For Arsenal fans, it may also be the game that proved to be the turning point. Not just because they can now go on to win this competition and end what will be an eight-year drought come the final on February 24. The Gunners fought back from 4-0 down to force extra-time, before taking their tally to seven. Wenger said: “It may be one of my greatest victories during my time here. We went from disaster to salvaging our pride.
Arsenal has mounted an incredible comeback from 4-0 down to win 7-5 after extra time at Reading in an extraordinary League Cup fourth-round tie at the Madejski Stadium. Theo Walcott was the hero, claiming a 95th-minute equaliser to force extra time and then slamming home in the last minute of the extra period to complete his hat-trick after 120 unforgettable minutes of football. It will be interesting to see how Angha and Yennaris develop. In the past such talent (think Sebastian Larsson, Fabrice Muama, Armand Traore) has blossomed elsewhere, or not at all (think Mark Randall). Sometimes, though, a raw diamond is introduced and shines ever brighter with the passing of time: Jack Wilshere made his first starting appearance against Sheffield United as a 16-year-old back in 2008.
Since Arsenal put up scant resistance, Reading helped themselves to a fourth goal in the 37th minute, Hunt sending a fine header in off a post after an equally fine cross from Garath McCleary. Visiting fans began filing away. Then, suddenly, Arsenal kicked back. On the stroke of half-time Walcott raced on to Arshavin's astute pass and lifted the ball over Adam Federici and into the net. That begat belief among their players, and spread doubt among Reading's. Arsenal improved immeasurably in the second half. Walcott was thriving through the middle, twice forcing fine saves from Federici. But it was his exquisite delivery from a corner that led to them cutting the deficit further in the 65th minute, when Olivier Giroud, who had just entered as a substitute, headed the delivery into the net from eight yards.
Arsène Wenger could barely contain his laughter after a match that threatened to be one of the most humiliating of his career transformed into one of his most extraordinary triumphs. His side recovered from an error-strewn opening period in which they collapsed to a 4-0 deficit against Reading to hit back with seven goals and prevail 7-5 after extra-time. "We had a big party in the second half," quipped the Arsenal manager before remarking that the freakish scoreline was more familiar in tennis, joking "so that's the first set to us". The shocked Reading manager, Brian McDermott, meanwhile, lamented that "this feels like a funeral". Wenger added: "We went from disaster to getting some pride because we came back in the second half with a decent performance." He also declared that although the League Cup is not one of his priorities for the season, the first-half display was so bad that immediate improvement became of paramount importance.
It was not enough to appease Gunners fans who booed their side off at half-time, but when substitute Olivier Giroud headed in Walcott’s corner in the 65th minute, a sense of impossible hope took over. Arsenal threw everything at their hosts and with a minute of normal time they cut the deficit to single goal as Koscielny nodded home another Walcott corner. Fourth official Michael Oliver signalled four minutes of stoppage time and Reading looked home and dry with the ball deep inside the Arsenal half with seconds left to play. But with the final kick of normal time, Walcott somehow squeezed a shot past Federici to score what at half-time had seemed an impossible equaliser.