Top 3: Lower league Cup finalists

A look at other surprise packages in the Cups after Bradford City's run to the Capital One Cup final

Adam Storer
Published 02/25/2013 11:13 by Adam Storer.

On Sunday, League Two club Bradford City headed to the magnificent Wembley stadium in the League Cup final against Swansea City.

Although the 5-0 victory was a bitter way to for it to end for Phil Parkinson's side, there's no doubt their journey was special, and one to be enjoyed.

Bradford went on an extraordinary run this season, knocking out three Premier League teams, including Arsenal - it's just a shame the fourth was one too far.

However, the Bantams are not the only lower league opposition to reach a major final.

Here, I take a look at some of the best…

Manchester United v Millwall | 2004 FA Cup Final

It was never going to be easy for Division One (now Championship) side Millwall to overcome Premiership big-boys Manchester United.

One from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy saw The Red Devils claim their 11th FA Cup title.

This brought some satisfaction for United, after being soundly defeated in the race for the Premier League title, finishing third, 15 points behind the unbeaten champions Arsenal.

As for their lower league opposition, Millwall narrowly lost out in the race to the play-offs, finishing the season in tenth, just four points off sixth placed and play-off winners Crystal Palace.

What was more shocking was their somewhat easy journey to the final of the FA Cup.

Joining in the third round, the Lions began with a 2-1 defeat over Walsall, before moving onto victories over non-league Telford United and Burnley.

The quarter-finals nearly became their undoing, as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Tranmere Rovers, but roared past them in the replay.

With Manchester United and Arsenal drawing each other in the semi-finals, Millwall were left with Sunderland, and in a close match, but they came away 1-0 victors.

Millwall have since never been able to get close to that 10th position or their FA Cup heroics, whilst they were knocked out in the first round of the UEFA Cup.

Portsmouth v Cardiff City | 2008 FA Cup Final

Just like Millwall in 2004, Cardiff City started their journey in the third round, and similar to the Lions, they escaped the majority of the top teams.

However, they were undone in the final, losing to Portsmouth 1-0 at Wembley.

At the time of the final, Cardiff had finished 12th in the league, a long way off the play-off places, whereas Portsmouth had reached an incredible 8th in the Premier League under Harry Redknapp.

Yet, Cardiff had an easy first two rounds, seeing off non-league sides Chasetown and Hereford United.

After beating fellow Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in the fifth round, the Bluebirds met their first Premier League opposition in the form of Middlesbrough.

And after beating them 2-0, the semi-finals saw Cardiff face another surprise package in Barnsley, who had already beaten holders Chelsea in the previous round.

A 1-0 victory was enough to see them through to the final, where they faced Portsmouth, who knocked out the previous years’ finalists Manchester United in the quarter-finals.

Liverpool v Cardiff City | 2012 League Cup Final

Four years after their FA Cup journey, Cardiff City got to another major final, this time the League Cup.

But, like in 2008, the Bluebirds left Wembley with runners-up medals, after losing to Liverpool 3-2 on penalties, after 120 minutes of football left the score at 2-2.

This seemed a highly cruel way for Cardiff to bow out of the cup, especially considering they had played an extra round more than Liverpool.

Knocking out Oxford United and Huddersfield Town easily in rounds one and two, they came up against Leicester City in the third round, narrowly beating them 7-6 on penalties.

Victories over fellow Championship sides Blackburn Rovers and Burnley saw them come up against Crystal Palace in the semi-finals.

The first leg at Selhurst Park saw them go down 1-0.

However, after winning by the same score-line at home, Cardiff had the crowd advantage going into their second penalty shootout of the tournament.

It paid off, as the Welsh side won 3-1 and they reached the final, meeting their only Premier League side of the competition, despite their opponents having to see off Chelsea and future Premier League champions Manchester City.

… And one that did not include a lower league team, but was just as amazing (for all non-Arsenal fans). Here's an honourable mention for Luton Town - although they were a top-flight club at this stage.

Luton Town v Arsenal | 1988 League Cup Final

After Luton Town’s terrific run in the FA Cup earlier this year, I thought it would be unfair not to remind people of their previous success in major cup competitions.

Back in 1988, when they were sitting pretty in the First Division (now Premier League), Luton pulled off their biggest win in their history, defeating the mighty Arsenal 3-2.

After seeing off the likes of Wigan Athletic, Coventry City, Ipswich Town and Bradford City on their way to the semis, the Hatters came up against Oxford United.

Drawing 1-1 at Oxford, Luton took full advantage at Kenilworth Road, running out 3-0 winners to set up a stunning final against Arsenal.

A year after their amazing victory over Arsenal, Luton reached the final again, only to be beaten by Nottingham Forest, who were under the management of the great Brian Clough.



DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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