Earlier this week, Arsenal were expected to make light work of Sheffield Wednesday in the fourth round of the League Cup, but the Gunners would fall short against the Owls, slumping to a deserved 3-0 defeat at Hillsborough. Three years ago today, they would face a similar conundrum in the form of Reading at the Madejski Stadium, but instead of coming through with ease, Arsenal would end the evening having being involved in one of the most remarkable matches in the history of the competition.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made 11 changes to the team that had beaten Queens Park Rangers three days earlier, but the Frenchman was still able to name a starting lineup that included the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin. Johan Djourou also added some experience at the back, but in the space of 37 minutes, the Gunners had conceded four goals as Reading ran in front of their own fans.
The Royals had scored six goals to progress through their opening two fixtures of the tournament, and they required just 11 minutes to go ahead in this encounter. Hal Robson-Kanu made himself available on the left flank before driving over a cross for Jason Roberts to slide in at the back post and send the ball into the roof of the net. Koscielny had been at fault for the goal, and the centre-back had a hand in Reading's second too by diverting a Chris Gunter cutback into his own net.
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Arsenal were left reeling, but they continued to contribute to their own downfall as goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez helped Reading net for the third time in the opening 20 minutes when he punched a Mikele Leigertwood shot into his own net. The North London giants looked a threat on the break, but the match appeared done and dusted on 35 minutes when Reading scored a fourth, this time through Noel Hunt who rose above Carl Jenkinson to send a header past Martinez from eight yards.
Brian McDermott's men had the appetite for more goals before the break, but much to the frustration of their manager, the home side conceded just before the half-time whistle when Walcott beat the offside trap to clip the ball over Adam Federici. The alarm bells would not have been ringing inside the Reading dressing room at the break, but the goal altered Arsenal's mindset and they returned for the second half intent on putting pressure on their opponents, who had let in three second-half goals against Fulham 72 hours earlier.
A second goal would arrive 19 minutes after the restart when Olivier Giroud scored with a header moments after being introduced as a substitute, but Reading reached the 89th minute having maintained a two-goal advantage, and they appeared certainties to progress through to the last eight. However, Koscielny headed home a Walcott corner to give the Gunners hope of a stunning comeback, before in the fifth minute of added-on time, Walcott forced the ball past Federici to send their supporters behind the goal into ecstasy and give his side 30 minutes to complete what would be regarded as one of the best comebacks in English football history.
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The momentum was with Arsenal and shortly before the end of the first period of extra time, Marouane Chamakh, who had not scored for the club for 409 days, drove towards the edge of the penalty area before firing a low strike past Federici. Reading looked beaten by the ninth goal of an enthralling contest, but with four minutes to go, they found an equaliser through Pavel Pogrebnyak, who got a head to Gunter's volley to leave the match heading towards a penalty shootout.
However, the drama was not over. With Reading having thrown men forward, Arsenal broke in numbers and after Arshavin had seen a shot cleared off the line, the rebound fell to Walcott, who made no mistake from six yards. It appeared that an absorbing game had come to a fitting conclusion, but there was still time for Chamakh to take advantage of tired legs in the Reading backline to break clear and net his second with a well-executed lob, and that proved to be the final incident of an unforgettable night.
Arsenal would lose to League One club Bradford City in the last eight, and the 2012-13 competition would be best remembered for the Bantams' run to Wembley, where they would lose to Swansea City. However, this fixture remains one of just two ties to feature 12 goals in the history of the tournament, and the start of the evening, as well as the conclusion of both normal and extra time, arguably make the match the best match to take place in the League Cup since it was found in 1960.
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Shorey, Morrison, Gorkss, Leigertwood, Tabb, Robson-Kanu, Hunt, McCleary, Roberts
Subs: Taylor, Pearce, Harte, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre, Church
Arsenal: Martinez, Koscielny, Djourou, Jenkinson, Miquel, Walcott, Coquelin, Arshavin, Frimpong, Gnabry, Chamakh
Subs: Shea, Squillaci, Bellerin, Eisfeld, Meade, Yennaris, Giroud