Tuesday 20 February 2018

Vermaelen pays penalty as Arsenal exit

Bradford City 1 Arsenal 1
(Bradford win 3-2 on pens, aet)

Mark Ogden

THERE are 65 places between them in the league but Bradford bridged the gap to record a famous League Cup win and heap the pressure on embattled Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Having earlier spared the Gunners from humiliation with a late equaliser, captain Thomas Vermaelen went from hero to villain as he hit the post with a penalty which would have taken the shoot-out to sudden-death.

With so many high-placed Premier League teams already out, this competition represented Arsenal's best chance for a trophy but, barring an FA Cup victory, their trophyless run will almost certainly extend to an eighth season.

For most of the match it looked as though Arsenal would be eliminated in 90 minutes before Vermaelen rescued them with an 87th-minute header to ensure extra-time.

Instead, it only prolonged the agony as Arsenal crashed out as Santi Cazorla, Marouane Chamakh and Vermaelen allowed Bradford to win a remarkable ninth consecutive penalty shoot-out.

It was not so long ago that Arsenal's trophy ambitions were ended by the likes of Barcelona and Lionel Messi, but Bradford and their goalkeeper Matt Duke have now added their names to the Gunners' tale of woe.

Summer signings Cazorla and Lukas Podolski lined up alongside captain Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere in an Arsenal line-up that would not look out of place in the Champions League.

Yet as Arsenal found themselves pinned back on the ropes by Bradford in the early stages, perhaps being more accustomed to more glamorous surroundings was the problem.

A bobbly pitch, a raucous home crowd and a collection of unheralded players determined to test the nerve of Arsenal's stars clearly unsettled Wenger's team.

Bradford's opening goal, on 16 minutes, came as a result of a clumsy challenge by Vermaelen and Arsenal couldn't deal with Gary Jones' free-kick before Thompson volleyed the ball into the net from a tight angle.

Arsenal had a glorious chance to equalise as Gervinho somehow contrived to miss an open goal from four yards just before the break.

Rather than a second-half onslaught, Bradford were reasonably comfortable but just when Arsenal needed a hero, Vermaelen rescued them with his dramatic late equaliser.

However, after failing to score in extra-time, Arsenal paid the penalty.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport