With the League Cup Final match between Manchester United & Southampton just a few days away, we thought we would take a trip down memory lane at a few classic cup final encounters.
Chelsea and Liverpool built up quite the rivalry in the first reign of Jose Mourinho and he had a tactical rival in Rafa Benitez who made these games cagey affairs. This was the first cup final for Jose Mourinho and the pressure was on him to win a trophy after spending a large amount of money in the previous summer. This match threw previous encounters out the window as Liverpool took the lead within the first minute instantly putting pressure on Chelsea.
It looked as if Liverpool would hold on to a famous victory until the 79th minute when Captain Steven Gerrard scored in the wrong end to draw Chelsea level and take the tie to extra time. Here is where the game came to life as 3 goals were scored within 6 minutes. Chelsea scored a quickfire double to take a commanding 3-1 lead through Drogba and Kezman only to be pegged back by an Antonio Nunez goal. Chelsea managed to hang on until the end to claim the first of many trophies under Jose Mourinho.
Another league cup final, another Jose Mourinho victory. This time, the opponents were Arsenal’s young gunners in a side that included Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie & Theo Walcott and it was the then young English striker who opened the scoring for the underdogs with a celebrating Theirry Henry in the stands. Didier Drogba quickly restored parity before sealing victory in the final 10 minutes. However, this game will be remembered for John Terry being knocked out cold and a mass brawl at the end of the match which saw a player from either side sent off.
A few years after that Carling Cup defeat, Arsenal had another chance to end their long wait for a trophy against a relegation-threatened Birmingham City. This time around, Arsenal took no chances and fielded a very strong team which included a more experienced Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri. Arsenal were rampant in this match and looked like they were going to blow Birmingham out of the water until The Blues took the lead against the run of play through Nikola Zigic. Arsenal were able to recover and equalised 11 minutes later through Robin van Persie. Unluckily for him and Arsenal, the Dutch striker injured himself while scoring and had to be taken off.
Arsenal continued to spurn chances which they would live to regret as the match careened towards extra time. What followed in the 89th minute was a real sickener for Arsenal as a long ball from Ben Foster bounced all the way to the Arsenal area where Laurent Koscielny and Woijech Szczesny collided with each other to allow Obafemi Martins to knock the ball into an empty net. Against all odds, Birmingham were able to claim a historic cup victory.
One year on from Birmingham’s famous victory, the League cup brought about another David vs Goliath final. Championship side Cardiff took the game to Liverpool and managed to take the lead in the 19th minute against their more illustrious opponents. They managed to hold onto their lead until the second half when Martin Skrtel drew Liverpool level to take the tie into extra time.
Dirk Kuyt gave Liverpool the lead in extra time to seemingly give Liverpool a hard earned victory. It wasn’t until the 118th minute that Cardiff found a way back into the tie by scoring a late equaliser to send the final into the lottery of a penalty shootout.
The pressure was on Liverpool and it showed, as two of their most accomplished penalty takers in Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam missed the first two spot kicks. Cardiff managed to score one of their first two penalties to take the lead before Dirk Kuyt scored Liverpool’s 3rd spot kick. Rudy Gestede missed the next penalty which allowed Stewart Downing to give Liverpool the advantage before Whittingham restored parity. Glen Johnson scored Liverpool’s fifth penalty before the cousin of Steven Gerrard, Anthony stepped up. It turned out to be a shootout the Gerrard cousins would remember as they both missed penalties but it was Anthony’s that proved to be vital as his missed spot-kick allowed Liverpool to win the cup final.
The last match in our list includes one of Sunday’s finalists, Manchester United, as they faced Aston Villa in the 2010 final. Manchester United were defending champions of the competition and they went into the match as the heavy favourites.
Things did not go to plan however as Aston Villa took an early lead through a well taken James Milner penalty. Villa’s lead did not last two long as United equalised 7 minutes later through a Michael Owen goal after a mistake from Richard Dunne. Owen’s game only lasted 30 more minutes as he had to be taken off with another injury which plagued his storied career.
It was indeed his replacement, Wayne Rooney, who managed to score the winner late in the second half with a quality header to provide United with their second league cup in two seasons.