Bradford leave Villa in ruins and close in on Wembley date

Jan 9, 2013

Bantams win first semi-final since 1911 to move within touching distance of League Cup final

Bradford City 3 Aston Villa 1. Having vanquished Arsenal in the quarter-finals Bradford took a another mighty and unexpected step towards an improbable Wembley cup final as they sent Aston Villa packing in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at Valley Parade.

In front of a vocal home support the Bantams took the lead after 19 minutes through Bermudan Nakhi Wells, and then saw goalkeeper Matt Duke produce a string of fine saves to keep the Premier League side at bay.

Then, with 13 minutes remaining, Rory McArdle headed Bradford further in front before Andreas Weimann scored what could be a crucial away goal for Villa. But in the dying minutes Carl McHugh headed home a third for the Bantams to make them favourites to reach the final.

If they can avoid losing by two goals at Villa Park, Bradford will become the first side from the fourth tier of English football to make the League Cup final since Rochdale in 1962.

"In an era when the major trophies are increasingly dominated by the select and moneyed few, nights like those experienced by Bradford City and their supporters on Tuesday are without price," said BBC football writer Phil McNulty.

It was Bradford's biggest night since they won an FA Cup semi final in 1911. "Not for more than 100 years has this outpost in West Yorkshire experienced such delight," said The Independent. "It explains much; the fervour, the passion, the roar that floated into the night air as Howard Webb's whistle confirmed a truly historic evening had ended. A city felt unified."

However, the result heaped pressure on under-fire Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert. "Bradford were by no means flattered by their victory, whatever it turns out to mean," noted The Guardian, which says that the result could also have implications for Villa in the Premier League, where they are struggling to avoid relegation. "Lambert has done a lot in football, but turning this situation around is a challenge of superhuman proportions."

There is now only one option for Villa after their "wretched effort" says the Daily Mail. "Comprehensive victory in the second leg at Villa Park is the only way Lambert’s players can rid themselves of this stain."

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