Farcial Defending Hands Birmingham Carling Cup
Carling Cup Final
Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham City
0 – 1 Zigic (28)
1 – 1 van Persie (38)
1 – 2 Martins (89)
I remember the numbness of defeat. I remember that it took many hours for the gut-wrenching feeling to pass. I remember the despair that accompanied an Arsenal defender making a calamitous error. I remember the opposition goalkeeper being Man of the Match. I remember a defensive error handing the trophy to an opponent. In the last minute.
I remember the pain of 1988 for I relived it in 2011.
When a team enters the final of any competition as an overwhelming favourite, there is a burden which accompanies that recognition of talent. It is demanded that the talent be on show, be proven; that the talent be matched by attitude.
Arsenal lacked the ‘killer’ aspect of the latter, dominant as ever in possession, twelve attempts on target with one goal justifying the decision to give Ben Foster the match accolade. Birmingham scored twice from half as many on target efforts. The record books will not record who deserved to win. Those same books will not record that A Comedy of Errors led to a tragedy that even The Bard would have shied away from.
All they will record is that in 2011, Birmingham City beat Arsenal 2 – 1 in the final of the Carling Cup. And whatever you may feel about that outcome, congratulations go to them for that.
For Arsenal, it is a case of wounded and battered pride being picked up from the floor and returning to winning ways on Wednesday night. Leave the anguish and navel gazing to us, the supporters. Concentrate on learning the lessons of defeat and applying them to the rest of the season. Never forget the pain or the tears so that when another final is reached, these are emotions never repeated.
There is nothing else to be done.
The journey from Marylebone to Wembley mirrored the football match taking place. One side of the tracks, row upon row of terraced houses, covered in Dickensian grime. The other had newer build, shoots of a brighter new future which through errors of design stuttered to prove that this is the way forward. In miserable and grim weather, the older, more industrial ways still win.
And emerging from these architectural clashes is the ‘new’ Wembley. Improved on the old structurally, devoid of soul within, lifeless and lank without, empty advertising hoardings shepherding the inhabitants to their seats. Even with the new, the darker, more basic pierces the surface if left unhindered.
Arsenal and Birmingham took to the pitch, Gael Clichy brought a false dawn to the proceedings by instantly and aggressively beating the towering Zigic to a header following a predictable start by the West Midlanders. They came out of the blocks quicker, barely a minute on the clock when Bowyer was upended by Szczesny, the penalty ruled out by an apparent incorrect offside flag. van Persie responded, crashing an outrageous effort over the bar and wide of the goal.
Arshavin went closer, should perhaps have done more. Samir Nasri was becoming more influential in proceedings. Darting in from the right he fed the Russian with a perfectly weighted pass, Foster advanced quickly, snuffing out the chance with his legs.
The state of play was set; Birmingham lay deep, repelling Arsenal with short passes before the inevitable hoisted pass. The Londoners were passing across the pitch and backwards, retaining possession before probing in the final third. Before thirty minutes had passed, the game plan changed.
Arsenal surrendered a cheap corner which had an expensive price tag. As at The Emirates earlier this season it was Nicola Zigic who broke the deadlock, this time beating Szczesny to the ball and flicking it between the goalkeeper’s flailing arms into the net. van Persie responded immediately, almost silencing those bedecked in blue with a header that marginally cleared the angle of bar and post.
The game had sprung to life. Szczesny denied Zigic when it seemed a quickfire second might bite Arsenal; Djourou quickly closed the Birmingham forward down as he advanced in dangerous positions as Arsenal regrouped and regathered their poise.
As the interval approached, Jack Wilshere strode through the midfield, his thunderous strike matched the weather and left the crossbar reverberating as Arshavin squirmed through the defence to cross for van Persie, the Dutchman equalising with a stunning volley into the corner of the net. Parity at a high price as the Arsenal captain suffered a blow to his knee, an injury that impaired his mobility for the remaining thirty minutes that he was on the pitch.
Arsenal became the dominant side with the goal, Birmingham pegged back into their half for long spells, bodies behind the ball in well-organised defence. Yet they did not stop the chances, Nasri and Rosicky going close as Foster and wayward shooting kept the scoreline level.
And hints of complacency surfaced in the Arsenal defence, Djourou and Koscielny contrived to cede possession, Fahey’s snapshot rattled the inside of the post and rebounded to safety. Arsenal had been warned.
Bendtner and Chamakh replaced van Persie and Arshavin, injury and fatigue catching up with latter duo. Bendtner brought another good save from Foster, Nasri stung his palms before denying Rosicky and the mercurial Frenchman once more. Foster was intent on a winner’s medal in three consecutive seasons, his aim achieved in circumstances he would not have envisaged as his long free-kick toward the head of Zigic.
Arsène said post-match that ‘making mistakes is not positive‘; Szczesny seemed to take responsibility for the situation at a late stage, Koscielny pulled out of a clearance, the ball rebounding off the Pole to a stunned, grateful and unmarked Obefami Martins. The Carling Cup was duly delivered to the West Midlands.
Posted on February 28, 2011, in Arsenal, Carling Cup, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, birmingham city, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 264 Comments.