I was only able to catch the final 20 minutes, but that was all I needed to see. Both teams came into the Carling Cup final with a chip on their shoulders, as neither squad has been in a position to hoist a trophy in years (including all competitions). Arsenal hasn’t won any silverware since the 2005 season, but it could be worse. Birmingham has never won in any major competition. This was the first time Birmingham has reached a final since 1965. Talk about a drought; this match was the best chance for Birmingham to bring the fans home some silverware, and they did not disappoint. Arsenal was still clearly the better side, from what I saw, even without Captain Cesc Fabregas. They also lost striker Van Persie midway through the second-half. Regardless, these injuries shouldn’t be an excuse. Arsenal dominated most of the possession, as they created a lot of more chances. They were basically living in Birmingham’s end of the pitch, but just couldn’t score. Birmingham’s defense was really stout and organized in the back. Arsenal had nearly no time to work on the ball, as Birmingham’s spacing made things really difficult for the Gunners. Even when they switched the field, Birmingham’s positioning was really organized. The favorites couldn’t breakdown their opposition no matter what they tried. In the 89th minute, Birmingham finally caught a break to end the deadlock which was stuck at 1-1. A flick into the box from Birmingham striker Zigic caused a critical error for Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny and defender Koscielny. The two Arsenal defenders nearly ran into each other, attempting to gather the loose ball, only to have it knocked into the path of Birmingham’s striker Obafemi Martins. This was the easiest goal in Martins’ career, guaranteed. An embarrassing gaff from the Arsenal goalkeeper had cost them the cup. The game ended in a fairytale fashion, as Birmingham have earned its first major trophy. It was a huge upset and another disappointment for the Gunners. One the plus-side, they are still alive in the Champions League, FA Cup and EPL title race. Can they finally break their silverware curse?
Carling Cup Final
Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham
Photo courtesy of ESPNsoccernet.