Bradford City emerged victorious over a rather poor Aston Villa on Tuesday evening at Valley Parade, securing a 3-1 victory. Goals from Rory McArdle, Nahki Wells and Carl McHugh were enough to see off Paul Lambert’s side in what was, for the most part, quite an enthralling semi-final encounter. Villa continued what has been a rather poor season thus far by slumping to defeat at the hands of the League Two outfit, and despite yet another terrible Villa performance, this result cannot be viewed as anything other than a massive coup for Phil Parkinson’s team. The Bantams, who enjoyed home advantage on Tuesday, were very convincing in attack and did well to capitalise on Villa’s defensive frailties. On several occasions, Shay Given and his defence were undone after they failed to defend efficiently from set-pieces in particular. However, there is definitely more than one department that needs improvement if Villa are to turn this tie, and their season, around. The League Two team were incredibly energetic and tenacious in their efforts, clinical in their finishing and, above all, tenacious. In essence, it was this tenacity, combined with Villa’s inadequacy that culminated in a surprising and well-deserved victory for the home side on the night. All that remains to be seen now is whether or not the West Yorkshire club can hold on when the sides meet again on 22 January.
Hands up, who predicted this one? On Wednesday night, Swansea City served up a real cup shock to beat Chelsea 2-0. More impressively, they did it away from home, at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, who currently sit fourth in the Premier League table and five places clear of their domestic counterparts, were out-and-out favourites to win the tie before kick-off, but it soon became clear that Michael Laudrup’s side would not be swept aside so easily. Following a 20-minute lull, the match eventually burst into life as Juan Mata and Eden Hazard grabbed the tie by the scruff of the neck. Chances came and went, without the away team’s net being rattled and as time dragged on, Swansea grew more confident. The Swans remained steadfast, resolute and very well-organized defensively, to run out first-leg victors. Ultimately, however, it was Chelsea’s defensive weaknesses, as opposed to their missed opportunities, that proved to be their undoing. Just as the Londoners looked capable of taking control of the game, Branislav Ivanovic, twice committed atrocious acts of defending to allow Swansea some breathing room. Firstly, Michu nipped in to claim his 16th goal of the season before Danny Graham took advantage to knock a strike past Ross Turnbull. Inaction on the part of Chelsea’s interim manager, Rafael Benítez also contributed to the defeat as Frank Lampard and Demba Ba were both introduced far too late into the game to have any great effect. Of course, Chelsea are a side brimming with quality and they might still turn this tie around. However, Swansea have home advantage and if they defend so capably for the second leg on 23 January, we may well have a Bradford-Swansea League Cup final.
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