Bradford City’s League Cup run continued with a shock penalties win over a dire Arsenal side at Valley Parade, extending the League Two side’s shoot-out record to nine triumphs in a row.
Arsenal had trailed much of the game to Garry Thompson’s early goal before Thomas Vermaelen levelled with three minutes left, only for the Belgian to miss the crucial kick as Arsenal lost the shoot-out 3-2.
Marouane Chamakh and Santi Cazorla also missed their penalties as Arsenal – who were terrible for much of the game but dominated from the 75th minute onwards – paid the price for a toothless display in front of goal, a display which included one of the misses of the season from the much-maligned Gervinho.
Former Morecambe and Scunthorpe winger Thompson, 32, opened the scoring on 16 minutes after Arsenal – who played close to their best available XI – failed to clear a Gary Jones free-kick, which came off the side of Will Atkinson's head before landing at the feet of the unmarked veteran.
Arsenal did have some chances, with Francis Coquelin hitting the post and forcing a good save from Matt Duke, as did Jack Wilshere, but it was a weak performance in the final third, reminiscent of the spineless display in the 1-0 defeat to Norwich in the Premier League.
The worst came from poor Gervinho who, after a good start to the campaign, has reverted to last season’s form. This time he put wide from six yards after Kieran Gibbs’s low cross found him unmarked with the goal at his mercy.
The normally effervescent Lukas Podolski was also disappointing, although he had a greater impact before his substitution, having adopted a more central role.
The hosts, meanwhile, were direct and organised, the size of former non-league target man James Hanson and trickery of Bermuda winger Nakhi Wells causing endless trouble for the wooden centre-back pairing of Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker. Gary Jones’s ability with the dead ball was a useful outlet too, the 35-year-old midfielder showing that technical ability is not totally absent from England’s lower leagues.
Helped by the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and spurred on by the dynamic Wilshere, the visitors improved in the final quarter-hour.
Bradford’s resistance buckled with three minutes of regular time remaining when Vermaelen met a Cazorla cross with a powerful header past the excellent Duke, who made a superb double save from Cazorla in injury time.
There was only one team in extra-time as an exhausted Bradford repelled wave after wave of Arsenal attacks, but the Bantams held on for their beloved penalties – they had won their previous eight shoot-outs, having beaten Wigan in similar fashion in the previous round.
Former Hull City keeper Duke did not disappoint, brilliantly saving Cazorla’s opening spot-kick, although Chamakh and Vermaelen were unfortunate to hit the post.
Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones and Alan Connel netted for Bradford, with Stephen Darby and Ritchie Jones missing, while Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain were on target for the Gunners.
It is the first time Bradford have reached this stage of the tournament, while Arsenal – effectively out of the hunt for the league – must look to the FA Cup and Europe as they bid to win silverware for the first time in eight years.
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