Giant-slaying City woke up today as Capital One Cup semi-finalists after a night that Phil Parkinson believes fans will cherish “for the rest of their lives”.
Parkinson’s warriors stunned a full-strength Arsenal side in front of Valley Parade’s biggest crowd since 1960, winning their ninth penalty shoot-out on the trot after the game finished 1-1.
Garry Thompson’s volley was cancelled out by Thomas Varmaelen with only three minutes of normal time to go. But the Belgian’s miss during penalties proved decisive as City sealed one of the biggest results in their history to reach the semi-final of the competition for the first time.
Parkinson admitted: “I’m very proud of the boys. I don’t really want to single anyone out but there were some tremendous performances.
“It hasn’t really sunk in for them or for me yet and I don’t think the enormity of what they have achieved will do until today.
“It was a night to remember. We want to put this club and this city back on the map – football clubs can do that.
“This is a fantastic football club. You could just feel the support and passion around the ground.
“I came in at 4.30 and you could start sensing it then.
“It was a very special night for everybody. All the people here, especially all the kids, will remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Arsene Wenger surprised City by putting out his best team but the home side refused to be fazed by their big-name opponents.
Parkinson said: “He’d been saying in the press that he’d bring a strong squad but I didn’t expect him to go 'bang’ and play them all. Seeing the likes of Jack Wilshere and (Santi) Carzola in there was a real surprise.
“The talk will be about the penalties again but I’d rather praise the performance. It was sensational.
“We’ve taken on Arsenal’s best team and were leading with three minutes to go. Then we had the setback of conceding the goal and had to go again. But I thought the lads were outstanding and showed immense quality once again.
“Once their goal went in, I was glad there were only three minutes because you could just see us dip. That’s understandable.
“But we asked the lads afterwards if they were fit and strong enough to go again (in extra-time) and they showed they were. They weren’t going under.”
Skipper Gary Jones, a scorer in the shoot-out, called it “one of the best nights of my life” before adding: “We’ve just knocked Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup. It was 11 versus 11 and we had to keep our shape and frustrate them.”
Goalkeeper Matt Duke, who saved a penalty from Santi Cazorla, said: “We set our stall out and the men in front of me were fantastic. We are really fit as a team and that showed.”