Forty-eight years after they first claimed the trophy, Birmingham City FC have reacquainted themselves with League Cup success following a dramatic 2-1 victory against Arsenal FC.
Once Robin van Persie had cancelled out Nikola Žigić's 28th-minute header six minutes before half-time, the chances of an upset had appeared to recede. Both sides continued to enjoy chances, though, and just as extra time began to look inevitable, a mix-up between Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny and Laurent Koscielny gave substitute Obafemi Martins the chance to bury a last-minute winner.
For all their disappointment at the whistle, Arsenal had begun the match strongly, weaving their usual passing patterns and carving out their first goalscoring chance on eight minutes, when Andrey Arshavin's shot on the turn was repelled by the excellent Ben Foster. Samir Nasri next displayed great skill to trick his way past three players, before finishing his mazy run with a wayward effort.
Save for speculative shots by Keith Fahey and Craig Gardner, Alex McLeish's men had threatened little before they scored, but, from their very first corner, Žigić beat Szczęsny to Roger Johnson's cushioned header and flicked in from close range. Van Persie almost responded instantly, meeting a Bacary Sagna cross with a flying header that fizzed wide, but Szczęsny still had to save bravely at Žigić's feet on 34 minutes to prevent another setback.
Arsenal's acting captain in Cesc Fàbregas's absence, Van Persie soon steadied the ship after Jack Wilshere had almost graced Wembley Stadium with a goal of his own. The England international cracked the bar from 20 metres out, and that allowed Arshavin to pick up the loose ball and pick out the Dutchman to equalise.
The second half was as open as the first, Sagna continuing to cause problems down the right and feeding Tomáš Rosický, who only narrowly missed the far post. At the other end, Fahey went even closer, hitting the foot of Szczęsny's upright with a snapshot from the edge of the area. As time ticked on, Arsène Wenger's men began to turn the screw, Nasri breaking loose to force a fine save from Foster, before Nicklas Bendtner and Nasri, again, also brought the best out of the former Manchester United FC goalkeeper.
But, with the match seemingly destined for an extra half-hour, Birmingham stunned the Londoners with a sucker punch. Žigić's seemingly innocuous header was fumbled by Szczęsny, with Koscielny neglecting to clear his lines, and Martins was able to stroke the ball into an empty net to hand Birmingham their first taste of UEFA Europa League football next season.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.