On Sunday Birmingham City defeated Arsenal to claim the first piece of domestic silverware in the 2010/11 season. The Carling Cup has been dismissed by some as a second rate competition which clutters up the fixture calendar. However as the match on Sunday proved, the finals can be great entertainment.
The catastrophic defensive mix-up between Wojeich Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny gifted Birmingham the cup and sealed an unlikely victory for the men from the West Midlands – in previous finals there’s been other such upsets, plenty of goals and below are ten of the best League Cup Finals since it’s inception in 1960.
10: Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Manchester United 1991
Ron Atkinson was dismissed from the Old Trafford hotseat in 1986 and less than five years later his Sheffield Wednesday side, gunning for promotion from the Second Division, faced his former employers at Wembley in the League Cup Final. United were FA Cup holders and favourites to beat The Owls – however the only goal of the game, a ferocious volley from United fan and Wednesday midfielder John Sheridan won the trophy for Big Ron and Wednesday. It was their first triumph in the competition.
9: Manchester City 2-1 Newcastle United 1976
This match is remembered for two reasons, Dennis Tueart’s superb match-winning overhead kick and the fact that it is the last time Manchester City won a major trophy. Maybe that wait for silverware will end this season but their last triumph came in a hard-fought League Cup final with Newcastle. Early on in the match youngster Peter Barnes put City 1-0 up before Newcastle’s Alan Gowling equalised, then a minute into the second half Tueart’s acrobatics won the cup for City – he later described the goal as the best strike of his career.
8: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion 1967
Despite the tournament running since 1960, this was the first final to be played at Wembley – up until then the final consisted of a two-legged affair at the home grounds of the finalists. The first final underneath the Twin Towers proved to be a cracker, as top flight WBA took a 2-0 lead into half-time, only for Third Division QPR to fight back in twenty second half minutes, including a great strike from Rodney Marsh to win 3-2. In doing so they became the first club from the third tier to win a major trophy.
7: Nottingham Forest 3-2 Southampton 1979
Between 1978 and 1980, Brian Clough steered Nottingham Forest to three consectutive League Cup finals, winning a replay versus Liverpool in 1978 and retaining the trophy a year later against Southampton. In that match Forest fell behind to a David Peach goal in the first-half and remained a goal down going into the break. In the second 45, Garry Birtles equalised before scoring a second after a 30 yard run at the heart of The Saints’ defence. Tony Woodcock added a third before Nick Holmes made things interesting toward the end, volleying past Peter Shilton to make it 3-2. However Forest held on to defend the trophy they won 12 months prevously.
6: Liverpool 1-1 Birmingham City (Liverpool win 5-4 on penalties) 2001
The first leg of Liverpool’s unique treble win in 2001 and they were made to work for it against a determined Birmingham City side, a division below their opponents. The first final to be played at the Millenium Stadium whilst Wembley was being redeveloped went all the way to spot-kicks after Robbie Fowler’s dipping first-half volley was cancelled out by a 90th minute Darren Purse penalty. Birmingham had appeals for another penalty turned down before the shootout, but for them Liverpool prevailed on spot-kicks – a young Andy Johnson consoled by his tearful manager Trevor Francis after missing the decisive penalty.
5: Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool 2005
Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez went into this Carling Cup Final both looking to win their first trophies in English football and it was the Special One who came out on top. Liverpool took the lead after just 42 seconds through John Arne Riise and for most of the game remained in front, until Steven Gerrard scored an own goal with a looping header. Mourinho wound up the Liverpool fans by walking down the touchline telling them to be quiet, but in extra-time he would have the last say as his side went on to win thanks to goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman.
4: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal 2007
An eventful final from 2007 as the two London rivals met at the Millennium Stadium. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger placed his faith in the youngsters who reached the final and the starting XI had an average age of just 21. They played some excellent football throughout and were a match for their more experienced opponents, taking the lead in the first half through Theo Walcott’s first goal for the Gunners. However a Didier Drogba double meant the trophy was heading to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea captain John Terry had to go to hospital after being kicked in the throat diving for the ball and a mass brawl in added time saw three red cards and many more yellows.
3: Swindon Town 3-1 Arsenal 1969
One of the great upsets in any English cup competition. In 1969 Third Division Swindon Town faced Arsenal, two divisions above them and two years away from winning the league and FA Cup double. In the first half Roger Smart put the underdogs into the lead but with just four minutes to go Bobby Gould levelled matters. In extra-time Don Rogers wrote his name into Swindon and League Cup folklore with two goals to win the match for the Robins – their only major cup triumph.
2: Aston Villa 3-2 Everton 1977
The 1977 League Cup Final was an epic tie which was played out over 330 minutes of football. The first game at Wembley ended 0-0 whilst a dull replay at Hillsborough finished in a 1-1 draw, so the game went to a second replay at Old Trafford which was much more memorable. Everton opened the scoring through striker Bob Latchford, but in the second half Villa captain Chris Nicholl equalised with a dipping 40-yard strike. Brian Little then put Villa in front a minute later, but then just two minutes after that Mick Lyons made it 2-2. The match went into extra-time where Brian Little netted the winner late on the give Villa their third League Cup.
1: Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal 1988
The 1988 League Cup Final pitted Arsenal, who won the trophy the year before against Liverpool, against Luton Town, in the top flight but written off as underdogs against the Gunners. However it was Luton who drew first blood, Brian Stein putting them into the lead at Wembley. In the second half Arsenal turned things around, goals from Martin Hayes and Alan Smith giving George Graham’s side a 2-1 lead. They had a chance to make it 3-1, but Luton goalkeeper Andy Dibble saved Nigel Winterburn’s penalty with ten minutes remaining and the Hatters were in the ascendancy. Danny Wilson equalised on 82 minutes before Stein scored his second goal to make it 3-2 to Luton in the final minute of the match and they held on to cause one of the great cup final upsets.