Bradford book place in Wembley final
Bradford became the first fourth-tier club to reach the League Cup final for 51 years as they stunned Premier League strugglers Aston Villa with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Villa were unable to claw back the 3-1 deficit from the first leg of the League Cup encounter even though leading scorer Christian Benteke put them in front before half-time.
James Hanson's headed effort early in the second period effectively killed off the tie and Villa substitute Andreas Weimann's last-gasp goal secured a 2-1 win on the night but it was too little, too late. The final whistle was the cue for wild scenes of delight from Bradford manager Phil Parkinson and his players who had overcome Arsenal in the previous round.
The only other club from the bottom division to reach the final was Rochdale in 1962, when the competition was in its infancy and many of the leading sides did not participate.
"It's dreamland," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson told Sky Sports. "We said we had a chance to make history and we've done it. 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. To win it might be going too far, but to get to Wembley is great for us."
The biggest game in the Yorkshire club's modern history will occur at Wembley Stadium on 24 February, when they will face either Chelsea or Swansea City, who resume hostilities on Wednesday with Swansea 2-0 up from the first leg.
For Paul Lambert's Villa, it was the latest embarrassment in a disappointing season that has seen them thrashed 8-0 by Chelsea and slip to within one place of the Premier League relegation zone.
"That is the worst day of the season. We had two chances to do it and haven't done it," said the Villa manager. "We've lost four goals from set-pieces over two games, which is not good enough. I am embarrassed. We will never have a better chance to reach the final."
Villa had enough opportunities in the opening half-hour to have at least got back on level terms, with Charles N'Zogbia in inspired form and examining the Bantams defence. But Bradford managed to survive to the interval with their aggregate lead still intact - and how Hanson made them pay for their ineptitude at defending set-pieces.
Benteke gives Villa hope
N'Zogbia was supplying a string of dangerous balls across the Bradford box, with Benteke heading the best chance straight at Bantams keeper Matt Duke. Fabian Delph, who had been fortunate not to be booked for a reckless early challenge, was then only inches too high with a powerful 20-yard drive.
Then after 24 minutes Villa Park erupted as Benteke gave the home side lead. Left-back Joe Bennett curled the ball in from the flank and Benteke was first to react as he prodded the ball past Duke. Stephen Ireland also had the ball in the net shortly afterwards but he had strayed offside.
N'Zogbia continued to ask questions of the Bradford defence and Duke had to be alert to turn over a fierce long range effort. He also reacted sharply to tip Ireland's chip over the bar. The game followed a similar pattern at the start of the second period with Benteke failing to make full contact on a header from Lowton's centre.
But after 55 minutes Villa's Achilles' heel at set-pieces again proved their undoing as Hanson restored Bradford's two-goal aggregate lead, the striker getting in front of Ron Vlaar to head home Jones' corner and send the 6,500 Bradford fans wild.
Lambert responded by introducing record signing Darren Bent and he set up a low chance for Ireland who stabbed the ball wide at the near post. But Bradford substitute Gary Thompson came within inches of making a spectacular entry as his shot thumped against the bar.
Lambert brought on a fourth striker in Andreas Weimann and he put Villa ahead on the night after Benteke's flick-on, but Bradford survived the final few minutes to book their place in next month's Wembley final.