Carling Cup Final 2011
27 Feb 2011 - 4:00 PM
Substitute Obafemi Martins scored a dramatic late winner as Birmingham snatched victory in the 2011 Carling Cup in a thrilling Final at Wembley.
The Nigerian striker, who only joined the club four weeks ago, made the most of a dreadful mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who spilled the ball after a collision with his centre back Laurent Koscielny and allowed Martins to poke home with just a minute left on the clock.
The 26-year-old’s goal will go down in club folklore as his new side lifted their first major trophy for 48 years, but Arsenal will be scratching their heads and wondering how it wasn’t them clutching the cup in the Royal Box.
Arsene Wenger’s side made the brighter start, taking full advantage of a pristine Wembley pitch perfect for attacking football. Recent England debutant Jack Wilshere was at the centre of the action from the first whistle and it was the 19-year-old who created the first chance of the match with a deft chip into the path of Robin van Persie who fired over from the tightest of angles.
The half chance stirred the north Londoners and just a minute later Andrey Arshavin was denied by the legs of Man of the Match Ben Foster in the Birmingham goal. Samir Nasri was next in the action as he weaved his way through three Birmingham defenders before blasting over.
But any thoughts of an easy afternoon for the Gunners were soon dispelled as Birmingham began to get a foothold in the match and despite all Arsenal’s slick passing, it was the towering frame of Serbian forward Nikola Zigic who headed the opening goal after Sebastian Larsson’s outswinging corner had been flicked on by the excellent Roger Johnson.
Arsenal were suddenly under real pressure and Szczesny had to be at his quickest to dive at the feet of Zigic as Birmingham put their stamp on the contest. Yet it was it from a position of Birmingham control that Arsene Wenger’s side got back into the match.
Defending a free kick in their own half, Arsenal turned defence into attack and flooded upfield, switching the play from right to left and finding Wilshere on the edge of the box who unleashed a dipping drive that clattered onto the cross bar.
The ball found its way to the feet of Arshavin on the right side of the box and the Russian’s cross was met crisply on the volley by Van Persie who expertly tucked the ball into the back of the net.
With parity restored the contest became increasingly tighter with chances at a premium and it was little surprise that the scoreline remained 1-1 going into half-time.
Birmingham came within centimetres of breaking the deadlock 12 minutes into the second half when Keith Fahey’s rasping shot smashed into the inside of the post and away, but that was as good as it got for the men in blue until the final minute.
Deeper and deeper they dropped as Arsenal looked for a winning goal and Foster had to be at his very best to make fine saves from Nasri, Nicklas Bendtner and Tomas Rosicky.
With his side's legs tiring, Alex McLeish sent Martins into the fray and his energy and desire to go forward gave his side a new lease of life.
But when his match winning goal came it was pure route one. Foster turned denier to creator and hoofed a ball deep into the Arsenal half.
Zigic flicked on and what should have been a routine claim for Szczesny ended in misery for Arsenal and elation for Birmingham.
Arsenal: 53 Szczesny, 3 Sagna, 6 Koscielny, 20 Djourou, 22 Clichy, 7 Rosicky, 8 Nasri, 17 A Song, 19 Wilshere, 23 Arshavin (Chamakh 77), 10 Van Persie (Bendtner 69).
Substitutes not used: 1 Almunia, 18 Squillaci, 27 Eboue, 28 Gibbs, 15 Denilson, 29.
Birmingham City: 26 Foster, 2 Carr, 5 Johnson, 6 Ridgewell, 28 Jiranek, 4 Bowyer, 7 Larsson, 8 Gardner (Beausejour 49), 12 Ferguson, 18 Fahey (Martins 82), 19 Zigic (Jerome 90).
Substitutes not used: 1 Taylor, 3 Murphy, 21 Parnaby, 23 Beausejour, 9 Phillips.
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistant Referees: Ron Ganfield and Mike Mullarkey
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend