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Arsenal Gift Birmingham the Carling Cup After Late Blunder

28/2/2011
It could only be Arsenal.

Having weathered an early Birmingham storm in the first half and cancelled out Nikola Zigic’s opener through Robin van Persie, the Gunners contrived to present the Blues with an open net as substitute Obafemi Martins gleefully turned in their only shot on target late in the second half.

The Nigerian, who is on loan from Russian club Rubin Kazan, was presented with the simplest of chances as a fatal communication breakdown between goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny saw neither player claim the ball, allowing Martins to turn home at the death.

The goal was a bitter blow to Arsenal who had dominated large parts of the second half and forced the excellent Ben Foster into a string of superb saves in the Birmingham net, but credit must go to the Blues who never gave up and had the self-belief to continue pressing for the famous win.

It was the midlands side who originally took the lead in the game as giant striker Zigic – selected for his aerial presence – used his imposing stature to tower above a cluster of Arsenal defenders and head home after 28 minutes when Roger Johnson caused the Londoners problems in the box from a corner.

And Zigic could have doubled his side’s lead just minutes later after racing into the box after good work from Craig Gardner, only to see his close range shot smothered by Szczesny as the Arsenal back-line began to creak under the strain until a moment of brilliance dragged them back into the game.

As promising young midfielder Jack Wilshere worked some space to fire a thunderous shot against the Birmingham bar, the Blues failed to clear the danger and allowed Andrei Arshavin to shimmy past a couple of defenders and float a cross in for Van Persie, who volleyed into the corner with aplomb.

The two goals set up an enthralling affair in the second half and Arsenal poured forward in search of a winner, with the increasingly influential Samir Nasri forcing Foster into two good saves before the Gunners’ late moment of madness handed Birmingham their first silverware since 1963.
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