Bradford City made history at Villa Park on Tuesday night by becoming the first club from the fourth tier of English football to reach a major final in 51 years and only the second of all time.
They will now meet either Chelsea or Swansea of the Premier League in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley on Feb 24.
Rochdale made it to the 1962 League Cup final, but lost to Norwich city 4–0 on aggregate over two legs.
The minnows from Yorkshire, who currently sit 10th in the NPower League Two, lost 2–1 on the night but it was good enough to take them through 4–3 on aggregate.
Bradford traveled to Villa Park with high hopes, having achieved an unlikely 3–1 victory over the Premier League strugglers in the first leg of the semifinal on Jan. 8. However, it came as no surprise that they quickly had their backs against the wall, and the home side went ahead on 24 minutes through Christian Benteke.
Villa duly laid siege to the Bradford goal and Stephen Ireland did put the ball in the net only for his effort to be ruled offside.
After a well-earned breather, and with the second half not yet 10 minutes old, Bradford made a rare foray into the Villa half and won their first corner of the game. The ball came across nicely for Bradford born and bred James Hanson who powered his header into the net.
The goal had the dual function of giving the Bantams tremendous hope that they really could pull off the upset, while Villa began to panic.
The home side enjoyed most of the possession, but yet the League Two side continued to look dangerous on the break.
On 63 minutes, the unmarked Hanson could have headed Bradford into the lead, but he mistimed his jump and the ball bounced off his shoulder and went wide of the target. Ten minutes later a snap shot from Garry Thomson cannoned off the Villa crossbar.
Paul Lambert’s increasingly desperate troops finally made the breakthrough in the 89th minute thanks to substitute Andreas Weimann, but it was too little too late and Phil Parkinson’s heroes held on for the aggregate win.
“It’s dreamland. We said we had a chance to make history and it’s absolutely tremendous,” said the ecstatic Bantams boss Parkinson to ESPN UK.
Goalkeeper Matt Duke, who has performed heroics throughout this Cup run, said, “I’m speechless. The lads had a fantastic game tonight and the fans as well, it’ll be a great day at Wembley for them.”
It will in fact be the first time Bradford has appeared in a major final since they won the FA Cup by beating Newcastle United after a reply way back in 1911.
In the modern era, most fans around the country remember Bradford, not for anything they have achieved on the football pitch, but for the terrible fire at their Valley Parade ground on May 11, 1985 that killed 56 and injured 265 spectators.
The antiquated wooden main stand, with decades of rubbish piled up underneath, was a disaster waiting to happen, but it was not the only ground in the football league at that time that was half a century out of date. The good thing to come out of the tragedy was a massive overhaul of safety standards and facilities in football stadiums throughout the UK.
But Tuesday night is one for genuine celebration as Bradford have achieved the seemingly impossible. In this modern era of the game when clubs in the top flight feature stars from all over the world, while clubs like Bradford exist on a shoestring budget, the team from Yorkshire has just claimed their third Premier League scalp in a row—Wigan, Arsenal, and now Aston Villa.
That’s not bad for starters. Now bring on Chelsea or Swansea.
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