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.

house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living