By Josh Powell | Sports writer
The League Cup isn’t renowned for classic matches or thrilling comebacks. In fact by most top-flight managers and players it’s seen as one of the most meaningless fixtures of the season along with friendlies, internationals and home games against Southampton.
But last night that all changed with Arsenal making a bigger comeback than Girls Aloud to knock-out Premier League rivals Reading. The Royals went 4-0 up with just 37 minutes on the clock but a brace from Marouane Chamakh and a hatrick from Theo Walcott helped Arsenal on their way to a thrilling 7-5 win after extra-time.
Arsene Wenger wasn’t the only man delighted to see the Gunners fight back as brave Paddy Power punters were able to back Arsenal to qualify at a whopping 100/1 after they had started the night at 4/9.
Arsenal began the night as the odds-on favourites to qualify for the quarter-finals despite resting a few of their big name stars such as Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. But a nightmare start saw the Gunners suffer a worse beating than Audley Harrison did at the hands of David Price and optimistic punters backed Arsenal at 33/1 and 40/1 before the break.
The first of Theo Walcott’s three goals just before half-time saw Arsenal’s price drop to 9/1 as fans began to believe the comeback was on. Olivier Giroud’s header with more than 25 minutes remaining sent the odds tumbling to 5/1 as Arsenal gained the momentum.
But with the 89th minute fast approaching and Arsenal still two goals away from forcing extra time, their odds soared to a staggering 100/1. The sight of Arsenal’s name being in the hat for the next round looked about as likely as John Terry winning Sports Personality of the Year.
There was another twist in the tail though with punters jumping on Arsenal at 5/1 as Laurent Koscielny made it 4-3 with stoppage time looming. Theo Walcott’s equaliser with almost the last kick of the game sent the game to extra-time and Arsenal’s odds came crashing down to 4/7.
The roller-coaster for Paddy Power punters wasn’t over though as Marouane Chamakh’s goal in the 103rd minute looked to have won it for Arsenal. The odds went as low as 1/66 before Pavel Pogrebnyak levelled the game with five minutes to go. Arsenal’s odds were back to 8/11 as both teams pushed for a winner.
With penalties looming Walcott gave Arsenal the lead at the death and with hardly any time remaining Arsenal were their lowest price of 1/100 to qualify. Chamakh still had time to net his second as a thrilling game came to a close.
For Paddy Power punters betting in-running there was only 50 minutes between Arsenal going from the dizzy heights of 100/1 to the pretty much guaranteed 1/100.
Who said the League Cup was boring?