This season’s Capital One Cup has been truly historic – the number of giant-killings has been a big surprise and we have seen the return of the romance of cup football. We’ve experienced some significant shocks and amazing score-lines, so here is a list of our unofficial Capital One Cup awards – enjoy!
Player of the tournament – Matt Duke (Bradford City) – The fairytale story of Bradford City’s rise to the Capital One Cup final would not have been so fantastical had it not been for the wonderful performances of goalkeeper Matt Duke throughout all stages of the competition. The ‘keeper in such fine form had a marked affect on his team-mates, keeping a clean-sheet against Wigan to take the game to penalties where Bradford seized the initiative. Duke’s performance against Arsenal was arguably one of the finest goalkeeping displays this season as he denied the probing, penetrative attacks of the Gunners time and time again. A fine double save against Santi Cazorla in the final minutes of stoppage time kept his team in the game where they would go on to prosper on penalties once more. Duke’s form continued into the semi-final clash with Aston Villa, where a series of fine saves provided the Bantams with a fantastic 3-1 aggregate lead ahead of the second-leg at Villa Park. In this second-leg clash, Duke denied both Villa danger-men Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor early on, and besides a wonderful strike later on from Benteke, Duke looked comfortable in a hostile atmosphere. His performances provided the basis for Bradford City to push on and believe they could beat Premier League opposition – and by goodness, have they done so.
Young player of the tournament – Nakhi Wells (Bradford City) – Bradford have had a historic run in this year’s Capital One Cup, knocking out three Premier League sides in Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa to reach the final. And, while Bradford’s players have shown fight, determination and organisation in general, a few players in particular have stood out and really made a difference for the Bantams on the big occasions. The youngest of these players, 22-year-old Bermudian Nakhi Wells, has shown skill, stamina and experience beyond his years throughout all stages of the competition. His first noteworthy performance came against Burton Albion, where he bagged two late goals to take the game into extra time, where Bradford prospered 3-2. His performances later in the competition not only saw him score against Premier League side Aston Villa, but also saw a more experienced side to his game, as he held up the ball and ran the channels with remarkable stamina, running the clock down for his team to seal famous victory after famous victory. This season, Wells has epitomised the grit and determination of Bradford City, and has a bright future ahead in English football – he is Bradford’s highest scorer this season, sitting on 18 goals across all competitions.
Goal of the competition – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal 6 – 1 Coventry) – Arsenal’s second goal in their 6-1 mauling of League One side Coventry City was a truly wonderful strike from young England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The 19-year-old comes off the left wing, passing to Andrei Arshavin, who proceeds to return the favour as Oxlade-Chamberlain cuts into the middle. With a few yards of space in front of him, the youngster hits a thunderbolt outside-of-the-foot shot with his right from 30 yards out, which curls away from Coventry ‘keeper Joe Murphy at the last moment and finds the back of the net. It’s a truly world-class strike from a fantastic prospect for both Arsenal and England in the future.
Comeback of the competition – Reading 5 – 7 Arsenal – Reading fans would have expected a tough game against the Gunners on this cold October night. However, the Royals took a remarkable 4-0 lead within 40 minutes, and fans were already celebrating their victory in ecstasy. Minutes later, though, Theo Walcott pulled a goal back for Arsenal just before the break. This proved a vital turning point as Arsenal overcame their huge deficit with goals from Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and a second from Walcott, taking the game into extra-time. Reading fans felt shocked as their team squandered a four-goal lead, only for Arsenal to score their fifth in the 103rd minute, heaping pressure on the hosts. Reading fans were given another boost as Pavel Pogrebnyak found the net to equalise and make it 5-5. However, it was not to be for the Royals as Arsenal put two more past Adam Federici through Marouane Chamakh and another from Walcott to complete his hat-trick and wrap the game up at 7-5. Both Reading and Arsenal fans had well and truly experienced a roller-coaster of emotions that night.
Game of the competition – Reading 5 – 7 Arsenal – For the reasons already stated above, the clash between Reading and Arsenal embodied the very spirit and romance of cup football, with Reading facing a tough tie at the Madejski Stadium. Both teams may have Premier League status, but their fortunes could not have been more different – with Reading rooted to the bottom of the table and Arsenal pushing for a top-four place. However, the Royals found themselves 4-0 up within 40 minutes with goals from Jason Roberts, Mikele Leigertwood, Noel Hunt and a Laurent Koscielny own-goal – and began to believe they may topple the Gunners out of the competition. However, Theo Walcott bagged a vital goal just before half-time and later claimed the equaliser with Olivier Giroud and Koscielny also scoring in the second period to level the scores at 4-4 and take the game into extra-time. In extra-time, substitute Marouane Chamakh handed Arsenal the initiative, only for Pavel Pogrebnyak to level the scores again and make it 5-5, giving the Reading fans another boost. However, it was the Gunners who seized their opportunities and a quick double from Chamakh and Walcott, who completed his hat-trick, to put the game beyond any doubt. Finishing 7-5, the game contained everything that a wonderful cup tie should – the underdog showing fight and determination, a dramatic comeback, and a wonderful performance from a young player – Theo Walcott.