I watched the Carling Cup on Television in a small Morpeth pub. Here is what I observed..
This clash was seen as an easy opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s young side, which is not so young anymore, to prove their potential and end Arsenal’s six year wait for a trophy.
Not many people were giving unfancied Birmingham a chance, despite the fact they have impressed greatly since their return to the Premier League and have picked up some astonishing points against quality sides this season.
It looked like the Blues were in for a rough day when Bowyer ran free of the Arsenal defence and poked the ball around Wojciech Szczesny.
The young Gunners keeper took his legs out from under him however a dubious offside call denied a penalty and an almost certain red card.
Arsenal had the next chance when Samir Nasri danced through three Birmingham defenders with lightning quick feet however his shot from a tight angle went wide.
In the 27th minute, Sagna inexplicably gave the ball away with a horrid pass when under no pressure and Keith Fahey sent in a cross which was cleared by Koscielny for a corner.
Roger Johnson won the resulting corner, heading the ball towards goal, with big man Zigic rising high in contention with Szczesny to flick the ball into the net.
Arsenal immediately sought to reply and Van Persie’s header from a Nasri cross went agonisingly past the top corner.
More poor defending from Arsenal in the 33rd minute saw Szczesny make a decent save from Zigic after the striker found himself free one on one with the keeper.
Arsenal had been struggling to find a way through an inspired Birmingham midfield that was pressurising and pushing the players in red back into their own half.
However in the 39th minute, Jack Wilshere inspired an attacking move which ended with the young England International crashing a fierce left-footed drive against the crossbar.
The ball fell for Arshavin who turned Ridgwell and rushed past him to the by-line, his cross met by Van Persie who somehow wrapped his leg around Johnson’s body to score a fantastic volley.
Arsenal finished the stronger side as Nasri’s shot from outside the box was parried by Foster, yet the Gunners fans could feel lucky to have come to the interval on an even keel with Birmingham.
Arsenal started the second period strongly, with Rosicky’s shot from the edge of the box zipping just past Jaaskelainen’s post.
Birmingham replied in the 58th when Djourou’s mistake in defence opened up a path for Fahey, whose second attempt smashed against the left post.
Play slowed down to near boring as Arsenal controlled possession but failed to create meaningful chances, a Wilshere effort which was deflected for a corner the only notable action.
Bendtner was called off the bench in the 70th minute to replace Van Persie, preferred over Marouane Chamakh.
In the 75th a fast break from Arsenal saw a Nasri shot saved only by Foster’s face, while moments later the former Man Utd. keeper did well to save a Bendtner effort after the Dane had cut in from the left wing.
Arsenal reverted to a 4-4-2 when Chamakh finally entered play, replacing the often frustrating Arshavin.
A long range Nasri effort brought a full stretch save from Foster, before Birmingham made a move, pulling off Fahey for the creative but unpredictable Obafemi Martins.
He proved to be the difference as Koscielny and Szczesny simultaneously attempted to clear a loose ball in the box, however they both missed the ball and Martins was in the right place and the right time to tap home an easy finish.
Arsenal were too far out of it to get anything out of the game from there on, with the side failing to test Foster again as the final minute ticked by.
It was a huge disappointment for Arsenal fans who are still waiting for a trophy despite being one of the top sides in Europe for the past decade.
For Birmingham it was a huge achievement, whose only other piece of silverware had come in the same Cup back in 1963.
The Gunners now have to bounce back and concentrate on fighting for the Premier League and FA Cup, while they also need to regather for their crucial second-leg Champions League tie against Barcelona next week.