Bradford City’s dream League Cup run continued with an impressive 3-1 victory over Aston Villa in their semi-final first leg on Tuesday.
Nakhi Wells opened the scoring with an opportunist’s goal in the first half, before poor defending allowed Rory McArdle to double the home side’s lead after the break.
Andreas Weimann lifted the ball beyond Matt Duke to pull one back for Villa, but Carl McHugh headed past Shay Given in the closing stages to give Paul Lambert’s side everything to do at Villa Park.
Bradford made a bright start but Villa went close early on as Charles N’Zogbia cut inside the penalty area and forced Matt Duke to parry.
Christian Benteke twice squandered the chance to put the visitors in front moments later, heading wide when unmarked from a Barry Bannan corner, before latching onto a Fabian Delph pass and rolling the ball harmlessly into Duke’s body.
And Villa were punished in the 19th minute after failing to fully clear a corner, as Hines’ 20-yard effort was deflected into the path of Wells, who stroked the ball past Shay Given.
The Premier League side were almost allowed back into the game nine minutes later as N’Zogbia again ran at the Bradford back four, but his shot was comfortably saved by Duke.
The former Hull City goalkeeper kept out another Benteke effort just before the half-hour mark, but Bradford almost doubled their lead before the break on two occasions.
First, Given pushed a shot wide after Hines skipped inside left-back Joe Bennett, before James Hanson lost Delph at a corner from Gary Jones, but saw his powerful header cleared off the line.
Duke made one more save before half-time, keeping out a volley by Gabby Agbonlahor after good work from N’Zogbia as the hosts went into the interval ahead.
Villa began the second half on the ascendancy and Benteke was again foiled by the Bradford goalkeeper, who kept out the Belgian’s close-range diving header before denying Agbonlahor, who connected well with a Barry Bannan cross.
With little more than 30 minutes to play, Darren Bent was brought on in place of Agbonlahor as Lambert pressed for an equaliser, but the striker fired over the bar from a narrow angle with one of his first touches of the ball.
Bent then missed a golden opportunity to equalise when Duke saved a shot from N’Zogbia and the ball looped up in front of an open goal, but the England international headed over.
Villa were made to pay for a host of missed chances for the second time as woeful defending from another corner allowed Wells to keep an attack alive for Jones, whose cross was met by a glancing header from McArdle at the near post, which beat Given.
The hosts almost had a third goal when Hanson’s thunderous diving header shook Given’s crossbar, but Villa scored eight minutes from time as Weimann raced onto a loose ball and lifted it over Duke.
McHugh’s header in the final minute of normal time restored Bradford’s two-goal advantage however, taking the League Two side closer to the final.