Fourth tier Bradford reaches League Cup final

Updated 23 January 2013
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Fourth tier Bradford reaches League Cup final

LONDON: Bradford City struck a blow for the paupers and restored the faith of those who say Premier League riches have killed the romance of English football by holding off Aston Villa to reach the League Cup final on Tuesday.
Protecting a 3-1 lead from the first leg at Valley Parade, scene of a devastating fire that killed 56 fans in 1985, the League Two side 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 51 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 Wembley 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.
But that was when the competition was in its infancy and many top clubs did not even bother entering, whereas Bradford’s fairytale run accounted for top flight Wigan Athletic in the fourth round and Arsenal in the last eight — both on penalties.
Bradford’s 6,000 traveling fans dared to dream of a triumph to rival the club’s 1911 FA Cup triumph — the pinnacle of a topsy turvy past — but Christian Benteke’s 24th-minute opener for Villa seemed to swing the odds back toward the home side.
However, Bradford weathered a wave of attacks from five-times League Cup winners Villa and struck back through James Hanson’s 55th minute header to make it 1-1 on the night and send the visiting supporters into ecstasy.
Andreas Weimann’s 88th minute goal put the hosts in front again at Villa Park and set up a frantic finale but Bradford survived four nerve-jangling minutes of stoppage time to etch their name into the pantheon of great British sporting upsets.
“This is dreamland, hopefully we will have a great following at Wembley and do the club proud,” goalkeeper Matt Duke, hero of their shootout wins over Wigan and Arsenal, told Sky Sports.
“I am not convinced it will ever sink in. You dream of this as a kid, playing at Wembley, and like I say I just want to do the club proud.”
Shell-shocked Villa manager Paul Lambert congratulated Bradford but had harsh words for his side whose defending from set-plays cost them dear over the two legs.
“We’ve lost four goals from set-pieces over two games which is not good enough,” he said. “I am embarrassed. We will never have a better chance to reach the final.”
Apart from a torrid first half when they barely got over the halfway line, Bradford’s display over the two legs was staggering for a side languishing 10th in League Two and who almost fell out of the Football League two seasons ago.
Once Hanson’s bullet header flew past Villa keeper 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 Given’s 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 Premier League strugglers Villa, whose callow side now face a battle to avoid relegation.
“I thought we had a great chance with the two goals from the first leg,” Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said.
“First half Aston Villa were excellent but in the second half we played really well. It is dreamland.
“The lads were absolutely fantastic and what it means for the club and the city is absolutely tremendous.

“I think we could fill Wembley on our own,” he added looking forward to the Feb. 24 final against Swansea or Chelsea who meet in their second leg in Wales on Wednesday with City leading 2-0 after the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
Premier League salaries now regularly top 100,000 pounds ($158,700) per week and transfer fees have run into millions for years in stark contrast to Bradford’s intrepid team of giant killers who were assembled for the meagre sum of 7,500 pounds.
While hard cash can buy Premier League glory, Bradford have proved this season that there is still room for the dreamers and that the heart of domestic cup football, often derided as an inconvenience by the big clubs, is still beating strongly.


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.