CUP UPSETS don’t come much bigger than Birmingham beating Arsenal in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley – but make no mistake this was a well deserved win for the underdogs against the most overrated team in football.
The truth is this was a great victory for the best of British on a day that the so-called foreign flair of Arsene Wenger’s team of fragile Europeans were outfought and outplayed by a team of mostly home grown talent.
Alex McLeish deserves so much credit for leading the unfashionable Blues to their first major trophy since 1963. It is a great achievement for a passionate Scottish manager who joins an elite band of bosses who have collected silverware on both sides of the Border.
The proud Scot was a winner on so many occasions with Rangers – two Cups and five Championships in five years at Ibrox – but this tops the lot. As McLeish admitted: “For a small club like ours to beat Arsenal was a titanic effort.”
Obafemi Martins won the Cup for the Blues when he scored in the last minute of normal time to complete a 2-1 victory over the Gunners. A mix-up between keeper Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny let in Martins for a simple tap in.
But the hero on the day was English goalkeeper Ben Foster, Manchester United’s matchwinner in the 2009 Final penalty shootout against Spurs.
Foster was outstanding with a string of courageous saves while his opposite number Szczesny had an uncertain afternoon that ended in his disastrous error that handed the Cup to Birmingham.
When Robin Van Persie levelled the opener from Nikola Zigic, Arsenal were hot favourites to claim their first trophy since winning the FA Cup against Manchester United in 2005. But the luck they enjoyed in abundance six years ago deserted them this time.
Since riding their good fortune to beat Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League encounter, the Gunners have been pegged back by lowly Leyton Orient in the FA Cup and now they have fallen at the final hurdle in the Carling Cup.It does not augur well for Wenger’s men who began the day with hopes of winning all four trophies.
Carling Cup Final, 27 February 2011: Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham.
Zigic 28, Van Persie 39, Martins 89