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LONDON: Bradford City struck a blow for the paupers and restored the faith of those who say Premier League riches have killed the romance of English football by holding off aristocrats Aston Villa to reach the League Cup final on Tuesday.
Protecting a 3-1 lead from a memorable first leg at Valley Parade, the League Two side lost 2-1 on the night but won 4-3 on aggregate to become the first fourth tier side to reach a major English domestic cup final for more than 50 years.
Nine years after falling out of the top flight and into a financial meltdown that brought them to their knees, the Yorkshire club can look forward to a money-spinning Wembley final against European champions Chelsea or Swansea City.
Rochdale were the last club from the fourth rung of the English football ladder to reach a major domestic showpiece when they lost to Norwich City in the 1962 League Cup final.
However, that was when the competition was in its infancy and many top clubs did not even bother entering.
Bradford’s 6,000 travelling fans had dared to dream but Christian Benteke’s 24th-minute opener for Premier League strugglers Villa swung the odds back towards the home side.
However, Bradford weathered the storm and struck back through James Hanson’s 55th minute header to make it 1-1 on the night and send the visiting fans into ecstasy.
Andreas Weimann’s 88th minute goal put Villa in front again at Villa Park and set up a nerve-jangling finale but Bradford survived four minutes of stoppage time to etch their name into the pantheon of great British sporting upsets.
“This is dreamland, hopefully we will have a great following at Wembley and do the club proud,” goalkeeper Matt Duke, hero of their penalty shootout wins over Premier League Wigan Athletic and most notably Arsenal on the way to Wembley, told Sky Sports.
“I am not convinced it will ever sink in. You dream of this as a kid, playing at Wembley, and like I say I just want to do the club proud.” REUTERS