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Football | League Cup

Bradford City © Action Images

Bradford hold off Villa to reach final



Bradford City struck a blow for the paupers and restored the faith of those who say Premier League riches have killed the romance of English football by holding off aristocrats Aston Villa to reach the League Cup final on Tuesday.

Protecting a 3-1 lead from a memorable first leg at Valley Parade, the League Two side lost 2-1 on the night but won 4-3 on aggregate to become the first fourth tier side to reach a major English domestic cup final for more than 50 years.

Nine years after falling out of the top flight and into a financial meltdown that brought them to their knees, the Yorkshire club can look forward to a money-spinning Wembley final against European champions Chelsea or Swansea City.

Rochdale were the last club from the fourth rung of the English football ladder to reach a major domestic showpiece when they lost to Norwich City in the 1962 League Cup final.

However, that was when the competition was in its infancy and many top clubs did not even bother entering.

Bradford's 6 000 travelling fans had dared to dream but Christian Benteke's 24th-minute opener for Premier League strugglers Villa swung the odds back towards the home side.

However, Bradford weathered the storm and struck back through James Hanson's 55th minute header to make it 1-1 on the night and send the visiting fans into ecstasy.

Andreas Weimann's 88th minute goal put Villa in front again at Villa Park and set up a nerve-jangling finale but Bradford survived four minutes of stoppage time to etch their name into the pantheon of great British sporting upsets.

"This is dreamland, hopefully we will have a great following at Wembley and do the club proud," goalkeeper Matt Duke, hero of their penalty shootout wins over Premier League Wigan Athletic and most notably Arsenal on the way to Wembley, told Sky Sports.

"I am not convinced it will ever sink in. You dream of this as a kid, playing at Wembley, and like I say I just want to do the club proud."

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STAGGERING PERFORMANCE

Apart from a torrid first half when they barely got over the halfway line, Bradford's performance in the two legs was staggering for a side languishing 10th in League Two and who in recent seasons have flirted with losing their place in the Football League.

Once Hanson's bullet header flew past Shay Given 10 minutes into the second half they were the better side and might have even gone ahead on the night when Garry Thompson rattled the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the area.

Weimann's late reply, when he rounded Duke to tap in, was not enough to save a callow Villa side who are fighting for their lives in the Premier League.

"I thought we had a great chance with the two goals from the first leg," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said.

"First half Aston Villa were excellent but in the second half we played really well. It is dreamland.

"The lads were absolutely fantastic and what it means for the club and the city is absolutely tremendous.

"I think we could fill Wembley on our own."

Bradford, whose over-spending during their two seasons in the Premier League a decade ago led to two spells in administration, have beaten three top flight sides on the way to their Wembley date later this month.

All for the meagre sum of £7 500– the total spent on assembling Parkinson's intrepid giant killers.

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