Aston Villa came into the second leg of the League Cup semifinals needing, at the bare minimum, to score two goals and hold onto a clean sheet through 120 minutes to advance. They accomplished the former but yet another total failure on corners meant that the latter was not to be had. Despite winning the match 2-1, Aston Villa lost the semifinals to Bradford City - a League Two side - by an aggregate score of 3-4.
The first goal came in the first half, which Aston Villa absolutely dominated. If Christian Benteke had just a bit more accuracy on his headers, Villa could have gone into the locker room up 3-0. As it was, he managed to make an absolutely perfect volley on a Joe Bennett long pass to put Villa up 1-0 (2-3 agg.).
It seemed as if Villa might take the momentum from that strike and coast to victory, as the club had 72% possession in the first half. But Bradford were able to do just enough to hang on, and as we've seen so many times this season, Villa couldn't convert.
Speaking of things we've seen a number of times, Villa came out in the second half looking like a totally different - and significantly worse - team. And to continue the trend of "haven't I seen that before" Villa gave up a goal off of a corner. This time, James Hanson hammered the ball into the net.
I have a friend who posited that maybe Shay Given is just a terrible communicator, since these sorts of utter failures occur most often with him in the net. It's not a fully-fleshed-out idea yet, but it'd be interesting to look at. Regardless, the goal meant that Villa needed to score twice in 35 minutes, and that didn't seem very likely. Late substitute Andreas Weimann, however, made things interesting with an 88th minute goal:
But, despite having four strikers (or was it five?), Villa couldn't convert again and the Weimann goal was the last of the evening.
On the one hand, this loss is heartbreaking. The League Cup was Aston Villa's lone bright spot in a season that is miserable. On the other hand, though, the loss is just enraging. There is absolutely no reason why Villa should have been so thoroughly outplayed in the second half. Paul Lambert made offensively-minded subs, but then left his strikers without a means of getting the ball and the formation without any shape whatsoever. Andrew's got a post coming up with a quick reaction, so I'll let him handle the venting, but I expect you'll see a lot from a number of us in the coming days.
So much for Wembley. Good luck in the final, Bradford, Villa may have played poorly, but you've earned this.