Match Report: Bradford's dream close to reality as Aston Villa fold again

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Bradford City 3 Aston Villa 1

Valley Parade

Not since 1911 have Bradford had a night like this. Not for more than 100 years has this outpost in West Yorkshire experienced such delight.

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.

One hundred and two years ago, victory in their only other semi-final was enough to take Bradford to the FA Cup final. This time, they must do it all again to head for as unlikely a final appearance as you will find.

Manager Phil Parkinson called it a dream. That felt about right. That feels about right. There were looks of disbelief from Bradford's supporters as they filed and floated out of Valley Parade. They will talk of the season they downed three Premier League teams for a century. Parkinson said it was better than Arsenal. That again felt about right. They beat Aston Villa by two goals, not a penalty.

It is 51 years since a team from the fourth tier of English football reached the final of the League Cup. Rochdale remain the only team to have achieved such a feat in the competition. Bradford are 90 minutes away from repeating such an achievement, with a two-goal advantage as they head to Villa Park in two weeks' time. It feels remarkable. It will be some scrap.

Parkinson had his players sit through the thrilling quarter-final success against Arsenal on Monday, to motivate his men to run through walls and beat the odds that seem to have been stacked against his football club ever since Bradford tumbled out of the Premier League in 2001.

Paul Lambert may do similar to his shellshocked side, to find a reason why they could not break the spirit of a League Two team, or only once find a way past the inspired Matt Duke in the Bradford goal.

Duke walked away with the man of the match award 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, and about spirit.

There had been prophetic words as the teams walked onto the field. "It's time," had come the announcement over the Tannoy.

Some people resent the League Cup. Some people resent domestic cups period. The loss is theirs.

It is 102 years since the people of Bradford had a chance to watch their team in a semi-final. Then, back in 1911, they beat Blackburn and went onto lift the FA Cup. No-one can remember who finished fourth in the First Division that same year.

Football may have changed but that raw fervour, that unifying sense of togetherness which an unexpected cup run creates remains one of the most magical sights and sounds in the English game.

Bradford's run for Wembley is as unexpected as they come.

There were 4,500 from Birmingham. They had a complete side of the ground. It felt like an occasion and both teams rose with the noise that fell from the stands. Parkinson claimed the backing from his team's supporters had added another 15 per cent to the game of his players. Both were relentless. Gary Jones will be remembered for the two crosses for the goals to create history but it was his endless running that was the heartbeat of victory.

Lambert could not quite decide where to pitch his emotions at full-time. Christian Benteke spurned five excellent chances while Charles N'Zogbia and Darren Bent could both have scored twice. There were storms to be weathered by the home side before they could make their surge for the history books, and Jones and the commanding Duke were key to that, as was the assured finishing of Wells.

Nineteen minutes had passed when a corner was twice not cleared by Villa's defenders – "We never defended set-pieces," moaned Lambert. The excellent Zavon Hines shot towards goal, the ball broke to Wells and the angled, assured finish was stroked into the bottom of Shay Given's goal. From then on we had a cup tie. From then on anything felt possible.

It would be 13 minutes before the end of time before a second came. Another Jones corner was not cleared. The ball returned to the corner-taker, he clipped another inswinging cross into the Villa penalty area and McArdle glanced his header past Given. Seconds later James Hanson headed against the crossbar.

True delight lasted five minutes. Lambert's men stirred and found a way past Duke, Bent clipping on and Andreas Weimann bravely bundling a goal that's value will not be known for another two weeks.

Still, there was a final effort from the home side. A fine, passing move won a corner. Jones crossed again, McHugh charged past Benteke and headed in a third. More delight. More disbelief. It has been a season of such emotion for the people of Bradford.

Man of the match Duke.

Match rating 8/10.

Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Attendance 22,245.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition