Under fire ... Wenger needs to win silverware. Photo: AP
LONDON: Arsene Wenger refused to criticise his Arsenal flops despite suffering one of the most humiliating nights of his career as League Two minnows Bradford beat the Gunners on penalties in the League Cup quarter-finals.
Wenger's side thought they were out of jail when defender Thomas Vermaelen forced extra time with an 88th-minute equaliser after Garry Thompson's shock 16th-minute strike for the hosts at Valley Parade on Tuesday.
But Arsenal couldn't find the winner in extra time and Bradford went on to win the shootout 3-2 and book their place in the semi-finals for the first time. Vermaelen hit a post with the decisive spot-kick following earlier misses from Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh. It was the latest in an increasingly long list of defeats for Wenger this season and is sure to lead to more criticism of the Frenchman, yet he stuck by his players even though they had failed to perform again.
''The pitch was a bit slippery. Bradford defended very deep and played the ball forward. There was not much space,'' Wenger said. ''When it goes to penalties, you know what can happen. When you miss the first penalty, of course it is difficult.
''We lost on penalties against a team who defended well. I cannot fault the effort of our team and you have to give credit to Bradford.
''I don't think it was a lack of quality - it's just we could not convert our chances for different reasons.''
The lacklustre nature of Arsenal's exit, combined with the team's seven-year trophy drought, gave this defeat an even darker context. But, with his club in crisis, Wenger still insisted he was not embarrassed by the manner of the loss.
''You feel embarrassed when you don't give everything,'' he said. ''I think the players are more disappointed and frustrated.
''When you go out, it is never good enough for Arsenal, but we'll get over this. It's part of our job.''
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson insisted the result was just reward for his side's heroic efforts.
''It's a great night for the club,'' he said. ''We wanted to show we're a decent side and we did that.''
Parkinson also saluted goalkeeper Matt Duke for his penalty save from Cazorla and for keeping Arsenal at bay on the few occasions they broke through the resolute defence.
''We just want to enjoy this now. The enormity has not sunk in yet but when they see the headlines they will realise what they have done.''
In the night's other quarter-final, Aston Villa romped to a 4-1 win over Norwich at Carrow Road.
Two late goals from Andreas Weimann sealed victory for Villa.
On Wednesday, Swansea host Middlesbrough in the third quarter-final, but Chelsea's last-eight trip to Leeds has been delayed until December 19.