The Capital One Cup semi-finals were set up to be fantastic cup ties, with the in-form Swansea travelling to in-form Chelsea on Wednesday, and the last top flight side left, Aston Villa, travelled to League Two giant killers Bradford City on Tuesday.
Bradford City vs Aston Villa
Bradford had beaten Premier League sides Wigan and Arsenal in the two previous rounds, albeit on penalties, so Villa knew the task at hand.
The game was even up until the 19th minute, when the home side got their first corner. Gary Jones swung it out, it was headed away, but a Zavon Hines mis-hit shot deflected and fell perfectly for Bradford's in-demand striker Nahki Wells, who finished clinically past experienced stopper Shay Given in the Villa goal.
The visitors had numerous chances in the first half, but Bantams' goalkeeper Matt Duke stood firm, making some excellent saves, most noteably from Gabriel Agbonlahor late in the half. But the hosts had chances too. Hanson sending two headers goalwards, as well as chances for Wells and the excellent Hines. And it was City who went in ahead unexpectedly at the break, and every member of the 22,245 strong crowd.
Villa responded at the start of the second period, winning an early corner and piling the pressure on the Bantams. But the trusty defence stood firm, even substitute Darren Bent couldn't manage a goal, heading over from just yards out, and getting injured in the process. City got themselves in the game, creating some chances of their own, before getting another corner.
Gary Jones delivered. Striker James Hanson couldn't direct his header goalwards, but Villa were slow to react. The ball was played back to Jones who swung in a delightful ball, met with a bullet header from defender Rory McArdle. The crowd went wild. The League Two minnows were 2-0 up over Premier League Aston Villa. They could have had a second just moments later, Hanson's header crashing against the crossbar.
Villa were down and out, and City were coming forward looking likely to score a third, but completely against the run of play, Andreas Weimann brought Villa back into the tie. A fairly innocuous long ball was flicked on by Christian Benteke, and defender Carl McHugh just mis-timed his header, putting Weimann clean through, and he finished clinically.
And just like that, Villa were back on top. But again against the run of play, Gary Jones got a corner. Noticed a recurring theme? Jones swung the corner out, and Carl McHugh got away from Benteke before powering a fantastic header into the top corner of Given's goal. Unbelievable.
That pretty much finished the game. Villa didn't look like getting back into it, and Bradford were happy to keep the ball for the remaining 5 minutes. Whistles rang around the ground, before Howard Webb's was met with an enormous roar from the home fans. Boos from the Villa for their disappointing players.
But this night was all about Bradford. 3 goals against a team over 60 places higher than them in the league rankings is a feat that is unlikely to be matched in the next decade. That team will go down in Bradford City and League Cup (sponsored by Capital One, hence the name) history. Not many Premier League teams will reach the semi-final stage of a major competition, so for a League Two team to do it is almost unthinkable. This is what fairytales are made of.
It makes it an odd one going into the second leg, with both sets of fans confident that their team can claim victory come the second leg at Villa Park in 2 weeks time. Villa fans are saying that the performance at Valley Parade was a one off. But so was Wigan. So was Arsenal. So you never know.
Bradford City 3
Wells 19', McArdle 77', McHugh 88'
Aston Villa 1
Bradford City: M. Duke, S. Darby, R. McArdle, C. McHugh, C. Good, Z. Hines (B. Turgott 76'), G. Jones, N. Doyle, W.Atkinson, N. Wells, J. Hanson. Subs not used: J. McLaughlin, R. Ravenhill, K. Reid, R. Jones, R. Hannah, A. Connell.
Aston Villa: S. Given, M. Lowton, C. Clark, N. Baker, J. Bennett, F. Delph, B. Bannan, A. Weimann, C. N'Zogbia, G. Agbonlahor (D. Bent 57' (G. Burke 85')), C. Benteke. Subs not used: B. Guzan, S. Ireland, E. Stephens, E. Lichaj, S. Carruthers.
Chelsea vs Swansea
In this tie, it was visitors Swansea who went in as underdogs, the might of Chelsea billed as too big for Swansea to defeat.
It was Chelsea who were on top in the game, making all the attacking. Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goalhad work to do but nothing too laborous, as Chelsea wasted their opportunities. Their best effort came when Mata and Hazard worked the latter into space down the left, and he found his Spanish teammate, who could only pass the ball into Tremmel's arms.
And in the 38th minute, it was a slip in concentration which allowed Swansea ahead. Branislav Ivanovic took his eye off the ball as 'keeper Ross Turnball passed it out to the centre-back, and Swans winger Jonathan de Guzman nicked it off him, before slipping it to the deadly Michu, who inevitably found the net from 20 yards, curling it round Turnbull, putting Swansea 1-0 up completely against the run of play.
The half wasn't over yet, Tremmel forced into a smart save from Ivanovic, before Fernando Torres failed to convert a Juan Mata corner from inside the 6 yard box. And, as a result, it was Michael Laudrup's side who went in ahead at the break.
The game continued into the second half in similar fashion, Chelsea on top but failing to score. Luiz had a few efforts, but nothing of great note. And then came Demba Ba. Finally, on 80 minutes, Rafa Benitez realised Ba was what this game required, and ironic cheers rang around Stamford Bridge as he replaced Spaniard Torres.
And Ba almost scored with his first touch, just failing to get any real power on his headed attempt. It was an eventful cameo from Ba, who was unfairly booked for diving (not that it was a penalty either) when he and Tremmel collided in the box.
But again, a slip in concentration from Ivanovic- usually Mr Reliable- put Michu's replacement Danny Graham with just Turnbull to beat. He took it round the goalkeeper, composed himself, and slotted past two Chelsea defenders sliding in, to give the visitors the most unexpected of 2-0 leads.
It looked like the lead had been halved, when Ba latched on to a through ball to fire home, only to be denied by a harsh offside flag. And so was the full-time result.
Swansea now take a 2 goal lead to the Liberty Stadium, where they have an excellent record in recent years, and leave Chelsea with it all to do.
Michu 39', Graham 90+2'
Chelsea: R. Turnbull, C. Azpilicueta, B. Ivanovic, G. Cahill, A. Cole, D. Luiz, Ramires (F. Lampard 71'), Hazard, Oscar (M. Marin 83'), J. Mata, F. Torres (D. Ba 82'). Subs not used: Hilario, P. Ferreira, R. Bertrand, N. Ake.
Swansea: G. Tremmel, A. Rangel, Chico, A. Williams, B. Davies, L. Britton, Ki Sung-Yeung, J. de Guzman, W. Routledge (D. Tiendalli 62'), Michu (D. Graham 83'), Pablo. Subs not used: M. Vorm, G. Monk, N. Dyer, K. Agustien, H. Shechter.1007852