Birmingham have done what most thought they couldn’t and have won the Carling Cup beating Arsenal 2-1. They took the lead when Zigic scored a typical header from a Birmingham corner. Arsenal drew back level when Robin van Persie scored. But it wasnt until late on in the game when a mix up between Szczesny and Koscielny and left a tap in for Martins to score. Birmingham throughout looked like they wanted to win more than Arsenal, as they seemed like they were playing a league game. This was a cup final and form, skill, talent are not as important as belief and hard work. To win the cup all you need is to win one game, and Birmingham were up for the game, and it looked like the Arsenal players didn’t want it enough.
Birmingham started the game brightly and should have had a penalty in the first 3 minutes when Bowyer was taken out by Szczesny. The referee assistant though had flagged Bowyer offside when he clearly was on. Arsenal were lucky there as if that penalty had been given then surely Szczesny would have been sent off. Arsenal did not take that luck and turn it into anything significant and it was always Birmingham who looked the more dangerous team, with Zigic being the biggest threat. Arsenal started to find their rhythm with Wilshire being the creator of most of Arsenals attacks, with Nasri, Arshavin and Rosicky looking a little out of place. Birmingham broke that rhythm when Zigic scored on the 28th minute. Roger Johnson flicked on the ball and the unmarked Zigic was there to head it home. It took some time for Arsenal to get back into the game, and Birmingham did well to hassle the midfield, but Arsenal did get a foot back in the game when van Persie scored on the 39th minute, and it was Wilshire who was at the centre of it. Wilshire saw his shot crack off the bar, he was wheeling away to celebrate when he saw it rebound off, and Arshavin collected it and dribbled past two men and put it a chipped cross for Robin van Persie to volley home. van Persie did well to get his foot in front of the defender and went off to receive treatment for it. Arsenal seemed like they wanted to find a second, but as much as they tried they were unable to make the possession turn into goal. The Birmingham defense did well as did Foster. Nasri had a great shot saved brilliantly by Foster and the first half finished 1-1
With the second half Arsenal looked to continue their pressure and Nasri and Wilshire looked dangerous, and Rosicky had a good shot saved. Birmingham were not letting Arsenal have all the attack to themselves and were unlucky not to score themselves when Keith Fahey missed kicked and hit Zigic but from that rebound unleashed a fearsome shot that clanged against the post and bounced clear. Jean Beausejour came on for an upset Gardener and caused problems down the left keeping Sagna very busy. Beausejour was good going forward but defensively didn’t help as much, he may have been in the right place, but poor headed clearances left Arsenal to attack. But they were unable to do anything about it. Stephen Carr was outstanding for Birmingham as the veteran defender seemed to storm down the wing more as the game went on, and was putting in balls and defending to the death. Bowyer also fought hard for the team, but he seemed to be on the floor more than most. Arsenal seemed to be tamed when van Persie was taken off with Bentdner coming on. Rosicky and Nasri looked dangerous when just outside the box, but around the rest of the pitch Rosicky seemed limited. Chamakh came on for Arshavin, moving Bentdner to the wing, and though Chamakh bullied his way forward was unable to make any real effort. Foster had made a string of saves keeping Birmingham in the game, and soon his performance was edging Carr for man of the match. If it was to go to an Arsenal player the only stand out player was Jack Wilshire who has taken everything in his stride since becoming a regular this season at Arsenal. As the game drew closer to the end of normal play the nerves could be felt and coming into the last 5 minutes and knowing that any mistake could lead to a goal, both sets of fans and players seemed on edge. And that may be what was to blame for Szczesny and Koscielny misunderstanding. The two players collided after a flick on from Zigic, Koscielny went to clear it as Szczesny went to collect it, the ball fell to substitute Obafemi Martins who couldn’t miss from inside the six yard box and stroke it home. The Birmingham’s players and fans went crazy were as the Arsenal players and fans looked deflated. Arsenal tried but were unable to score and the game finished 2-1 to Birmingham and left the fans in blue in raptures. Within minutes half of Wembley was empty leaving a sea of blue. Alex McLeish is a manager that is used to winning having won the Championship with Birmingham gaining them promotion to the premiership and has won a host of trophies in Scotland with Rangers and Hibernian, but will undoubtably enjoy this victory being the underdogs before the game. Ben Foster was named man of the match and Carr lifted the trophy as captain, a great feet for him as Carr announced his retirement from all forms of football on December 1st 2008 untill early 2009 when he was given a chance by Birmingham, signing a one month contract. He signed a extension untill the end of the season and then again for this season. In the end Birmingham deserved the win for not giving up and having the belief and fight to continue and win the game.
Will this defeat drive Arsenal forward to success or is it going to be the beginning of their downfall, with important games coming up in the league, FA Cup replay and second leg in the Champions League against Barcelona. In two weeks we will see what Arsenal are still involved in and what they have a chance to win.
Arsenal fans will feel like they have had their legs kicked out from under them while standing on a chair already half celebrating, as hopes were high to win today, but it’s the Birmingham fans that have been left with the personal euphoria and adulation for their team.
I found these pictures on the net from various sites. They picture the joy & despair from Martins’ goal