Arsenal and Reading didn't bring their defenses on Tuesday, but provided tons of entertainment in what is almost certainly going to go down as the craziest match of the season.
Thanks to marathon-level stamina and some defending that would make non-League footballers blush, Arsenal and Reading put on a show in the League Cup, with the Gunners coming out on top in what was either an all-time classic or a football travesty, depending on who you ask. Arsenal went down 4-0 early, but fought back to force extra time. That extra period featured four goals, as Arsenal came away with a 7-5 win.
The beginning of the match was an absolute disaster for Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and young fourth-choice goalkeeper Damian Martinez. Koscielny failed to track Jason Roberts' run on the Royals' first goal, then turned in an own goal for their second. Martinez should have saved Mikele Leigertwood's effort for the third goal, and might have done better with the fourth, too. However, Reading's goal that made it 4-0 was easily the best of the bunch, with Noel Hunt rising up to power an excellent header into the back of the net.
Theo Walcott pulled one goal back just before the stroke of halftime, but the Gunners didn't appear to have much hope at that point. In fact, they continued to show very little capability of getting back into the match until the 89th minute.
Olivier Giroud, who entered as a second half substitute, punched in Arsenal's second goal in the 64th minute. That should have made things interesting, but the match wasn't a great one for the ensuing 25 minutes, until Koscielny atoned for one of his earlier errors with an excellent header. His 89th minute goal gave Arsenal new life, and the fourth official showed four minutes of stoppage time.
They had more than four minutes to find an equalizer, mostly because Reading did an awful lot of time wasting and the referee didn't allow them to get away with it. In the 96th minute of regular time, Arsenal netted a shocking equalizer, with Carl Jenkinson appearing to poke a Theo Walcott shot just over the line to force extra time. Walcott may (and should) ultimately be credited with the goal, which appeared to have crossed the line before Jenkinson finished.
Hilariously, two Arsenal players were unaware that League Cup ties feature extra time and penalties if required, and threw their shirts into the crowd at the end of regular time. They were forced to retrieve them in order to start extra time, and were successful in doing so.
In the 108th minute, Marouane Chamakh scored what was presumed to be the winner at the time, finishing off a pass from Andrei Arshavin. it was only the start of a 12-minute period of absolute madness. Pavel Pogrebnyak stunningly fired Reading level after 118 minutes, nodding a shot that deflected towards him into the back of the net to level proceedings at 5-5.
Due to an injury to Ignasi Miquel, who had to leave the match on a stretcher, there was a long period of stoppage time in extra time as well. The Gunners used up a massive chunk of it before finding what would actually go down as the winner, through Walcott, who should have his second career Arsenal hat trick if the 96th minute goal is correctly granted to him. Arshavin created the winner with a great run and cross into the box, which deflected out to Walcott, who finished from eight yards.
Arsenal added another in the 127th minute, with Chamakh chipping Adam Federici to seal a spot in the quarterfinal for his side.