Reading 5 Arsenal 7: Hat-trick hero Walcott leads stunning Gunners comeback
23:10 GMT, 30 October 2012
Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick as Arsenal completed a dramatic extra-time victory over Reading after coming from four goals behind.
Marouane Chamakh scored twice and Walcott completed his treble to give Arsene Wenger’s side the most unlikely of victories. Trailing by four goals after 37 minutes Arsenal fought back, Walcott levelled the game with the last kick of normal time.
Chamakh put Arsenal in front for the first time only for Pavel Pogrebnyak to level matters again. The game appeared to be heading for a penalty shootout but Walcott and Chamakh scored to break Reading hearts.
Main man: Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates as he helps his side to a stunning victory
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Gorkss, Morrison, Shorey, Tabb, McCleary (McAnuff 73), Leigertwood, Robson-Kanu,
Roberts (Church 90),Hunt (Pogrebnyak 73).
Subs Not Used: Stuart Taylor, Pearce, Le Fondre, Harte.
Booked: Leigertwood, Morrison.
Goals: Roberts 12, Koscielny 18 og, Leigertwood 20, Hunt 37, Pogrebnyak 116.
Arsenal: Martinez, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Djourou, Miquel (Meade 105), Arshavin, Frimpong (Giroud 62), Coquelin,
Walcott, Chamakh, Gnabry (Eisfeld 62).
Subs Not Used: Shea, Squillaci, Bellerin, Yennaris.
Booked: Miquel, Chamakh, Giroud, Koscielny, Martinez, Eisfeld.
Goals: Walcott 45, 90, 103, Giroud 64, Koscielny 89, Chamakh 103, 120.
Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
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They may have progressed but Arsenal’s first-half performance was shambolic as Reading stormed into a four-goal lead.
Wenger made 11 changes from the side that started in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers. Theo Walcott was given a chance to show why he is worth the 100,000-per-week new contract he so desperately craves, while Serge Gnabry was hoping to show why Wenger is tipping him to become Arsenal’s next bright young thing.
Reading boss Brian McDermott was not as carefree with his changes, making six from the side that started in the dramatic draw against Fulham at the weekend.
And the home side nearly made the perfect start in the third minute when Sean Morrison rattled Damien Martinez’s crossbar with a header from Nicky Shorey’s floated corner.
Walcott thought he had a clear run at goal two minutes later after Andrey Arshavin located him with an inch-perfect lofted pass — but Reading skipper Kaspars Gorkss made a timely challenge with the England forward primed to pull the trigger.
Martinez showed why he has already been called up into the Argentina national squad at the tender age of 20 with a smart stop to deny Jay Tabb who had wriggled his way into the box.
Off and running: Jason Roberts fires home to put Reading in front against Arsenal
But Reading were awarded for their enterprising start in the 12th minute when Jason Roberts, who easily evaded the attentions of Ignasi Miquel, slid home Hal Robson-Kanu’s low cross to give the Premier League new-boys a deserved lead.
And Reading’s night got even better just six minutes later as they doubled their lead to stun a shell-shocked Arsenal side.
Right back Chris Gunter came flying down the flank before firing a low cross into the Arsenal box that Laurent Koscielny failed to clear, instead slicing the ball into his own goal to double the home side’s lead.
McDermott and the home supporters were in dreamland.
Dejected: Laurent Koscielny scores an own goal to gift Reading a second
Bullet: Mikele Leigertwood fires home to extend Reading's advantage further
So, God knows what must have been going through their mind when Reading took an incredible three goal advantage in the 20th minute.
As Arsenal’s backline struggled to clear after yet another Reading attack, midfielder Mikele Leigertwood picked up the ball 20 yards from goal before unleashing a powerful drive that somehow Martinez only parried into his own net.
And Arsenal’s embarrassing opening half got worse in the 37th minute, this time Noel Hunt climbing highest in the box to nod past the stunned Martinez after Garath McCleary’s excellent cross.
That was the cue for dozens of Arsenal supporters to leave the Madejski Stadium.
Heads you win: Noel Hunt finds the back of the net to add Reading's fourth
Back in the game: Theo Walcott scored a fine goal just before half time for Arsenal
They had obviously seen enough. And who could blame them as they launched into cries of ‘We want our Arsenal back.’ There was a riposte, finally, from Wenger’s men as Walcott cooly finished past Adam Federici after Arshavin’s through ball on the stroke of half-time to cut the deficit.
If there was a half-time rocket from Wenger then it did not show as the home side came out with all guns blazing.
The impressive Robson-Kanu forced Martinez into a good save low down to his right with a close range header before Miquel nearly put though his own net after another dangerous Shorey corner.
Nodding off: Olivier Giroud grabbed a second goal fro Arsenal as the comeback continued
Making amends: Koscielny scores at the right end to reduce Arsenal's arrears even further
Level pegging: Walcott fires the ball home to complete a stunning comeback
Leigertwood then went desperately close to notching his second of the night with a vicious drive from 15 yards after Roberts’ cut back that flew narrowly over Martinez’s bar.
Walcott saw his attempts to cut Reading’s lead further thwarted by Federici 10 minutes into the second half as his low effort, after a trademark pacy run, was well saved.
Marouane Chamakh was then yellow carded for running 20 yards to remonstrate with a linesman after seeing his half-hearted attempts to win a penalty turned down.
And another: Marouane Chamakh makes it five for Arsenal as the Gunners scrape through
Level again: Pavel Pogrebnyak equalised for Reading in extra time
Wenger threw on summer signing Olivier Giroud in the 62nd minute in an effort to somehow inspire his men. And the substitution paid off instantly as the France striker nodded home Walcott’s corner in the 65th minute to give Arsenal hope.
The visitors then took control of the game but couldn’t force a third goal until the 89th minute when Koscielny scored at the right end. Reading looked to have held on but in the fifth minute of added time Arsenal pumped a hopeful long ball into the box.
Giroud nodded on and Walcott reacted first, making some space and poking a shot towards goal which just crossed the line to force extra-time.
Seventh heaven: Arsenal celebrate after Chamakh scored their final goal at Reading