Lowly Bradford good enough to dispatch Villa

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Lowly Bradford good enough to dispatch Villa


Bradford City’s James Hanson, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Aston Villa during their English League Cup second leg semifinal match Tuesday at Villa’s stadium in Birmingham, England. The fourth-division team won on 4-3 aggregate to reach the League Cup final. [AP/YONHAP]

BIRMINGHAM - Bradford City’s players struggled to suppress their amazement after pulling off a 4-3 aggregate win over Premier League Aston Villa to reach the League Cup final. Bradford, from English football’s fourth division, had already eliminated Arsenal and Wigan Athletic and they stood on the brink of the final after winning 3-1 in the first leg.

They endured a nerve-racking finish at Villa Park, however, with Andreas Weimann’s 89th-minute goal taking Villa to within one goal of forcing extra time.

FA Cup winners in 1911, Bradford has not reached a major final since and will become the first fourth-tier club since Rochdale in 1962 in a League Cup final.

Given that the Bantams were quoted at odds of 10,000 to 1 to win the tournament at the start of the season, their giant-killing run represents one of the most remarkable achievements in English football history.

“This is dreamland,” said goalkeeper Matt Duke. “I am not convinced it will ever sink in. You dream of this as a kid, playing at Wembley.”

Villa made a storming start to the second leg of the semifinal and went ahead on the night when Christian Benteke met Joe Bennett’s left-wing cross with a deft near-post volley in the 24th minute.

However, James Hanson drew the Bantams level with a bullet header in the 55th minute and Phil Parkinson’s side hung on.

“I can’t believe it, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hanson told Sky Sports moments after the final whistle.

Midfielder Gary Jones said he was “lost for words” and described it as a “magical day,” while chairman Mark Lawn said he would happily take on either Chelsea or Swansea City in the February 24 final. “I don’t care who we get in the final, they will probably both batter us,” he said.

Villa manager Paul Lambert pulled no punches in his assessment of his team’s failure, admitting that he was “embarrassed”.

“We got the second goal, but it was too little, too late,” he said. “Good luck to Bradford and congratulations for going through. It is a great achievement and anything can happen in the final.”

Villa’s next assignment is a trip to second-tier Millwall in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. AFP
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