Reading 5 Arsenal 7

It would do the word ‘unbelievable,’ injustice. But what transpired at the Madejski Stadium was more than unbelievable, it actually defied all logic. Stung by four first half goals within 37 minutes, Reading were cruising into the Capital Cup last eight. Theo Walcott put the Gunners on the score sheet in the first half with what looked like a consolation on a shocker of a night. It was to be a shocker alright, but not in the way that anyone could have imagined. Walcott grabbed a hat-trick, and having netted an own goal, Laurent Koslcielny found the target at the right end, Marouane Chamakh reminded us he was still about with a double of his own, with Olivier Giroud also scoring. When Pavel Pogrebnyak made the score 5-5 in extra time, anything looked possible until Walcott sealed his hat-trick with Chamakh getting Arsenal’s seventh on a incredible night in Berkshire.

Arsene Wenger has called for a quick restoration of his side’s confidence, but on the evidence of the first half here, there seemed to be nothing that he could do to restore the player’s belief in themselves and each other. Sticking to a blend of experience and youth, Wenger and the large travelling contingent from North London sat transfixed as Reading blew the Gunners away. Jason Roberts latched onto Hal Robson Kanu’s cross for the opener on 11 minutes. Arsenal’s shocking defence was to gift their hosts further goals. Koscielny is no stranger to Carling Cup bloopers and he deflected Chris Gunter’s cross past Damien Martinez. Lacking in ideas and shorn of real leadership the cause looked even further lost when Mikele Leigertwood got the Royal’s third after Martinez made a real mess in his attempt to save the ball, with Reading’s fourth goal came as Garath McCleary’s cross was headed in by Noel Hunt.

The Gunners looked a spent force and with Chamakh their outlet in attack, all seemed lost. Then that chink of light that was to give a very unlikely glimpse of what was to follow. Andrey Arshavin fed Walcott and he finished with a delightful lifted goal over Adam Federicci, for an amazing 4-1 half time scoreline. Arsenal had never recovered from a four goal deficit to win, but they were about to put that right. Giroud powered his header past Federicci from Walcott’s corner to make the score 4-2 after 64 minutes. Arsenal then upped their game, a side now much improved form that shambles that turned up for the first half.

Time however was running out. Koscielny’s determination enabled him to head in from another Walcott corner to make it 4-3, and in time added on, Walcott grabbed to Gunner’s leveller despite the goal line clearance claimed by Nicky Shorey. Replays showed the ball had crossed to line. Arsenal then incredibly took the lead for the first time in the game when Chamakh struck in extra time, but still Reading levelled through Pogbrebnyak with a header. At 5-5, and deep into extra time, and with added momentum there was only going to be one winner. Walcott got his hat-trick after lashing in from close range, set up by Arshavin’s strong run.

The Gunners were to fire an amazing seventh when Chamakh raced clear an lobbed the on rushing Federici to complete the best ever comeback in cup history. Cue massive celebrations from the Arsenal fans, with more than an ironic chanting of the rave anthem ” Chase the Sun,” which accompanied every home goal that Reading scored. By the end of the night, the Royals were left chasing shadows and the rest of us wondering what we had actually just witnessed.