Wells Wembley-bound after Bradford stun Villa
By Stephen Wright
Nahki Wells and Bradford City are on the road to Wembley after holding off Premier League side Aston Villa to reach the Capital One Cup final.
Wells will become only the third Bermudian to play at football’s most iconic stadium behind Shaun Goater and Kyle Lightbourne, but the first to do so in the final of a major cup competition.
Bradford’s remarkable, logic-defying cup run had already seen them overcome top-flight outfits Wigan Athletic and Arsenal, with Wells further enhancing his burgeoning reputation with another eye-catching display against Villa.
Protecting a 3-1 lead from a memorable first leg at Valley Parade, Bradford 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 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.
Wells, who was substituted in the 86th minute, created his side’s only real chance of the first half when he curled a effort from 20 yards just wide of goalkeeper Shay Given’s right-hand post.
Bradford improved after the break 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 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.
Watching Bradford’s stunning cup triumph from The Robin Hood pub was Wells’ younger brother Rico, who said his sibling’s achievements this season had “made Bermuda proud.”
“This is massive for Nahki and Bradford. I think it’s only the second time in history a team from the bottom league has reached the (League Cup) final.
“Nahki has really made his family and Bermuda very proud.”
The Dandy Town midfielder added: “I spoke to Nahki before the game and just told him to go for it. He wasn’t nervous or tense; he just approached this game like any other.
“It’s huge for Nahki to play at Wembley, unbelievable really, and most likely the family will go out there to support him.”
Apart from a torrid first half when they barely got over the halfway line, Bradford's performance in the two legs was staggering for a side languishing 10th in League Two and who in recent seasons have flirted with losing their place in the Football League.
Once Hanson's bullet header flew past Shay Given 10 minutes into the second half they were the better side and might have even gone ahead on the night when Garry Thompson rattled the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the area.
Weimann's late reply, when he rounded Duke to tap in, was not enough to save a callow Villa side who are fighting for their lives in the Premier League.
Bradford, whose over-spending during their two seasons in the Premier League a decade ago led to two spells in administration, have beaten three top flight sides on the way to their Wembley date later this month.
All for the meagre sum of 7,500 pounds ($11,900) the total spent on assembling Parkinson's intrepid giant killers.