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Underdogs progress to League Cup semis

Gunners and Canaries sent packing by Bradford and Villa

By | 11th December 2012
arsenal bradford

Aston Villa claimed an emphatic 4-1 win away to in-form Norwich City and minnows Bradford City eliminated Arsenal on penalties to progress to the semifinals of the Capital One League Cup.

The match at Carrow Road for a strange one, starting off predictably in favor of the home side but turning into one-way traffic with four straight goals for the visitors thereafter.

Coming into the match on the back of a nine-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League, Chris Hughton’s men took the lead through Steve Morison in the 19th minute.

Unluckily for the Cannaries, former boss Paul Lambert knew how to get a response out of his side immediately, with Brett Holman scoring the equalizer in the 21st minute.

While the match turned into a bit of a stalemate till the late stages of the second half, the Villans magnificently turned on the heat in the last 11 minutes by scoring three goals without a response.

Andreas Weimann, who scored two past Manchester United earlier in the season, got another brace while summer signing Christian Benteke also found the net to send Norwich packing out of the competition in shocking fashion.

Although Villa’s continued momentum will certainty draw some attention, the headlines were stolen by Bradford City, who won their ninth consecutive penalty shootout to dramatically reduce Arsenal’s hopes of silverware this campaign.

Having already fallen 15 points behind in the Premier League title race, Arsene Wenger’s side was expected to fight hard for semifinal progression this evening, particularly given that the Frenchman chose a full-strength starting line-up.

Bradford were unfazed by the Gunners’ strength and instead chose to play with the awareness that their opponents are quite vulnerable at the moment.

That vulnerability holds particularly true for set-pieces, which is where it went all wrong once again for Arsenal. Gary Thompson slammed home from close range to put the home side ahead after the Gunners failed to properly clear a 16th minute free-kick.

The home side held on to their advantage for most of the match but Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen headed home a late cross from Santi Cazorla to send the match to extra time.

A stalemate ensued in the 30 minutes of action that followed, which took the match to Bradford’s favored territory: the spot-kicks.

Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh saw Arsenal’s first two attempts saved, giving Bradford a two-goal advantage after two rounds.

Wojciech Szczesny then pulled of some unforgettable heroics, saving the hosts’ third and fifth kicks. Young England internationals Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played their parts clinically, converting their penalties to set the shoot-out up for a thrilling finale.

With Arsenal trailing 3-2, Vermaelen stepped up to take the kick that could have forced additional penalties on a sudden death basis.

However, the Belgian’s kick cracked the inside of the post and bounced out, leading to incredible seasons of joy at the Coral Windows Stadium.

Elsewhere in England, Sunderland finally pulled out of the Premier League relegation zone with a huge 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Reading after goals of James McLean, Steven Fletcher, and Stephane Sessegnon at the Stadium of Light.

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