Birmingham snatch League Cup glory

Obafemi Martins scores dramatic late winner to win Carling Cup for Birmingham City with 2-1 win over Arsenal at Wembley.

    Birmingham celebrate their victory at Wembley as Arsenal rue another lost opportunity [GALLO/GETTY]

    Arsenal’s long wait for silverware will have to continue after substitute Obafemi Martins pounced on an 89th minute defensive blunder to give Birmingham City a 2-1 upset win in a dramatic League Cup final in London on Sunday.

    Lowly Birmingham have been battling against relegation in the English Premier League, but led early on with a header from striker Nikola Zigic. Robin van Persie equalised for Arsenal just before half-time putting the favourites back in contention.

    However a disastrous blunder from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny gave Birmingham their first trophy since 1963.

    Szczesny and Koscielny went for the same ball from Nikola Zigic's long pass and the ball landed at the feet of Martins, who slid it into the net, prolonging Arsenal’s six-year trophy drought.

    "I think it was my second touch,'' said Martins, who joined Birmingham on a six-month loan from Rubin Kazan last month.

    "I think this is the easiest goal I've ever scored in my career - and it's very important.''

    'Greatest moment'

    Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was overjoyed.

    "It feels like the greatest ever (moment), in terms of personal achievement, when you consider the team we were up against." 

    "We weren't given a prayer today and I said myself that Arsenal would win nine times out of 10. But we believed. It was a titanic performance," he said.

    "We had a game plan and we stuck to it. We knew if we kept it (level) as long as we could we would get the quick guys (substitutes) on at the death, and they were the guys who could win it."

    Three finals have been lost by Arsenal since 2005 as manager Arsene Wenger's wait continues for his youthful side to have something to show for their eye-catching football.

    That lack of success, Wenger conceded before the match, had placed 'a weight on the team.' Only this season has Wenger selected strong sides in the League Cup, which he had derided in previous years and fielded young players.

    Wenger hoped the final would show how far his side has matured, but Arsenal were sluggish and struggled to impose themselves.


    EPL results

    Saturday February 26

     Villa 4-1 Blackburn
     Everton 2-0 Sund'land
     Newcastle 1-1 Bolton
     Wigan 0-4 Man Utd
     Wolves 4-0 Blackpool

    Sunday February 27

     W Ham 3-1 Liverpool
     Man City 1-1 Fulham

    The Gunners looked nervy as passes went astray and had failed to heed the warning of Fabregas before the match that you are likely to lose when contesting the ball in the air with Zigic.

    That transpired from a corner after Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna had conceded possession. Birmingham defender Roger Johnson soared above Koscielny to meet former Arsenal winger Sebastian Larsson's corner and nodded goalward to Zigic.

    The Serbia striker, who is the Premier League's tallest player at  6-foot-8 inches, found space among five Arsenal players to head beyond Szczesny.

    Szczesny had been fortunate to still be on the pitch at that point. Inside the opening two minutes, the Polish goalkeeper brought down Lee Bowyer, who was adjudged to be in an offside position despite Gael Clichy appearing to play him on side.

    The equaliser came after Jack Wilshere hit the crossbar from the edge of the edge of the penalty area and the rebound was only partially cleared by Barry Ferguson's header. The ball fell to Andrey Arshavin on the right flank and his cross was volleyed home by Van Persie.

    In the day’s other English Premier League games, West Ham United climbed off the bottom of the table with an uplifting and well-deserved 3-1 home win over Liverpool.

    Manchester City were held 1-1 at home by Fulham as former City manager Mark Hughes enjoyed a satisfying return to his former club. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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