By William Hill
Last Updated: 30th March 2021
The League Cup can usually be relied upon to provide more than a few standout encounters every year. Some are of the giant-killing variety, others involve last-gasp winners and then you’ve just got your pure goal fests.
With the Carabao Cup final around the corner, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most memorable games in recent editions of the tournament.
Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal – 27/02/2011
Arsenal had been suffering a six-year silverware drought when they found themselves under the Wembley arch against relegation-threatened Birmingham, who should have posed little problem to the north London side.
That said, the Blues found themselves 1-0 up after 28 minutes thanks to the aerial prowess of Nikola Zigic. The 6 foot 5 inch Serbian went unmarked in the six-yard box, despite the close proximity of a handful of Arsenal defenders and headed in to put his side ahead. He could have doubled the lead shortly after, were it not for a poor touch at a pivotal moment that enabled Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczęsny to get a block in.
Jack Wilshere rattled Ben Foster’s woodwork from the edge of the area and when Birmingham failed to clear, Andrey Arshavin crossed for an airborne Robin van Persie to volley sublimely beyond the keeper’s reach. Foster was tested once more as the break approached, blocking a veering drive from Samir Nasri as a thrilling first half came to an end. Foster in fact pulled off a string of brilliant saves throughout the game and was ultimately rewarded with his second Alan Hardaker Trophy, awarded for the League Cup final’s man of the match.
His heroics spurred on his Birmingham side and they went on to produce an 89th-minute winner courtesy of some comically dire miscommunication from Arsenal. A totally innocuous long ball was on its way to Szczesny before an unnecessary Laurent Koscielny interjection served the ball on a platter to substitute Obafemi Martins, who made no mistake in netting.
Granted, the Blues were doomed to relegation three months later, but they had won their first trophy since 1963.
Reading 5-7 Arsenal – 30/10/2012
Goals were certainly not in short supply when Arsenal made the trip to the Madejski Stadium back 2012 in a game that was just one of many ridiculous scorelines in the League Cup that year.
This one, though, was particularly bonkers. Jason Roberts opened the scoring with a volley for Reading before Koscielny scored his first goal of the match but, unfortunately for him, this one was for the wrong team. The home side added another two goals and it looked as though they were going to go into the break with an astonishing four-goal lead.
It almost was your classic game of two halves, but Reading only dominated until added time kicked in at the end of the first half, when a Theo Walcott dink clinched his side’s opener to produce a glimmer of second-half hope for the Gunners. It was to be the first of three goals for Walcott that evening and the first of Arsenal’s seven.
Olivier Giroud netted in the 64th minute before Koscielny made amends for his own goal by pulling it back to 4-3 for Arsenal, before Walcott scored his second to take the two sides to extra-time. They scored again through a long-range Marouane Chamakh effort but Reading’s Pavel Pogrebnyak responded to seemingly set up a penalty shootout.
However, Walcott made sure he would take home the match ball when finishing off a counter-attack before Chamakh struck again, his lob rounding off a 12-goal thriller and continuing his side’s record of having never lost to Reading in any competition.
The Gunners would have been pleased with their subsequent fifth-round draw opponents, Bradford City, but in true League Cup style they went on to lose on penalties, with Bradford making it to the final where they were thrashed 5-0 by Swansea.
MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United – 26/08/2014
It was a day to forget for recent managerial appointment Louis van Gaal when his Manchester United side travelled to MK Dons only to be dumped out in emphatic second-round fashion, signalling the team’s earliest ever League Cup exit.
Will Grigg was certainly on fire that day as he ensured the League One side went into the break 1-0 up, before doubling their lead after a Jonny Evans error just after the hour mark with an audacious chest of the ball into the net.
United failed to respond and a great performance by a young Dele Alli, which no doubt bolstered his flourishing reputation, helped inspire the hosts to inflict further embarrassment upon the Red Devils. Four-time winners United did not register a shot on target until the 72nd minute, bearing in mind this was against a team who were only founded in 2004.
Benik Afobe was only on loan in Milton Keynes from Arsenal for five months but a 14-minute second-half brace secured the young club one of their most memorable victories.
Oxford United 4-0 West Ham – 25/09/2019
It’s the most recent match in this list but, after convincingly beating Manchester United just three days previously and sitting fifth in the Premier League table, a trip to League One outfit Oxford United should have been a relative walk in the park for West Ham.
Oxford had a number of great first-half chances through Cameron Brannagan and Anthony Forde. Half-time came and went with not a single goal registered for either side. Then, in the 55th minute, the Hammers’ humiliation began and when defender Elliot Moore’s opener arrived, it came as little surprise given Oxford had been knocking on the door the entire match.
West Ham were completely outplayed and there was little respite for them after conceding the first goal, with keeper Roberto forced into an impressive save from Jamie Mackie. With 19 minutes left on the clock, Matty Taylor converted a Mark Sykes’ cross to double the lead.
Substitute Tariqe Fosu, who scored a hat-trick in Oxford’s previous game when producing a record-breaking 6-0 win against Lincoln City, made it three when darting from the half-way line to quash any hopes of a Hammers comeback.
Not satisfied with a 3-0 lead going into added time, Shandon Baptiste rounded off a brilliant performance and ensured he received the man of the match award by notching a classy fourth to ease his side into the fifth round and send Manuel Pellegrini’s team crashing out in shameful style.