Arsenal suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in their history as League Two minnows Bradford City clinched a stunning triumph on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The Gunners have endured a traumatic campaign that included their worst start to the Premier League in manager Arsene Wenger’s 16-year reign, but this was a new low for a club now in the midst of a full-blown crisis.
Arsenal players look on during the penalty shootout. Pics/Getty Images
Not even Arsenal’s most ardent critic would have believed they could produce such a spineless display against a team from English football’s fourth tier.
Wenger said: “They defended well and we all know what happened on the penalties. We had many, many chances and their ’keeper had a good game. I cannot fault the effort of my team, we gave everything for the 120 minutes and you have to give credit to Bradford. It’s not a lack of quality. We’ll get over this, it’s part of our job. We’ll focus on the next game.”
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson added: “The lads were terrific, the discipline was first class against such a talented team like Arsenal.
“The talk will be about the penalties but the overall performance was excellent. The way the lads stuck at the task was a credit to them.”
After Bradford midfielder Garry Thompson took advantage of woeful Arsenal defending to volley home a free-kick at the far post in the 16th minute, Parkinson's side must have expected to be tested to the limit by their illustrious opponents at Valley Parade. But instead a strong Arsenal team took until the 88th minute to equalise when Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen headed home from a Santi Cazorla cross.
The Gunners were just as laboured in extra-time and they paid the price in the penalty shoot-out, which Bradford won 3-2 as Cazorla's kick was saved by Matt Duke and Marouane Chamakh and Vermaelen both hit the post.
Bradford’s ninth successive penalty shoot-out victory booked their first ever appearance in the League Cup semi-finals.