Bradford shows door to Arsenal in League Cup

Updated 13 December 2012
0

Bradford shows door to Arsenal in League Cup

LONDON: Arsenal was eliminated from the League Cup quarterfinals in humiliating fashion on Tuesday, losing a penalty shootout 3-2 to fourth-tier Bradford in one of the biggest shocks in the competition for many years.
Thomas Vermaelen struck the decisive spot kick against the post for the Premier League giants, having earlier scored an 87th-minute equalizer to take the game into extra time. The match finished at 1-1 after 120 minutes, despite Arsenal fielding a near full-strength team.
“They have world-class players ... but the way the lads stuck to their job, you have to give them credit,” said Bradford manager Gary Parkinson, whose side has won an English-record nine shootouts in a row.
Aston Villa joined Bradford in the semifinals by beating Norwich 4-1.
With Arsenal down in the seventh place in the league and without a trophy since 2005, manager Arsene Wenger’s judgment is being questioned like never before in his 16 years at the club and this result will give more ammunition to his critics.
The upset will rank alongside Manchester United’s exit at the hands of York in the second round in 1995 and Liverpool’s embarrassing defeat in a penalty shootout at home to Huddersfield in the third round in 2010.
Wenger’s team failed to produce a shot on target until the 69th minute on a freezing night at Valley Parade, with Bradford having pierced Arsenal’s brittle defense through Garry Thompson’s fine volley following a 16th-minute free kick.
A late rally saw Vermaelen head home the equalizer from close range, and Santi Cazorla fired a shot against the bar in the second half of extra time that Arsenal dominated.
However, Bradford was never behind in the shootout with Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh denied in Arsenal’s first two penalties. Vermaelen still had the chance to take it to sudden death, but his attempt slithered against the goal frame.
“I can’t fault the effort from our team,” said Wenger, after seeing his side’s best route to silverware this season blocked off. “You have to give credit to Bradford. We will get over it — it’s part of our job.”
Arsenal’s owners are unlikely to give up on the well-respected Wenger, who is expected to be given funds to strength his playing staff in the January transfer window.
The lack of a potent striker appears to be the most pressing concern, with Gervinho and substitute Chamakh making precious little impact up front against Bradford. The Gunners were also outmuscled in midfield for the first hour, only gaining the ascendancy in that area once Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were thrown on in desperation in the 69th.
Bradford, currently fourth in League Two, became the first fourth-tier team since the 2006-07 season to reach the semifinals of the competition.
Villa scored three times in the final 11 minutes to see off Norwich in a repeat of the 1975 final, with Austrian striker Andreas Weimann netting in the 79th and 85th before Christian Benteke completed the win in stoppage time.
Norwich, on a nine-match unbeaten run in the league, went in front through Steve Morison in the 19th only for Brett Holman to equalize two minutes later.
It sealed a successful return to Carrow Road for Villa manager Paul Lambert, who left Norwich in the summer in acrimonious circumstance and is still in a legal wrangle with his former club.
Swansea plays Middlesbrough on Wednesday, with the other last-eight match coming on Dec. 19 when Chelsea visits Leeds. The semifinals will be played in January.


Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

Updated 43 min 54 sec ago
0

Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

  • Afghan smashes four sixes and two fours off ten balls
  • Leggie then snares wickets of Uthappa, Lynn and Russell,

A couple of days before what was effectively an Indian Premier League (IPL) semifinal against a Kolkata Knight Riders side backed by over 60,000 raucous fans, Rashid Khan told Michael Clarke, former captain of Australia, that he wanted to be known as an all-rounder.
When he came into bat on Friday night, the Hyderabad innings was going nowhere — 134 for 6, with just 13 balls remaining. Off the ten that he faced, Rashid smashed four sixes and two fours to finish with 34 as an under-par score became a competitive one.
In the defense of that total, Kane Williamson opted not to bowl Rashid in the Power Play. By the time he came on, Kolkata had raced to 67 from six overs. His first over went for just three, and gave his teammates time to breathe.
By the end of the night, he had the vital wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, a run-out and two catches as Kolkata, who needed 82 from 60 balls at one stage, fell 13 short. Afterwards, as the praise rained down, he didn’t forget to dedicate his man of the match award to those in his home town who were killed by a bomb blast at a cricket match a few days earlier.
“Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar. “Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
It’s not even been three years since Rashid, who only turns 20 in October, made his debut for Afghanistan. He has already harvested 100 ODI wickets in just 42 innings, and has been the scourge of batsmen in Twenty20 leagues as far apart as Australia, the Caribbean and India.
His IPL numbers are outstanding. Last season, his first in the league, he took 17 wickets and was one of only two bowlers at the top of the charts to concede less than 7 an over. This year, his 21 wickets are second only to Andrew Tye (24), while his economy rate is the best of anyone in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list.
In the age of ultra-slow-mo video and extensive data crunching, Rashid’s bowling remains a mystery to many. He can not only rip his leg-breaks and googlies, but he bowls them at such a pace that playing him off the pitch is fraught with risk. In a league as frenetic as the IPL, where consistency is the biggest challenge for bowlers, this was the sixth time that Rashid had taken at least two wickets this season.
In every respect, Rashid is the first global superstar from an emerging cricket nation. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, his Hyderabad teammate, helped put Afghan cricket on the map, but it’s Rashid’s skill that has been instrumental in their acceptance at the top table.
By the time Sri Lanka got Test status in 1982, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias were widely recognized as world-class batsmen. Zimbabwe’s promotion up the ranks was largely due to the all-round prowess of Duncan Fletcher at the World Cup in 1983 and a marvellous innings from Dave Houghton four years later. But none of them had millions watching their every move.
Rashid’s success will also inspire young men like Sandeep Lamichhane, who made a tremendous impact in the latter part of the season with Delhi Daredevils. Another gifted leggie with a beautiful action, Lamichhane knows that such displays can put Nepal cricket under the spotlight as he and the national team seek to mimic Afghanistan’s progress.
For a long time, Indian cricket board officials scoffed at the notion of players from such countries playing in the IPL. Now, after a season in which Rashid, Lamichhane and Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old prodigy from Afghanistan, have all starred, it’s only a matter of time before the franchises spread their scouting nets even wider.
For Rashid, there’s the small matter of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test as well, a fortnight after the end of the IPL. India will be without Virat Kohli, and it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be dishing out a square turner to greet the new boys. Rashid’s prowess should see to that.