Carling Cup Final: The Road To Wembley

Football - Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United Carling Cup Final
The Carling Cup journey for both Man United and Aston Villa started on the 23rd January 2009. Here is how both teams got to this season's final of the League Cup.

The holders of the cup, Man United kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford. Man United played with 10-men for most of the match after Fabio da Silva was sent off in the 28th minute. Despite that a Danny Welbeck goal in the 66th minute was enough to take United through.

Aston Villa also played on the Wednesday and they began their Carling Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Cardiff at Villa Park. Gabriel Agbonlahor’s goal only three minutes into the game was enough to take Villa to the fourth round.

Football - Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg

United were drawn Barnsley in the next round and like the previous round, United were down to 10-men. United took the lead only six minutes in when Welbeck headed in Anderson’s corner. The second goal was scored by Michael Owen 59 minutes in from 16 yards out. That was swiftly followed with Gary Neville being sent off, he initially won the ball but his follow through caught Adam Hammill. The game has been marred by crowd trouble, which ended in 10 fans being arrested.

Man United may have had a comfortable match but meanwhile Aston Villa needed penalties to go past Sunderland. The game was goalless after 180 minutes. During the normal 90 minutes there was penalty saved by the Villa keeper. Neither team could score in the 180 minutes, which took it to penalties.
Villa keeper Brad Guzan saved three spot-kicks to take Villa through to the final eight.

Next up were the quarter-finals, both teams had difficult Premier League opponents.

On the 1st December 2009 there was a repeat of last years Carling Cup final between Man United and Tottenham Hotspur, this time it was a quarter-final tie at Old Trafford. United went ahead 16 minutes, against the run of play but a wonderful strike by Darron Gibson gave United the lead. With seven minutes left of the first half, Gibson scored his second of the game, which was enough to take United though to the semi-finals. The game finished 2-0 to Man United, next up Manchester City.

Football - Manchester City v Manchester United Carling Cup Semi Final First LegVilla on the other hand had a bit more of an eventful quarter-final tie down on the south coast. Stiliyan Petrov’s own goal in the 10th minute gave Pompey a slender lead but that was cancelled out only two minutes later after Emile Heskey scored for the visitors. 27 minutes in James Milner gave Villa a 2-1 advantage. That was it for the first half but with 74 minutes on the clock it looked like Villa had definitely got through to the semi-finals after Stewart Downing scored Villa’s third. It wasn’t over just yet, Nwankwo Kanu pulled a goal back for Portsmouth to make it 3-2 to Villa in the 87th minute. Ashley Young put an end to any Pompey hopes after scoring the final goal of the game in the 89th minute.

The four teams left in the Carling Cup were Man United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers. As luck would have it United and City were drawn to play each other, United were going help keep City’s run of 34 years without a trophy going.

The first leg of the semi-final tie between the two Manchester clubs was played on 19th January after having being rescheduled because of the weather conditions.
City were very much outplayed on their own ground but somehow managed to win the game 2-1. Carlos Tevez stuck twice (once was a penalty, which shouldn’t have been awarded) after Ryan Giggs had given United the lead.

Blackburn and Villa played their first leg at Ewood Park on the 14th January, this one had also been rescheduled thanks to the snow. The game was a fairly mundane 1-0 win for Villa. A Milner goal gave them a slight advantage but the only question really was, would Villa regret not scoring more?

Football - Manchester United v Manchester City Carling Cup Semi Final Second LegBoth second leg matches were dramatic and overall both teams deserved to get to the final. Away goals wouldn’t have counted until the extra time; the only way the games could go to penalties is if Man United beat City 2-1 and if Blackburn beat Villa 1-0.

There had been a few controversial off-field matters between Gary Neville and Tevez ahead of the game at Old Trafford on the 27th Jan, which helped stoke up the rivalry. There were no goals in the first half but second half and first blood fell to United. Giggs found Luis Nani in the City area, he was surrounded by City defenders but managed to pick out Carrick, who laid the ball off to Scholes who stuck the ball past Shay Given and it was 2-2 on aggregate.

With less than 20 minutes to go, United were 2-0 up and 3-2 up on aggregate.. Fletcher found Carrick, who’s striker found the far corner of the goal. The game wasn’t over and it was Tevez who scored yet again for City. Tevez beat Rio Ferdinand to the ball and put it past Edwin Van Der Sar, the scoreline was now 2-1 and it looked like we were going to go to extra time. Three minutes were added on at the end, two minutes in and Old Trafford erupted. Giggs crossed the ball into the penalty area and Rooney was there to head past Given and take United to the Carling Cup final.

Many were expecting another routine win for Villa when they took Rovers on, on the 20th January but what we saw was a 10-goal thriller. Aston Villa came from 2-0 down to beat Rovers 6-4 (7-4 on aggregate).
Nikola Kalinic opened up the scoring with a headed goal from a corner. That put Rovers on the front foot and they doubled their lead with another goal from Kalinic. Martin Olsson saw his effort saved by Villa keeper Guzan but the ball fell for Kalinic, who couldn’t miss. 2-0 to Rovers on the night, 2-1 on aggregate.

Aston Villa woke up and the comeback was on after Stephen Warnock pulled a goal back for the home side. Ashley Young crossed into the area, Agbonlahor and Ryan Nelsen were both on the ground but luckily for Villa Warnock was there to smash the ball in.

Sports News - January 21, 2010It may have been 2-2 on aggregate but things were made harder for Rovers after Chris Samba was sent off after bringing Agbonlahor down in the penalty area, a red card for the defender and a penalty for Villa, which was converted by Milner. 3-2 to Villa on aggregate, 2-2 on the night.

Second half and with an extra man, it was Villa who took the lead. Rovers failed to clear a corner which resulted in a Steven N'Zonzi own goal. So, it was now 3-2 to Villa on the night, 4-2 on aggregate but there was plenty of time for more goals.

Milner scored Villa’s fourth after he managed to curl the ball past Paul Robinson, this was followed by a Heskey goal, he was put through by Milner, went past Robinson and got Villa’s fifth. Blackburn did pull a goal back to make it 5-2, a stunning bicycle-kick by Martin Olsson gave Rovers a glimmer of hope.

Amazingly Rovers scored another through Brett Emerton to make it 5-4 (6-4 on aggregate). Hopes of another to make it 5-5 were dashed when A.Young scored Villa’s sixth which took them to the final of the Carling Cup.

The Carling Cup final takes place this Sunday (28th February 2009) at Wembley.

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