The League Cup returns this week at the semi-final stage when Manchester United meet Manchester City and Aston Villa battle Leicester City.
Played over two legs, these ties often create great interest. From goal-laden encounters to unlikely comebacks, here are five of the best last-four clashes in recent years.
Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City, 2010
Manchester City and Manchester United squared off at the start of the 2010s, as well.
City, newly boosted by financial might, were hoping to make their first cup final in 29 years. They won the first leg of the tie 2-1, courtesy of two goals from Carlos Tevez, who had moved to City from United in the previous summer.
In response, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick scored in the second-half of the second-leg as United seemed to have made amends. City, however, weren’t keen on letting the tie slip away.
Tevez once again found the net to make extra-time inevitable.
But Wayne Rooney had different plans. Deep into stoppage time, he got on the end of a Ryan Giggs cross to send United through with a chance of defending their trophy.
It was the second time that season that United got the better of City late on. The previous occasion was Michael Owen’s last-gasp winner in the dramatic encounter at Old Trafford that finished 4-3 in the Premier League.
United would go on and beat Aston Villa in the final to retain their title.
Manchester City 4-3 Everton, 2016
Now well into an era of dominance, City were looking to add another League Cup trophy to their cabinet. Standing in their way were Everton, who hadn’t won a trophy in 21 years.
The Merseyside club got off to the best possible start, winning the first leg at home 2-1 after Ramiro Funes Mori and Romelu Lukaku found their way onto the score sheet.
They were in dreamland in the second leg, too, as Ross Barkley’s stunning effort found its way into the City net. All seemed done and dusted.
However, the Sky Blues didn’t give up there. Immediately after Barkley’s strike, Fernandinho reduced the deficit.
Late in the second-half, substitute Kevin De Bruyne scored a controversial equaliser – Everton claimed the cross that led to the goal had gone out of play before reaching the Belgian’s boot.
Minutes later, a flicked Sergio Aguero header won the tie, and City were on their way to Wembley. They beat Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to win the tournament for the second time in three years.
Bradford City 4-3 Aston Villa, 2013
In an era of rapid commercialisation in football, it’s rare to see lower league clubs make it far in cup competitions. So when League Two Bradford City reached this far, they had plenty of backers.
Having already overcome Arsenal in the round before, they were to meet Aston Villa for a place at Wembley.
Starting the first leg 60 places below Villa in the league ladder, they amazingly won the first leg at home 3-1.
Nahki Wells and Rory McArdle, two players who had attracted so much attention, netted in the home leg and there was a good advantage to defend in Birmingham.
At Villa Park, Wells’ attack partner, James Hanson, found the net and even a 2-1 defeat couldn’t deny them a trip to Wembley – they won 4-3 on aggregate.
Bradford became the first League Two side since Rochdale in 1962 – 51 years prior – to reach the League Cup final. Unfortunately, their fairy-tale run would end sourly, as Swansea City beat them 5-0.
Aston Villa 7-4 Blackburn Rovers, 2010
Aston Villa’s 1-0 away win in the first-leg was hardly an indication of what was to follow. With a lead to protect, they went into the home leg with confidence, but within 26 minutes, it was all gone.
Nikola Kalinic had scored twice, and now it was Blackburn who had the defending to do. Incredibly, that lead didn’t last long either.
A pair of Villa goals in the next 15 minutes leveled scores on the night and gave the Birmingham side the lead once again in an enthralling tie – but the drama didn’t stop.
A barrage of goals followed in the early part of the second-half. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and a Steven Nzonzi own goal put Villa in pole position to qualify and even Martin Olsson’s strike for Blackburn wasn’t enough.
Late in the game, Brett Emerton struck for the Rovers to spark hopes of a late comeback. But that was all thwarted by Ashley Young.
In the end, Villa won 6-4 in a wonderful tie at Villa Park that nobody would’ve anticipated.
Villa couldn’t take that goalscoring form to Wembley. They fell 2-1 to Manchester United and their run of 14 years without a trophy would continue.
Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 Chelsea, 2002
At the start of this decade, Tottenham met Chelsea for a chance to face Blackburn Rovers in the final.
The Blues got the early advantage, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored a brace to seal a 2-1 first-leg win at home.
However, Hasselbaink went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the second-leg, as he was sent off. That wasn’t the only loss Chelsea suffered that evening.
At White Hart Lane, Spurs scored five.
Steffen Iversen, Tim Sherwood, Terry Sheringham, Simon Davies and Serhiy Rebrov all netted once each and at one point led Chelsea 5-0.
This was remarkable considering they had gone 27 matches without overcoming their London rivals. Now, they had beaten them to reach the final of the League Cup.
Mikael Forssel netted one for Chelsea late on to soften the blow, but the damage had been done.
In the final, despite a strong showing, Spurs fell to Blackburn Rovers at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. But the win against Chelsea was a real highlight.
Know more about Sport360 Application