficit to single goal as Koscielny nodded home another Walcott corner.
Fourth official Michael Oliver signalled four minutes of stoppage time and Reading looked home and dry with the ball deep inside the Arsenal half with seconds left to play. But with the final kick of normal time, Walcott somehow squeezed a shot past Federici to score what at half-time had seemed an impossible equaliser.
The Gunners were euphoric, so much so that Giroud and Francis Coquelin threw their shirts into the away supporters thinking they had won. But their delirium could easily have been short lived as substitute Jobi McAnuff drove into the  Gunners box two minutes into extra time before unleashing a powerful drive that Martinez did well to parry.
Marouane Chamakh put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the 103rd minute with a low drive from the edge of the box that flew past Federici.
The Royals keeper made a brilliant stop to deny Walcott in the first minute of the final period of extra time. And the Australian's save looked vital when Reading substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak nodded home to make it 5-5 in the 116th minute.
But you just knew that was not the end, and right on cue, in the dying seconds of extra time, Walcott completed his hat-trick, thumping home from close range after Arshavin's shot was saved.
Reading pressed for an equaliser and Wenger berated Martinez for hoofing the ball downfield when he could have ticked off a few seconds. But when Arsenal regained possession, Chamakh lobbed Federici for the seventh. Miracle accomplished.


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