Skip to content

Swansea, Bradford City turn England’s League Cup on its head

Jan 9, 2013, 6:09 PM EST

Chelsea v Swansea City - Capital One Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

Are you ready for a Swansea City-Bradford City meeting at Wembley? We’re not there yet, but after the last two day’s League Cup results, the matchup looks probable. Bradford City took a 3-1 lead out of Tuesday’s leg one with Aston Villa while Swans pulled of a 2-0 upset at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. With both semifinals at their halfway marks, the underdogs are on course to complete their improbable runs.

The stunning thing about fourth-tier Bradford City was not that they took a two-goal lead out of the first leg. They were the better side. Aston Villa is a Premier League team which, while struggling at the top level, should have no problem at least holding their ground over an initial 90 minutes.

Yet the same Villa we’ve seen try to play themselves into the Championship showed up on Tuesday. Goals by Nahki Wells and Rory McArdle had Bradford up two after 77 minutes, and while an Andres Wiemann goal seemed to salvage a workable road deficit, Carl McHugh’s late tally restored Bradford’s 3-1 lead.

As embarrassing as the result is, it’s not unworkable. Bradford are still a League Two side, albeit a decent one. Aston Villa are still a far superior Premier League side, albeit a bad one. Villa should be able to post a lopsided result in their home leg, but having won only once in their last six (beating a Championship side in the FA Cup), it’s foolish to assume too much from Paul Lambert’s team.

We’re getting to the point where Villa may have to make a change. If Paul Lambert can’t get his team past a League Two side, it doesn’t speak well for his ability to accomplish the ultimate goal: Surviving the Premier League.

Yet this team may have gone through too many coaching changes since Martin O’Neill left at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. Kevin MacDonald, Gerard Houllier, Gary McAllister, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert – I’m including the caretakers just to underscore how many different faces players like Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ciaran Clark have had to take instructions from over the last two-plus years. Add in O’Neill (who was still around in the fall of `10) and that’s six different men prodding the underachieving squad. Will adding a seventh name to the list really solve the problem?

Take Chelsea, for example. As you may have heard (ad nauseam over the past three months), the European champions changed managers earlier this season. Out went Roberto Di Matteo, himself a mid-season replacement the previous season, and in came Rafa Benítez.

Results have been mixed. While the Chelsea ended 2012 on a four-game winning streak, they began the year with a home loss to QPR. After an impressive FA Cup win at Southampton this weekend, the Blues lost at home today, 2-0 to Swansea City.

Chelsea looked very good in the first half but still went into intermission down a goal after a defensive mistake by Branislav Ivanovic allowed Michu to put Swans in front. In the second half, another Ivanovic mistake let Danny Graham double Swans’ lead, Swansea taking a 2-0 win out of Stamford Bridge.

It was a strange game because Chelsea didn’t play that bad, particularly after Demba Ba came on for Fernando Torres. He had a goal waved off for offsides and drew a yellow card when he was judged to have drove when trying to round the keeper. But he was influential, and Chelsea were close to getting on the board.

Yet with a team that has Chelsea’s talents, there shouldn’t be the need for asterisks – the rationalizing for poor results in terms of a progress this group should never have had to make. This inconsistent world they inhabit under Rafa Benítez is inexplicable. Whatever Chelsea is doing to succeed against Aston Villa and Southampton needs to be harnessed and implemented against QPR and Swansea.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Chelsea’s not the first inconsistent team ever, but the challenge remains the same. How does Benítez get them to be good Chelsea more often?

He doesn’t know. He’s only been on the job a couple of months. Perhaps he’ll eventually find out, but by the time he does, his team may be out of the League Cup and further mired in a fight for a Champions League spot.

There’s also the chance they’ll be headed to Wembley. When Chelsea goes to the Liberty Stadium for their second leg, they may play like the team that crushed Saints at St. Marys. And if they do, they’ll eliminate Swansea, move on to the final, and hope Dr. Hyde shows up against Bradford (or Villa).

Latest Posts
  1. Sherwood says Villa’s win over West Brom is better than hitting the lottery

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:04 PM EST

    465175576 Getty Images

    “My missus said to me she had done the Euro lottery – a £54m jackpot – but I said I’d take three points all day.”

  2. 2015 MLS season preview: Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    Sporting KC logo

    Re-tooled, re-loaded and deeper than ever before, Sporting KC look set for a huge 2015 campaign.

  3. WATCH: Premier League live online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 28

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    Live Extra

    How to watch all of Wednesday’s games live online or via the app.

  4. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s Cup, Liverpool’s big win and Mix Diskerud guests

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:14 PM EST

    meninblazers

    Raising the Capital One Cuppity Cup Cup may just be the first title for the Blues.

  5. 2015 MLS season preview: FC Dallas

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    FC Dallas logo

    “El Profe” is back for year No. 2 in Dallas, and things are looking even better than last year’s successes.

  6. Samir Nasri: I would like to play in MLS

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:39 AM EST

    Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The Manchester City midfielder said he would like to follow in the steps of fellow-Frenchman Thierry Henry and one day play in America.

  7. Top 10 returning players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Jaime Penedo AP

    Who’s the best from a loaded pack of returnees?

  8. Tottenham hoping to hold Harry Kane out of Euro U21 Championship

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:43 AM EST

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Final Getty Images

    Spurs want their star striker to rest over the summer, rather than compete for the England U21 side.

  9. The Western Conference will continue to dominate MLS, and we all know it

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    LA Galaxy, 2014 MLS Cup Getty Images

    West is best, and we all know it. 2015 will be no different that 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and so on.

  10. Wednesday’s Premier League Preview: Seven games in action-packed matchday

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-QPR Getty Images

    From league leaders to bottom feeders, points are up for grabs all across England today.

  11. Report: Manchester United will not keep Radamel Falcao after this season

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:29 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-BURNLEY Getty Images

    With his loan deal up at the end of the season, reports state Radamel Falcao will not return to Manchester next year.

  12. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Chelsea

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:50 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST HAM Getty Images

    The Hammers are winless in their last five Premier League games and face a Chelsea side coming off their first trophy of the season.

  13. An open letter as Major League Soccer teeters on the brink of a work stoppage

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:26 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    We want to watch games this weekend. We’re not interested in the rationale. Find a way to get us your product.

  14. WATCH: Incredible 60-yard pass leads Montreal ouster of Pachuca in CONCACAF Champions League

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    @EtienneLyon @EtienneLyon

    Montreal has ensured that Major League Soccer will have at least one semifinalist in this season’s CONCACAF Champions League after a year out of the final four,

  15. Making the case for the Eastern Conference as a better option

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Joze Altidore AP

    Oh MLS: What fun is there in following the narrative?

  16. I Was There: Austin Gooners have their best singing voices ready for Everton

    Mar 3, 2015, 8:40 PM EST

    Austin Gooners

    If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or NBC Sports Soccer on Twitter on Facebook using the #IWasThere.”

  17. 2015 MLS season preview: Vancouver Whitecaps

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:47 PM EST

    vancouver_whitecaps

    Vancouver may be missing that huge, huge name but is solid top-to-bottom.

  18. 2015 MLS season preview: Colorado Rapids

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids logo

    It could be a dark year in Commerce City, but don’t forget that this was a promising young team that floundered last year.

  19. VIDEO: Tim Sherwood thinks Villa found turning point in dramatic 2-1 win

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:47 PM EST

    Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    The brash Englishman is happy to call the win a turning point for his club, which moves out of the relegation zone for the time being.

  20. Tuesday’s Premier League roundup: Saints, Villa win; Hull, Sunderland draw (video)

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:28 PM EST

    Videos, recaps, analysis and more from the three PL games during Week 28 on Tuesday.