Bradford City, 18th placed in England‘s lowest professional division have reached the Capital One Cup final at Wembley after knocking out Premier League side Aston Villa 4-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals, despite losing the 2nd leg.
The League 2 side under manager Phil Parkinson have shocked the footballing world this season, with this historic cup run now reaching a nearly unbelievable climax at Wembley next month.
The Bantams who travelled to Villa Park tonight with a 3-1 lead went behind after 24 minutes, as Belgium striker Christian Benteke netted from six yards. However, Bradford held out at just 1-0 until halftime. Villa required 1 goal at that point to avoid defeat, but calmness was restored for Bradford when striker James Hanson scored following poor Villa defending from a corner.
This left Villa with the up hill task of scoring two just to stay in the tie. Paul Lambert brought on experience in Darren Bent and played three at the back in an attempt to restore hope . Andres Weimann managed to pull one back following Shay Given‘s urgent long ball.
But Bradford held out despite four minutes of stoppage time and heaps of pressure in front of a fierce Villa Park atmosphere.
Bradford will now face either Chelsea or Swansea next month with that semi-final’s conclusion coming tomorrow. The rare chance of major silverware looms and if Bradford do manage to miraculously win the final, then they will be in the Europa League – crazy.
The epic semi-final is possibly not even the highlight of this remarkable cup run so far, having beaten Arsenal in the previous round on penalties – Bradford are unbeaten in their last nine shootouts. Before that, they had even beaten Wigan, another Premier League side.
Scenes of joy were visible at the end of the game, as the heroic Bradford side celebrated with their traveling fans. They have deserved to win not only this tie, but the previous Arsenal and Wigan games as well. The minnows of League 2 have somehow fought their way to Wembley in a story which will go down in their own history as well as English football’s.
Braford’s Gary Jones said after the game; “It’s magical feeling to get to Wembley” whilst boss Phil Parkinson said;
“Dream land, we had a chance and tonight we’ve done it. “ when asked whether his side could win the cup, he replied “Perhaps that’s too far, but who knows, who knows..”
Pressure will now presumably heap on Villa boss Paul Lambert, although the small funds and weak squad available is clearly the main cause of the relegation battling side’s problems. It is yet another failure to keep a clean sheet that has cost them tonight, as a 2-0 win would have been enough.
Villa looked extremely average and were lucky to have won on the night, but their first leg defeat proved costly. There is no doubt that the poor performances from Villa had helped Bradford but their confidence and belief proved vital – and could be a major factor in their chances in the final.
It is a story and twist that is a positive for the League Cup (Capital One Cup) given it’s lack of interest and excitement in recent years.
The story is a quite simply amazing, a team near the bottom of England’s 4th tier have beaten Champions League Arsenal and then Premier League Aston Villa to reach Wembley. It’s a cliche, a big one, but that really is cup romance.
By Stowe Gregory @stowegregory