Martins and Birmingham celebrate after an Arsenal mix-up
By Philip McNulty
BBC Sport chief football writer at Wembley
Obafemi Martins pounced on a calamitous Arsenal defensive mix-up two minutes from time as Birmingham City claimed their first major silverware since 1963 by winning the Carling Cup at Wembley.
Martins, on loan from Rubin Kazan, took advantage of a fatal communication breakdown between Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny to strike the late blow that clinched victory for Blues boss Alex McLeish and his men, sending their supporters into ecstasy.
The striker, on as substitute for Keith Fahey, had the simplest of chances after Koscielny attempted to clear when Szczesny came to collect Nikola Zigic's tame header to extend the north Londoners' six-year wait for a trophy.
Zigic gave Birmingham a first-half lead but Robin van Persie's spectacular volley restored parity before the interval in an enthralling Wembley final.
In contrast to the crestfallen figure of Szczesny, Birmingham were indebted to their keeper Ben Foster - penalty shoot-out hero of Manchester United's win in this competition in 2009 - for a magnificent display that rightly earned him the man-of-the match award.
Foster was outstanding throughout, denying Samir Nasri on three occasions and also saving splendidly from Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner.
Birmingham celebrate Carling Cup win
Birmingham, who also hit the woodwork through Fahey, were a model of determination and resilience as well as positive intent and their success is a tribute to the outstanding work of manager McLeish.
Defender Roger Johnson was another commanding figure and all the bravery displayed by him and his team-mates in the face of a late Arsenal onslaught was rewarded in sensational circumstances in the dying moments.
Arsenal, robbed of captain Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott through injury, never hit the heights and that moment of defensive madness means Wenger has still not laid his hands on a trophy since winning the FA Cup against Manchester United in 2005.
There was a moment of contention almost instantly when Lee Bowyer raced clear into the area and was hauled down by Szczesny for what would have been a penalty and, in all probability, a red card for the keeper.
The Gunners were relieved as the linesman's flag had already been raised - but their opponents were frustrated by the fact that the decision was incorrect.
Arsenal nearly increased Birmingham's sense of injustice when Arshavin forced Foster into a fine save on the turn as the favourites attempted to exert early authority.
Zigic's selection owed much to his obvious aerial threat to Arsenal and McLeish's decision was vindicated as the giant striker headed Birmingham into the lead after 28 minutes.
He was able to evade the attentions of a cluster of Arsenal defenders and Szczesny in the six-yard box to head home after Johnson's power in the air caused problems at a corner.
And the striker should have doubled his and Birmingham's tally as the north Londoners creaked under pressure but his control let him down at the vital moment, allowing Szczesny to block after good work by Craig Gardner.
Birmingham players revel in Carling Cup win
Blues were showing discipline and enterprise in equal measure, but Arsenal produced a moment of genuine class to draw level six minutes before half-time.
Jack Wilshere rattled Foster's woodwork from the edge of the area and when Birmingham failed to clear Arshavin crossed for an airborne Van Persie to volley brilliantly beyond the reach of the keeper.
Foster was tested once more as the interval approached, blocking a swerving drive from Nasri as an thrilling first 45 minutes drew to a close.
As the Gunners gathered momentum, Tomas Rosicky was within inches of giving them the perfect start after the break but his crisp, low shot was narrowly off target.
Birmingham suffered a blow early in the second half when the influential Gardner went off injured and was replaced by Jean Beausejour - but McLeish's side brushed off the setback to almost regain the lead.
Fahey's shot carried too much power and direction for Szczesny but, as the massed ranks of Birmingham fans rose to acclaim the strike it bounced off the inside of the post and across the face of goal.
Wenger made a change midway through the half, sending on Bendtner for Van Persie, who took a heavy knock in the act of scoring Arsenal's equaliser.
Foster came to Birmingham's rescue twice in the space of seconds as time ticked away, blocking Nasri's powerful drive before clutching Bendtner's effort at the second attempt.
Arsenal had assumed command and Foster once again demonstrated his agility and quality with a diving save from Nasri as their personal duel continued.
And then, with an extra 30 minutes beckoning came that meltdown between Szczesny and Koscielny - leaving Martins to pounce and win the Carling Cup for Birmingham.
90:00+4:52 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
90:00+4:29 Booking Barry Ferguson goes into the referee's book for dissent.
90:00+2:59 Booking Cameron Jerome receives a caution.
90:00+1:03 Foul by Samir Nasri on Liam Ridgewell, free kick awarded. Ben Foster takes the direct free kick.
90:00+1:03 Substitution Cameron Jerome is brought on as a substitute for Nikola Zigic.
90:00+0:25 Obafemi Martins takes a shot. Blocked by Ben Foster.
88:55 GOAL - Obafemi Martins:Arsenal 1 - 2 Birmingham Obafemi Martins scores a goal from close range low into the middle of the goal. Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham.
88:24 Gael Clichy concedes a free kick for a foul on Obafemi Martins. Ben Foster restarts play with the free kick.
84:48 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Barry Ferguson by Tomas Rosicky. Barry Ferguson takes the free kick.
83:13 Stephen Carr crosses the ball, Jean Beausejour has header on goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the right-hand
82:25 Substitution Keith Fahey leaves the field to be replaced by Obafemi Martins.
81:38 Sebastian Larsson takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Marouane Chamakh makes a clearance.
80:01 Stephen Carr gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nicklas Bendtner. Jack Wilshere takes the direct free kick,
Samir Nasri produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
79:36 Tomas Rosicky takes a shot. Blocked by Martin Jiranek.
79:11 Effort on goal by Samir Nasri from 25 yards. Ben Foster makes a save.
76:54 Foul by Lee Bowyer on Tomas Rosicky, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Jack Wilshere.
76:54 Substitution Marouane Chamakh comes on in place of Andrey Arshavin.
75:43 Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
74:43 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
71:12 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Ben Foster makes a save.
69:56 Liam Ridgewell gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nicklas Bendtner. Centre by Samir Nasri, Header by Alex Song
from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
68:59 Centre by Sebastian Larsson.
68:59 Substitution Nicklas Bendtner comes on in place of Robin van Persie.
66:12 Tomas Rosicky produces a cross, blocked by Barry Ferguson.
65:20 Robin van Persie is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Ben Foster.
62:10 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Sebastian Larsson by Tomas Rosicky. Ben Foster takes the direct free kick.
61:01 Jean Beausejour crosses the ball, save by Wojciech Szczesny.
59:30 Centre by Andrey Arshavin.
58:23 Inswinging corner taken by Robin van Persie from the right by-line played to the near post, Lee Bowyer manages to make a clearance.
Jack Wilshere has an effort at goal. Blocked by Lee Bowyer. Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line,
clearance by Nikola Zigic.
57:43 The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.
57:07 Keith Fahey takes a shot. Blocked by Laurent Koscielny. Keith Fahey has an effort at goal from just outside the area that
bounces off the post.
55:35 Long distance effort from Lee Bowyer misses to the left of the goal.
55:08 Free kick awarded for a foul by Samir Nasri on Lee Bowyer. Ben Foster takes the direct free kick.
54:29 The offside flag is raised against Nikola Zigic. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
52:36 Gael Clichy challenges Keith Fahey unfairly and gives away a free kick. Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball from the free kick
right-footed from right wing, clearance by Laurent Koscielny. Corner from the left by-line taken by Sebastian Larsson, clearance
made by Laurent Koscielny.
52:36 Booking Gael Clichy is cautioned.
52:08 Stephen Carr fouled by Samir Nasri, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Barry Ferguson.
50:50 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri played to the near post, Lee Bowyer makes a clearance.
49:31 Substitution Jean Beausejour comes on in place of Craig Gardner.
47:59 Tomas Rosicky has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.
46:33 Bacary Sagna sends in a cross, Jack Wilshere takes a shot. Ben Foster makes a save.
45:55 Craig Gardner gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Johan Djourou. Direct free kick taken by Johan Djourou.
45:01 The referee starts the second half.
45:00+5:12 The players leave the pitch at half time.
45:00+4:13 Shot from 25 yards by Samir Nasri. Save by Ben Foster.
45:00+3:32 The ball is delivered by Bacary Sagna, Nikola Zigic makes a clearance.
45:00+3:05 Robin van Persie takes a short corner.
45:00+2:22 Sebastian Larsson sends in a cross, Nikola Zigic takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
41:31 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Tomas Rosicky by Martin Jiranek. Free kick crossed right-footed by Andrey Arshavin
from left channel, save by Ben Foster.
41:31 Booking Sebastian Larsson is shown a yellow card.
40:49 Foul by Craig Gardner on Tomas Rosicky, free kick awarded. Tomas Rosicky takes the free kick.
38:41 Assist on the goal came from Andrey Arshavin.
38:41 GOAL - Robin van Persie:Arsenal 1 - 1 Birmingham Robin van Persie grabs a fantastic goal from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham.
38:23 Jack Wilshere takes a shot.
36:32 Foul by Laurent Koscielny on Lee Bowyer, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed right-footed by Barry Ferguson.
36:32 Booking The referee shows Laurent Koscielny a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
34:56 The ball is crossed by Sebastian Larsson, Johan Djourou manages to make a clearance.
33:35 Free kick awarded for a foul by Sebastian Larsson on Gael Clichy. Gael Clichy restarts play with the free kick.
32:53 Samir Nasri gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Carr. Direct free kick taken by Ben Foster.
30:54 The ball is crossed by Lee Bowyer.
30:18 Alex Song gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Craig Gardner. Martin Jiranek restarts play with the free kick.
30:02 Robin van Persie takes a shot. Blocked by Roger Johnson.
29:54 The ball is crossed by Andrey Arshavin, Ben Foster makes a save.
28:28 Close range headed effort by Robin van Persie clears the crossbar.
27:16 Sebastian Larsson takes the outswinging corner, assist on the goal came from Roger Johnson.
27:16 GOAL - Nikola Zigic:Arsenal 0 - 1 Birmingham Nikola Zigic grabs a goal from close in high into the middle of the goal. Arsenal 0-1 Birmingham.
26:17 Lee Bowyer concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Wilshere. Johan Djourou takes the free kick.
25:54 The assistant referee flags for offside against Lee Bowyer. Bacary Sagna takes the indirect free kick.
Correction - 24:20 The ball is sent over by Gael Clichy, clearance made by Roger Johnson.
24:20 The ball is swung over by Gael Clichy, clearance by Martin Jiranek.
20:06 Andrey Arshavin has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box which goes wide right of the target.
16:39 Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Gardner on Jack Wilshere. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.
16:11 Liam Ridgewell takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
14:51 Keith Fahey takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.
13:46 Samir Nasri has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.
10:21 Unfair challenge on Craig Gardner by Andrey Arshavin results in a free kick. Ben Foster takes the direct free kick.
8:05 Corner taken by Samir Nasri, Johan Djourou takes a shot. Blocked by Nikola Zigic. Inswinging corner taken by Robin van Persie,
Header from close in by Johan Djourou misses to the left of the target.
7:28 Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Save by Ben Foster.
4:37 Craig Gardner has an effort at goal from outside the penalty area missing to the wide left of the goal.
2:32 The referee blows for offside against Robin van Persie. Roger Johnson takes the indirect free kick.
1:52 Lee Bowyer is ruled offside. Indirect free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.
0:00 The referee gets the game started.
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