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Minnow Bradford in fairytale triumph

updated 6:01 PM EST, Tue January 22, 2013
Bradford celebrates its equalizer during the 1-1 draw at Villa Park.
Bradford celebrates its equalizer during the 1-1 draw at Villa Park.
  • Minnow Bradford City progresses to League Cup Final
  • City wins 4-3 on aggregate following 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa
  • Bradford is first team from fourth-tier to make final since 1962
  • Chelsea or Swansea will provide opposition in final

(CNN) -- Bradford City will have one final chapter to write in its fairytale story after defying all the odds to realize its dream of playing in a major final at the iconic Wembley Stadium.

Bradford, which plays in the fourth tier of English football, was beaten 2-1 at Premier League Aston Villa Tuesday, but prevailed 4-3 on aggregate to become the first team from its division to reach the final of the League Cup since 1962

Facing a team worth millions of dollars, it was a collection of players assembled for less than $12,000, which drew on its bravery, courage and no shortage of skill to do the unthinkable.

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Not since 1911 when it won the FA Cup has Bradford appeared in a major cup final and now it will compete for the previously unimaginable prospect of playing in European competition next season.

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Either Chelsea or Swansea will provide the opposition on February 24, but thoughts of that can wait while City bask in the glory of a wonderful tale.

It is an incredible story for a club which dropped out of the Premier League 12 years ago and disappeared from the higher echelons of the game in frightening fashion.

Financial woes and three relegations in six years followed, but the Yorkshire club has now awoken from its slumber and breathed romance into the English game.

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Leading 3-1 against Premier League Aston Villa, a club owned by American businessman Randy Lerner, the visitor fell behind in the 24th minute when Belgian striker Christian Benteke flicked home.

But Bradford, which had already defeated Premier League teams Wigan and Arsenal in earlier rounds, refused to be denied.

And with 10 minutes of the second half gone, James Hanson headed home a dramatic equalizer to restore his side's overall advantage.

Villa, which sits 17th out of 20 in the Premier League, has endured a disappointing season under manager Paul Lambert.

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It has been thrashed 8-0 by Chelsea, while also suffering home defeats by Tottenham, Wigan and Southampton.

Manager Lambert has been under increasing pressure with the threat of relegation continuing to loom on the horizon.

But the 1982 European champion was still expected to defeat a Bradford side which is 10th in its own league.

Arsenal stunned by fourth tier Bradford

Instead it was City which looked the more likely to win the game outright with Garry Thompson smashing his effort against the crossbar, while Hanson failed to hit the target when well placed.

Villa did eventually move back in front in the 89th minute when Andreas Weimann nipped in to fire home, but it was too little, too late, for the home side.


"Coming here two goals up we had a great chance," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson told Sky Sports.

"In the first half Villa were excellent, but in the second I thought we were excellent and deserved it.

"We felt in the first half we didn't pass the ball and in the second we got hold of the ball and had a period of possession. We knew Villa are an attacking team that would leave space for us.

"It's dreamland. We said we had a chance to make history and it's absolutely tremendous."


Meanwhile, in Italy, Lazio scored a late goal to claim a 1-1 draw at Juventus in the first leg of its Coppa Italia semifinal.

Captain Stefano Mauri scored an 86th minute equalizer to cancel out Federico Peluso's earlier strike.

Juventus wasted a whole host of chances with Arturo Vidal hitting a post and Federico Marchetti making a vital clearance off the line.

The two teams will meet again in the second leg on January 29.

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