Villa off to Wembley after epic battle

Aston Villa 6 Blackburn 4 (Villa win 7-4 on aggregate)

Aston Villa are through to their first major final for 10 years after recovering from an opening half hour horror show to overcome 10-man Blackburn in a dramatic Carling Cup semi-final, second leg clash.

Villa looked shambolic and jittery as Rovers over-turned their first leg deficit with a double strike from Nikola Kalinic.

But a controversial goal from former Blackburn defender Stephen Warnock sparked the comeback and the writing was on the wall for the visitors after the dismissal of defender Christopher Samba, who brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor inside the box.

James Milner scored the penalty and Villa never looked back after that with Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and an own goal from Steven Nzonzi confirming their superiority.

Blackburn regained their pride with goals from Martin Olsson and Brett Emerton before Ashley Young put the icing on the cake for Villa in injury-time.

Martin O'Neill's side will now meet either Manchester United or Manchester City in the final at Wembley on February 28 and one step away from lifting their first trophy since the 1996 League Cup.

The long suffering Villa fans will be hoping it is the start of a new era of success after many years of under-achieving since the 1982 European Cup triumph.

O'Neill has slowly but surely rebuilt his team since arriving at Villa Park in the summer of 2006 with the accent on young English talent.

Now the likes of Milner, Young and Agbonlahor will have the chance to show their potential in a major final.

But it will also be special for a long-serving stalwart like defender Richard Dunne, who moved to Villa in August and can now look forward to the first final of his career.

O'Neill's men started slowly though and the aggregate scores were level when Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was indecisive when attacking what looked a catchable ball from an inswinging corner by Dunn and Kalinic powered in a goalbound header which took a deflection off Warnock.

After 26 minutes Blackburn moved ahead on aggregate. Morten Gamst Pedersen had time to send over a left-wing cross and, although Guzan did well to keep out Olsson's close-range header, Kalinic converted the rebound.

Villa were given a lifeline in controversial fashion by Warnock four minutes later. Agbonlahor clearly pushed Rovers skipper Ryan Nelsen to the ground as Young's right wing cross found its way through a ruck of players to former Blackburn player Warnock - who powered the ball into the roof of the net from close range. Rovers' protests to referee Martin Atkinson were in vain.

Villa started to gain some momentum and five minutes before half-time Heskey's pass was chased down by Agbonlahor, who was brought down in the box by Samba - who was clearly the last defender and given a straight red card by Atkinson.

Milner ensured Villa regained the aggregate lead by hammering the penalty past Paul Robinson for his eighth goal of the campaign.

Villa were now in the ascendancy and in first half injury-time Robinson parried aside a fierce drive from Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov.

Villa dominated the opening stages of the second half and after 53 minutes an own goal from Steven Nzonzi put them ahead on the night and 4-2 on aggregate - Carlos Cuellar flicked on a corner from Stewart Downing and Nzonzi turned the ball past Robinson under pressure from Richard Dunne.

Three minutes later Villa struck again with a shot from Milner deflected by the chest of Agbonlahor past a stranded Robinson.

Villa were now rampant and after 62 minutes Blackburn cracked again as Heskey beat the offside trap after collecting a pass from Milner and he coolly rounded Robinson before netting.

Olsson made it 5-3 with a spectacular scissor-kick from Gael Givet's centre, before Robinson turned aside a header from Heskey and came off his line to deny Agbonlahor.

With six minutes remaining Emerton's volley crept under the body of a partially unsighted Guzan to further eat into Villa's lead - but Young had the final say in injury-time as he curled the ball wide of Robinson into the corner of the net.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities