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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Bradford off to Wembley after Villa win

ESPN.com news services

Bradford became the first fourth-tier club to reach the League Cup final for 51 years as it stunned Premier League strugglers Aston Villa with a 4-3 aggregate victory after a 2-1 defeat on Tuesday.

Villa was unable to claw back the 3-1 deficit from the first leg of the Capital One Cup encounter even though leading scorer Christian Benteke put it in front before halftime.

James Hanson's headed effort early in the second period effectively killed off the tie and Villa substitute Andreas Weimann's last-gasp goal secured a 2-1 win on the night but it was too little, too late.

The final whistle was the cue for wild scenes of delight from Bradford manager Phil Parkinson and his players who had overcome Arsenal in the previous round. His side will now take on either Swansea or Chelsea at Wembley at the end of February; Swansea leads Chelsea 2-0 heading into Wednesday's second leg.

"It's dreamland," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said. "We said tonight we had a chance to make history, and we have done it."

The cash generated by the cup run can help to safeguard the northern English team's future. It has twice entered administration -- a form of bankruptcy protection -- since being relegated from the Premier League in 2001.

"To go to Wembley is going to keep the club going for quite a while, I imagine," Parkinson said. "For the city of Bradford, it's massive and I really feel that this can galvanize the area."

After plummeting down the soccer pyramid, Bradford is now the lowest-ranked former Premier League team, 10th in England's lowest professional division.

"Our supporters have stuck with the club through some really tough times," Parkinson said. "Over the last 10 years there hasn't been a great deal to cheer about."

The only other club from the bottom division to reach the final was Rochdale in 1962, when the competition was in its infancy and many of the leading sides did not participate. For Villa, it was a massive blow to take in a season where they have become embroiled in a relegation battle.

The first half-chance fell to Benteke who climbed above the Bradford defense to meet a cross from Charles N'Zogbia but he directed his header wide. Another menacing center from N'Zogbia was headed back across goal by Benteke towards Matt Lowton although he could not keep his header down.

After 24 minutes, Villa Park erupted as Benteke gave the home side the lead. Left-back Joe Bennett curled the ball in from the flank and Benteke was first to react as he prodded the ball past Bradford keeper Matt Duke.

The game followed a similar pattern at the start of the second period with Benteke failing to make full contact on a header from Lowton's center.

But after 55 minutes, Villa's Achilles' heel at set-pieces again proved its undoing as Hanson restored Bradford's two-goal aggregate lead, the striker getting in front of Ron Vlaar to head home Gary Jones' corner and send the 6,500 Bradford fans wild.

Villa boss Paul Lambert brought on a fourth striker in Weimann with 20 minutes left and he put Villa ahead on the night after Benteke's flick-on, but Bradford survived the final few minutes to book their place in next month's Wembley final.

"As a kid playing football, you dream of Wembley and we're going to do it," said Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke, who beat testicular cancer in 2008. "We're going to take a League Two club to Wembley, we're going to take a massive following, it's going to be an amazing day and I'm looking forward to it."

Villa, owned by American billionaire Randy Lerner, is one point and one place above the Premier League's relegation zone.

"It's my responsibility ... I am absolutely gutted, disappointed, hurt, everything," Villa manager Paul Lambert said.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.




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