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Wenger salutes triumph out of disaster

ARSENE Wenger applauded the Arsenal fans whose commitment was rewarded by one of the greatest comebacks in the club's history last night.

The Gunners secured passage into the quarter-finals of the League Cup for a 10th successive year after defeating Reading 7-5 in extra time of an amazing evening at the Madejski Stadium.

Theo Walcott and Marouane Chamakh, who was making his first start since January, scored in the final minute to complete a heart-stopping fight back.

Many visiting fans had left the stadium once Reading had eased 4-0 ahead during a dramatic first half, but those who stayed were subjected to a roller-coaster of emotions before victory was delivered.

"I'd like to give credit to our supporters because when we were 4-0 behind they stayed with us. To those who left, I give less credit," he said.

Pavel Pogrebnyak appeared to have taken the match into penalties with three minutes remaining, only for Walcott and Chamakh to intervene.


"We went from disaster to pride because we came back in the second half with a decent performance," Wenger said.

"At one point all we had was hope because it didn't look like we'd go through. But we got the disastrous first half out of our system."

Jason Roberts, a Laurent Koscielny own goal, Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt helped Reading establish a 4-0 lead that looked unassailable given their dominance.

But Walcott, who finished with a hat-trick, ignited Arsenal's fightback in first-half injury-time with the appearance of substitute Olivier Giroud adding extra urgency.

It may have been a classic in terms of entertainment, but shellshocked Royals boss Brian McDermott wants to forget the game as soon as possible.

"It's like a funeral. I wasn't happy at half-time because we went in at 4-1 instead of 4-0," he said.

"That gave them impetus we didn't need. We'd dominated the first half and then they scored a goal out of nothing.


"When you give good players and teams a lift like that, they take the chance. It was kamikaze football in the second half and extra-time. Even at 5-5 it's extraordinary.

"Obviously it doesn't help that the referee added two minutes on to the four minutes of injury-time to make it six. You can't tell the time as wrong as that, but he did.

"At full time nothing needed to be said to the players. Sometimes the less said the better. We know what happened.

"This game will be remembered for a long time, and that makes me feel a whole lot worse!"