All roads lead to Wembley, where the first major trophy of the English football season is up for grabs…
Carabao Cup Final, Sunday 25 February, 3.30pm, Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503)
After 92 matches, a glut of giant-killings and more than 280 goals, this season’s Carabao Cup reaches its climax when Arsenal battle Manchester City for the right to lift the first big trophy of the English football season.
The tournament, which has previously been called the Milk Cup, Coca-Cola Cup and Carling Cup (among other names), is a massive opportunity for both clubs and one that tends to produce scintillating drama of the highest order. Take last year’s final. Manchester United and Southampton played out an absolute humdinger at Wembley, with a late Zlatan Ibrahimović goal giving the Red Devils a 3-2 win (and José Mourinho his first major trophy at the club).
Will we see a similarly thrilling final this year? Can the match live up to last year’s 90 minutes – not to mention the other classic finals from this competition that we’ve highlighted below? Buckle your seatbelts, because all will be revealed live on Sky Sports on Virgin TV…
1. QPR 3-2 West Bromwich Albion (1967)
The first League Cup final to be played as a single game (the first six were settled over two legs), saw defending champions West Bromwich Albion storm to a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to a Clive Clark double. Then Rodney Marsh and Roger Morgan inspired QPR to produce an epic second half comeback that was, rather aptly, sealed by a goal from Mark Lazarus.
2. Aston Villa 3-2 Everton (1977)
This wasn’t the greatest spectacle, but it makes our list for three reasons. First, it lasted 330 minutes. Second, it was played on three different grounds. Third, it began on Saturday 12 March at Wembley and ended on Wednesday 13 April at Old Trafford. Yes, you did read all that correctly. After the original final ended in a bore draw, the teams reassembled at Hillsborough the following Wednesday for a replay, which ended 1-1 after extra time. This was the first time this had happened in the history of English football and fixture congestion meant that the second replay could not take place until the middle of April. This time, the match was played at Old Trafford and, again, it went to extra time. Penalties loomed until Brian Little popped up in the dying seconds to secure Villa victory. Phew.
3. Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal (1988)
Andy Dibble and Brian Stein were the key figures as Luton Town shocked defending champions Arsenal to claim the only major trophy in the club’s history. Dibble was named Man of the Match, after an incredible goalkeeping display that featured a penalty save from Nigel Winterburn, while Stein’s two-goal haul included the last-minute winner that sent his team’s fans delirious.
4. Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool (2005)
This tumultuous tussle is mainly remembered for the controversial “ssshhh” gesture that saw José Mourinho banished from the touchline. But on top of that, it also included a spectacular first-minute volley from John Arne Riise, fantastic saves from Jerzy Dudek and Petr Čech, a disastrous own goal from Steven Gerrard and clinical finishes from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kežman.
5. Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (2007)
At the start of this fiery clash, Arsène Wenger made history by naming the youngest XI to ever play in a major English cup final. At the end of it, John Terry discharged himself from hospital in order to join in his team’s celebrations. In between, Didier Drogba scored twice for Chelsea, Theo Walcott netted once for Arsenal, Terry was stretchered off with a nasty-looking head injury and Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré and John Obi Mikel saw red for their part in a mass brawl that brought both managers on to the pitch.
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