Arsenal rallies for wild 7-5 League Cup win over Reading
Arsenal staged a stunning League Cup fightback at Reading after trailing 4-0 in the first half on Tuesday, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-5 extra-time victory after Theo Walcott scored a hat trick.
Walcott netted in injury time in both halves, and then in the last minute of extra time as well in a game that always seemed to offer up a new twist.
"It was an unbelievable game. I'm absolutely knackered now," Walcott said. "We've scored seven goals away from home — it was great going forward. Maybe defensively it wasn't great at times, but we're in the draw and that's what matters."
Arsenal's performance in the first half was so poor that some Gunners fans left after the team conceded a fourth goal in the 37th minute as Reading dominated against its Premier League rival.
But after Walcott pulled one back just before halftime, he took the game into extra time with a last-gasp equalizer in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Substitute Olivier Giroud had netted the second for Arsenal and Laurent Koscielny, who earlier scored an own goal, made it 4-3 in the 89th.
Marouane Chamakh put Arsenal ahead for the first time in extra time with his first goal in almost a year, but Reading drew level again when Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 5-5 with four minutes to go.
Walcott then completed his hat trick by slotting in a rebound from Andrei Arshavin's effort, and Chamakh lobbed goalkeeper Adam Federici in the closing exchanges to ensure Arsenal advanced.
On a thrilling night for English football's second-tier knockout competition, three Premier League clubs — Southampton, Sunderland and Wigan — were beaten by lower-league opposition.
The biggest shock came at Wigan where fourth-tier club Bradford won a penalty shootout 4-2 after the match ended 0-0.
Premier League struggler Southampton exited after losing 3-0 to Leeds of the League Championship.
Goals from Michael Tonge and El-Hadji Diouf as well as Luciano Becchio's penalty kick steered Leeds into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.
"We didn't perform anywhere near what's expected of a Southampton Football Club team," said Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, who made 11 changes from the side that lost to Tottenham on Sunday.
"Forty-eight hours ago we had a high-intensity game and I made the relevant changes. I take full responsibility," he said. "We wanted to play tomorrow, but the powers that be wanted it to be tonight. But we gave the players who have not been in the team to the chance to show what they could do, and they did not take it."
Middlesbrough advanced after Scott McDonald's goal secured a 1-0 victory at northeast rival Sunderland.
It was a nervy night for Aston Villa, which only eliminated third-tier club Swindon 3-2 after Christian Benteke's 90th minute goal.
Villa appeared to be cruising to victory after goals from Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor before halftime.
But Swindon subsitute Miles Storey scored twice after the break to make it 2-2 before Benteke's hammered home a cross from Eric Lichaj.