$12K English soccer team improbably beats millionaires
James Hanson of Bradford City celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team-mates during the Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second Leg between Aston Villa and Bradford City at Villa Park on January 22, 2013 in Birmingham, England. / Getty Images
LONDON Bradford triumphed over the Premier League millionaires of Aston Villa to become the first fourth-tier club to reach an English final in 51 years.
With a roster assembled for about 7,500 pounds ($12,000), Bradford lost the second leg of its semifinal 2-1 at Villa on Tuesday night but advanced on 4-3 aggregate in the total-goals series.
Bradford will play Chelsea or Swansea in the final on Feb. 24 at Wembley; Swansea leads Chelsea 2-0 heading into Wednesday's second leg.
"It's dreamland," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said. "We said tonight we had a chance to make history, and we have done it."
The cash generated by the cup run can help to safeguard the northern English team's future. It has twice entered administration a form of bankruptcy protection since being relegated from the Premier League in 2001.
"To go to Wembley is going to keep the club going for quite a while, I imagine," Parkinson said. "For the city of Bradford, it's massive and I really feel that this can galvanize the area."
After plummeting down the soccer pyramid, Bradford is now the lowest-ranked former Premier League team, 10th in England's lowest professional division.
"Our supporters have stuck with the club through some really tough times," Parkinson said. "Over the last 10 years there hasn't been a great deal to cheer about."
The previous team this low to reach a major English final was fourth-division Rochdale, which lost to Norwich on 4-0 aggregate in 1962.
Bradford, whose only major title is the 1911 FA Cup, beat Arsenal on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.
Christian Benteke put host Villa ahead in the 24th minute, but James Hanson tied the score with a header in the 55th. Andreas Weimann got the Villans' second goal in the 89th.
"As a kid playing football, you dream of Wembley and we're going to do it," said Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke, who beat testicular cancer in 2008. "We're going to take a League Two club to Wembley, we're going to take a massive following, it's going to be an amazing day and I'm looking forward to it."
Villa, owned by American billionaire Randy Lerner, is one point and one place above the Premier League's relegation zone.
"It's my responsibility ... I am absolutely gutted, disappointed, hurt, everything," Villa manager Paul Lambert said.
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