Wenger refuses to slam team despite shock loss
BRADFORD - Agence France-Presse
Arsenal players look dejected after losing to an unheralded League Two side Bradford after a penalty shootout in the League Cup quarterfinals. AP photo/ Jon SuperArsene Wenger refused to criticize his Arsenal flops despite suffering one of the most humiliating nights of his career as League Two minnows Bradford beat the Gunners 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the League Cup quarterfinals.
Wenger’s side thought it had got out of jail when defender Thomas Vermaelen forced extra-time with an 88th minute equalizer after Garry Thompson’s shock 16th minute strike for the hosts at Valley Parade on Dec. 11. But Arsenal could not find the winner in extra-time and Bradford went on to book its place in the semifinals for the first time after Vermaelen hit a post with the decisive spot-kick in the shootout following earlier misses from Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh.
It was the latest in an increasingly long list of chastening defeats for Wenger this season and is sure to lead to more criticism of the Frenchman, yet he stuck by his players even though they had let him down yet again.
“In the second half and extra-time it was all us, but it’s an English cup game on a difficult pitch,” Wenger said.
“Overall I cannot fault the effort of the players. It was a traditional English cup game and Bradford got on top of us.
“The pitch was a bit slippery. Bradford defended very deep and played the ball forward. There was not much space.
“We played a very offensive team and for over an hour we played with five strikers and created goal-scoring situations.
“We lost on penalties against a team who defended well. I cannot fault the effort of our team.”
The lackluster nature of Arsenal’s exit, combined with the team’s seven-year trophy drought, gave this defeat an even darker context for the struggling north London outfit.
Meanwhile, Bradford manager Phil Parkinson insisted the result was just reward for his side’s heroic efforts.
“It’s a great night for the club,” he said. “We wanted to show we’re a decent side and we did that. I don’t want my comments to be about the penalties but the performance because we were three minutes away from beating them in normal time. We asked a lot of them but the real talking point was how we played overall.”