Bradford, which plays in English soccer’s fourth level, upset a third straight Premier League club to reach the League Cup final for the first time.
Bradford defeated Aston Villa 4-3 over two games and will face Swansea or Chelsea in the Feb. 24 final at Wembley Stadium in London. The Bantams’ 2-1 loss at Villa Park last night followed a 3-1 win at home two weeks ago in the series opener. Bradford, which is 10th in League Two, is the first club from the fourth tier to reach the final since Rochdale in 1962.
“These lads will be remembered in the history of Bradford City for years to come,” Bradford manager Phil Parkinson told reporters.
Bradford won its only major English trophy in 1911, when it beat Newcastle 1-0 in an F.A. Cup final replay. The club spent 77 years outside the top flight before being promoted to the Premier League in 1999. Since dropping out of the top tier two seasons later, Bradford has twice been in administration, a form of bankruptcy in the U.K.
“The money we’ve earned up until this point has been fantastic,” Parkinson said. “But to go to Wembley is going to keep the club going for quite a while, I imagine.”
While Villa paid about 26.2 million pounds ($41.5 million) for its starting lineup last night, according to Soccerbase.com, Bradford’s team was assembled for 7,500 pounds. Second-half substitute Darren Bent cost a further 18 million pounds according to Soccerbase, a record for Villa.
Bradford advanced to the semifinals after beating Arsenal and Wigan in the previous two rounds, both in penalty shootouts.
“As a kid playing football, you dream of Wembley and we’re going to do it,” goalkeeper Matt Duke said in an interview with Sky Sports.
While Villa, which has won English soccer’s second-tier club competition five times, had 72 percent possession and a 10-3 shot advantage in the first half, its only goal came in the 24th minute when Christian Benteke knocked in Joe Bennett’s ball from the left flank.
James Hanson restored Bradford’s two-goal overall advantage by heading in a corner kick 10 minutes into the second half.
Needing two goals to force extra time, Villa manager Paul Lambert brought on striker Bent before Bradford’s Gary Thompson struck the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Andreas Weimann then came on as a substitute and pulled Villa within a goal on aggregate in the 89th minute. Villa was unable to convert pressure in four minutes of injury time into a good scoring chance.
“The lads had a fantastic game,” Duke said. “We’re going to take a League Two club to Wembley. It’s going to be an amazing day and I look forward to it.”
Swansea takes a 2-0 lead over Chelsea into the second game of their all-Premier League semifinal tonight in Wales.