Goalscorer Nahki on cloud nine as Bradford stun Villa
Bermudian striker Nahki Wells scored his 16th goal of the season, and by far his most important, as Bradford City scored a crucial and historic 3-1 Capital One League Cup semi-final, first leg victory over Premier League team Aston Villa.
Not since Shaun Goater grabbed two goals for Manchester City in a 3-1 win over Manchester United in November, 2002, has there been so much excitement generated by a Bermudian scoring a goal in a televised match in England.
Like then, Bermudians were jumping out of their seats with delight when the 22-year-old calmly slotted Bradford into the lead in the 19th minute after the ball was driven back into the Villa box by midfielder Zavon Hines from a corner.
Wells was quickest to reach the loose ball and guide the ball around goalkeeper Shay Given and into the far bottom corner.
It was Wells’ fourth goal in the League Cup in which Bradford have already beaten Premier clubs Wigan and Arsenal.
Wells knows they may now be expected to finish the job and hopes they can do just that.
"We may well be the favourites now, but we want to be the underdogs," he told Sky Sports after the game.
"To get this far is great but we now want to make sure we get through.
"We showed our quality and that we can compete with Premier League teams. We were resilient, it was a tough match and we showed what we are capable of. To have a two-goal cushion is great. We would have taken a draw but 2-1, 3-1 is amazing. It's a good deficit to take with us to the away tie."
Wells’ older brother, Aaron Simmons, watched the match at the Robin Hood pub and couldn’t control his emotions.
“I’m very pleased with how he is getting on. To be honest watching him on television after seeing him play since he was five years-old is a real joy to not only myself, but also my family,” said Simmons.
“He is doing everyone proud. I can’t say much more because it really brings tears to my eyes to see him scoring, much less playing at a high level. For every Bermudian to see this, it should be motivation to show that we have the talent and potential to play among the best in the world and he is doing us all proud.”
And Wells showed he has remained grounded despite his success, lifting his shirt to show a tribute to talented Devonshire Cougars footballer Tumaini Steede which read “RIP Tumaini Steede” who was killed in a road accident last year. Wells dedicated his season to Steede, who was a national youth squad team-mate.
“The tribute to Tumaini was fitting as they were close,” said Simmons.
For Bradford, the prospects of a shock Wembley final appearance moved even closer, especially after they restored their two-goal lead late in the match. Only once have a team from the bottom division (previously the Fourth Division) reached the League Cup final, Rochdale achieving the feat in 1962 before losing to Norwich City 4-0 over two legs.
After Wells’ strike, Rory McArdle doubled the Bradford lead with a smartly headed goal in the 76th minute. Wells was involved in the build-up when he laid the ball back after a Gary Jones’ corner wasn’t cleared and McArdle met Jones’ second cross to score.
Villa squandered several good chances with substitute Darren Bent guilty of arguably the worst miss, heading over an open goal in the second half before Andreas Weimann pulled a goal back late on for the visitors after James Hanson headed against the crossbar for Bradford.
Weimann’s goal proved to be a brief ray of light on a grim evening for Villa, however, as Carl McHugh added gloss to the scoreline with two minutes remaining with another headed goal from a corner to make it 3-1.
"You are playing against a class team, you need to be on your game," Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke told Sky TV after a superb individual display which kept Bradford in the match.
"We've got an even bigger challenge ahead of us now."
The second leg at Villa Park takes place on January 22. Chelsea host Swansea City in the first leg of their semi-final tonight.
Teams from the bottom tier of English professional football playing in cup finals is almost unheard of but buoyant Bradford will fancy their chances such is youthful Villa's poor form at the moment.
Villa manager Paul Lambert made four changes to the team which beat Ipswich in the FA Cup on Saturday with Christian Benteke, Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor spearheading the attack.
They began the brighter and should have taken the lead after 10 minutes when Benteke found himself unmarked in the penalty area but could only direct his header wide from four yards.
Villa had shipped 17 goals in their last four league games and their leaky defence was exposed again after 19 minutes when Wells struck.
"Set pieces are a vital part of the game and you've got to defend them and we certainly didn't do that," Villa’s under pressure manager Paul Lambert said.
"We know what we have got to do, we've got to play a lot better than that."