The 2012/13 season was Reading’s return to the Premier League after our relegation in 2008. Whilst it wasn’t wonderful and there really weren’t too many highlights from the campaign, it did produce one the most bizarre games ever witnessed.
Many claim that the best comeback was Liverpool in Istanbul, or the Liverpool/Newcastle games which always ended up 4-3. Mine was the dramatic match that witnessed an Arsenal side come back from four goals down to win 7-5.
It was a truly bananas game. Reading went into the game without a league win and just five points on the table, devoid of confidence and a truly leaky defence - against at that time an Arsenal team sitting sixth and featuring a certain Emiliano Martinez in goal.
Now this is where the fun starts: for the first 40 minutes, quite simply Reading were on a different planet. Arsenal offered little and self-destructed at every level. Firstly Jason Roberts popped up for his first goal of the season, making French international Laurent Koscielny look like a Sunday league player with a thumping goal from a pinpoint Hal Robson-Kanu cross.
Six minutes later, Chris Gunter was set free by a lovely inside ball from Garath McCleary, crossed dangerously into the box, the unfortunate Koscielny stuck a leg out and the ball deflected into the net. This was madness - 2-0 up after 17 minutes and playing like Barca. Ridiculous. It got more mental midway through the first half when Mikele Leigertwood found himself with time, space and no one near him, and thought “might as well have a pop” which Martinez in the Arsenal goal made a complete hash of. It dropped into the next behind him; ludicrous.
The final action of the half from Reading saw McCleary receive the ball in acres - literally acres of space - and have the time to pick out the perfect ball for Noel Hunt on the back post who out-jumped the static Arsenal defence and power the ball into the back of the net.
Now this is 35 minutes into the game you’re 4-0 up. All you have to do is get through to half time, not concede and don’t give Arsenal anything to work with. But no, Andrey Arshavin produced a lovely little ball through the middle of the park which Theo Walcott ran onto and passed into the net beyond a hapless Adam Federici. Half time: 4-1.
In the second half Arsenal switched up a gear, and Walcott was basically taking the game to Reading on his own, before he took a corner which Olivier Giroud met with a powerful header into the Reading net. 4-2.
In the 89th minute at 4-2, you would think ‘job done’. Not this Reading side and Koscielny found himself unmarked in the Reading box to score from another Walcott corner. Ok, let them have a 4-3 loss. it’s fine, we are in injury time - all FIVE minutes of it.
Yep, you guessed it, that man Walcott popped up again to rescue the draw after 95 minutes when the ball dropped to him in the penalty box despite Nicky Shorey’s attempts to keep it out.
FT, 4-4, and extra time beckons.
The momentum then switched to Arsenal and they were soon ahead for the first time in the game when Marouane Chamakh received the ball on the edge of the box and scored with a powerful shot which went between Kaspars Gorkss’ legs. 4-5
This seemed to mark the end of the game for many of the Reading fans who started to empty out of the stadium, but was it over? Was it hell, and the Pog got on the end of a powerful cross to bury the ball into the Arsenal net. 5-5, breathe!
Walcott was not to be outdone and as Arsenal broke they powered a shot in, it was blocked on the line and he smashed it home to secure the game. 5-6
With the game finally petering out, a long ball from the Arsenal defence was misjudged by a tiring Gunter and Chamakh lifted the ball over the onrushing Federici to finally put the game to bed.
Truly madness and one of the most bizarre games ever witnessed at the Madejski. Later in the season, as we all know, Reading got relegated and Arsenal went on to get knocked out at the quarter-final stage before finally finishing fourth in the table.
But for 35 minutes, this was a high spot from an otherwise dismal season.