Villa on the brink as Bradford again rise to occasion

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The Independent Online

Not since 1911 have Bradford had a night like this, the last time they reached a major cup semi-final. Back then they beat Blackburn Rovers and went on to lift the FA Cup. This time, after beating Aston Villa last night in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final, they must do it all again to head for as unlikely a final appearance as you will find.

Inspired goalkeeper Matt Duke walked away with the man of the match award as League Two City earned a two-goal cushion to take to Villa Park for their semi-final second leg on 22 January but this was a night for a team of heroes. Nahki Wells, Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh will go down in history for their goals, but victory was about unity.

Football may have changed since 1911 but the raw fervour which an unexpected cup run creates remains one of the most magical sights and sounds in the English game. This felt like an occasion and both teams rose with the noise that fell from the stands.

In a first half of relentless pace, Christian Benteke (four times) and Charles N'Zogbia (twice) finished tamely for Villa, for whom Gabriel Agbonlahor forced Duke to make an outstanding stop on the stroke of half-time. By then there was something to hold on to.

In the 19th minute a corner was cleared to Bradford's Zavon Hines, who shot back into a crowded goalmouth; the ball appeared to strike a Villa defender before it fell to Wells. The crowd rose, Wells shot and the Villa net shook. All around was the scent of a third Premier League scalp on this most glorious of cup runs.

After the break Duke, who cannot have had a busier night in his career, saved well twice from Benteke and again from Agbonlahor, while Bent missed a glorious chance after the goalkeeper denied N'Zogbia.

With 13 minutes left, McArdle added Bradford's second. James Hanson then hit the bar with a chance to make it 3-0 before Andreas Weimann struck to give Villa heart – which they lost at the last to McHugh's thunderous header.