Villa stunned by Bradford
Bradford City 3 Aston Villa 1:An Aston Villa defence marshalled by Ireland's Ciaran Clark and former goalkeeper Shay Given was breached three times at Valley Parade by League Two Bradford City who took a two-goal lead into the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final.
Bradford, who had already disposed of Wigan Athletic and Arsenal, took the lead when Nahki Wells scored from close range in the first half before Rory McArdle doubled the advantage after the break.
Villa squandered several good chances with substitute Darren Bent guilty of arguably the worst miss of the night heading over an open goal in the second half before Andreas Weimann pulled a goal back late on for the visitors.
It proved to be a brief ray of light on a grim evening for Villa however as Donegal youngster Carl McHugh added gloss to the scoreline with two minutes remaining by powering a header past his fellow countyman Given.
City, who had already sent Premier League clubs Wigan and, unforgettably, Arsenal packing in the previous rounds, were a match throughout for Villa, who were thwarted on at least half a dozen occasions by the heroics of home goalkeeper Matt Duke.
Bradford skipper Gary Jones pulled a shot wide in the opening exchanges and Villa midfielder Charles N’Zogbia lashed in a left-footed drive that home goalkeeper Matt Duke had to watch carefully while blocking.
City’s leading goalscorer Wells then spurned a golden chance when crossing into Given’s hands after neat footwork in the penalty area, but Villa were lightning quick on the break and after two shots had been deflected for corners, Benteke twice headed inches over the crossbar.
It was fast and furious. Villa’s Bradford-born midfielder Fabian Delph, booed with every early touch, clipped a fine ball into the area for Benteke, whose first-time shot was saved by the sprawling Duke. But Bradford striker Wells then sent most of Valley Parade into raptures.
Jones’s corner was headed out to Hines on the edge of the area and when his shot was deflected by Villa skipper Ciaran Clark, the unmarked Wells kept his composure after the ball had ricocheted into his path 12 yards from goal to steer a low, right-footed shot into the bottom corner in the 19th minute.
Villa dangerman N’Zogbia made space for a shot after a mazy run across the area that was blocked by Duke, who then produced another smart save to keep out Benteke’s rasping shot from the edge of the area as Villa threatened to level the tie.
However, Bradford went close again in the 34th minute.
Hines brilliantly cut inside on the right edge of the area and arrowed in a shot that Given saved at his near post and two minutes later big City striker James Hanson’s towering header was cleared off the goalline by Delph.
Duke was next to perform heroics. N’Zogbia’s blistering pace took him to the by-line and from his cutback, Gabriel Agbonlahor’s goalbound volley was turned away at full stretch by the City goalkeeper.
Villa should have equalised three minutes after the restart, but Benteke’s header from Barry Bannan’s cross was blocked by Duke, who then kept out Agbonlahor’s close-range effort following N’Zogbia’s ball in.
Villa striker Darren Bent replaced Agbonlahor in the 57th minute before Hanson fluffed his lines, failing to properly connect with Hines’ cross, while Bent blazed a volley at the other end.
Bradford’s West Ham loanee Blair Turgott replaced Hines in the 66th minute and then Bent wasted a golden chance for Villa’s equaliser, heading over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy after Benteke’s shot had rebounded off Duke.
McArdle headed home Jones’ cross in the 77th minute to give the hosts a two-goal lead although Weimann bravely pulled one back for Villa when he turned the ball home at the far post five minutes later. But the Bantams fans were in dreamland once more when another City defender, McHugh, launched himself at Turgott’s ball in with two minutes remaining to edge them closer to a dream Wembley final.