Bradford Stuns Arsenal to Reach English League Cup Semifinals

Bradford City upset Arsenal 3-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the semifinals of English soccer’s League Cup for the first time.

Bradford’s Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones and Alan Connell scored in the shootout, while goalkeeper Matt Duke made one save and Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh and Thomas Vermaelen hit the frame of the goal.

“The lads were terrific, the commitment was first class,” Bradford manager Phil Parkinson told Sky Sports. “People will talk about penalties but our overall performance was outstanding.”

Bradford, which is ranked 65 places below Arsenal in England’s fourth level, will be joined in the last four by Aston Villa, which beat Norwich 4-1.

The quarterfinal round continues tonight as Swansea hosts Middlesbrough. The remaining match between Leeds and Chelsea will be played Dec. 19.

With Arsenal seeking its first trophy since 2005, manager Arsene Wenger broke with his tradition of fielding second-string players for League Cup matches by making three changes from the Dec. 8 Premier League win over West Brom.

“When you go out it’s never good enough at Arsenal,” Wenger said. “I cannot fault the effort we gave for 120 minutes. You have to give credit to Bradford on the night.”

Before a crowd of 23,971 at Coral Windows Stadium, its biggest since 1960, Bradford went in front in the 16th minute as Garry Thompson was left alone at the far post to volley home Will Atkinson’s free kick.

Francis Coquelin almost drew Arsenal level when he hit the post in the 38th minute and Gervinho failed to connect with Kieran Gibbs’s cross from about two yards out (1.8 meters).

While Arsenal constantly pressured the Bantams end of the field in the second half, Duke didn’t make his first save until he stopped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot in the 70th minute.

The Gunners, who were trying to reach the semis for a record 15th time, scored with two minutes left as Vermaelen headed in a cross from Santi Cazorla at the far post.

Duke then made two diving saves against Cazorla before the game went to extra time. Cazorla came closest to scoring by hitting the crossbar in the extra 30 minutes.

After Doyle scored for Bradford, Duke dived to stop Cazorla’s try and Arsenal fell further behind when Chamakh struck the post after Jones converted.

Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny saved shots from Ritchie Jones and Stephen Darby before Vermaelen hit the right post, sending the Gunners to their first League Cup exit at the hands of a fourth-tier club.

“Arsenal have got world-class players and played their strongest team, but you have to give the players so much credit,” Parkinson said. “I hope this can be the first of many nights like this for Bradford City.”

In Norwich, Andreas Weimann scored twice late in the second half as Aston Villa gave manager Paul Lambert a win against his old club. Lambert left Norwich over the summer for Villa.

Norwich, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since the 1995-96 season, got a goal from Steve Morison after 19 minutes, only to have Brett Holman pull Villa even two minutes later.

Weimann put Villa in front in the 79th minute and scored again six minutes later to make it 3-1. Christian Benteke scored in stoppage time to clinch Villa’s 14th semifinal appearance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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