League Cup roundup

Tiny Bradford stuns Arsenal in shootout

December 11, 2012
By ESPN.com news services

Arsenal was eliminated from the League Cup quarterfinals in humiliating fashion on Tuesday, losing a penalty shootout 3-2 to fourth-tier Bradford in one of the biggest shocks in the competition for many years.

Thomas Vermaelen struck the decisive spot kick against the post for the Premier League giants, having earlier scored an 87th-minute equalizer to take the game into extra time. The match finished at 1-1 after 120 minutes, despite Arsenal fielding a near full-strength team.

"They have world-class players ... but the way the lads stuck to their job, you have to give them credit," said Bradford manager Gary Parkinson, whose side has won an English-record nine shootouts in a row.

Aston Villa joined Bradford in the semifinals by beating Norwich 4-1.

With Arsenal down in the seventh place in the league and without a trophy since 2005, manager Arsene Wenger's judgment is being questioned like never before in his 16 years at the club and this result will give more ammunition to his critics.

His team failed to produce a shot on target until the 69th minute on a freezing night at Valley Parade, with Bradford having pierced Arsenal's brittle defense through Garry Thompson's fine volley following a 16th-minute free kick.

A late rally saw Vermaelen head home the equalizer from close range, and Santi Cazorla fired a shot against the bar in the second half of extra time that Arsenal dominated.

However, Bradford was never behind in the shootout with Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh denied in Arsenal's first two penalties. Vermaelen still had the chance to take it to sudden death, but his attempt slithered against the goal frame.

"I can't fault the effort from our team," Wenger said. "You have to give credit to Bradford. We will get over it -- it's part of our job."

Villa scored three times in the final 11 minutes to see off Norwich, with Austrian striker Andreas Weimann netting in the 79th and 85th before Christian Benteke completed the win in stoppage time.

Norwich, on a nine-match unbeaten run in the league, went in front through Steve Morison in the 19th only for Brett Holman to equalize two minutes later.

It sealed a successful return to Carrow Road for Villa manager Paul Lambert, who left Norwich in the summer in acrimonious circumstance and is still in a legal wrangle with his former club.

Swansea plays Middlesbrough on Wednesday, with the other last-eight match coming on Dec. 19 when Chelsea visits Leeds. The semifinals will be played in January.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.