Bradford City 3 Aston Villa 1
City's unbelievable cup exploits continued as they defeated Premier League mainstays Aston Villa in The Capital One Cup Semi-Final First Leg to give themselves more than a fighting chance of reaching the Wembley final.
The Bantams face a tough task at Villa Park in the Second Leg but goals from Nahki Wells, Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh have given Phil Parkinson' men the upper hand for the time being at least.
Villa started brightly, putting City on the back foot early on. Charles N'Zogbia alerted everybody on his own ability when he wormed he way across the pitch past a number of Claret & Amber shirts to force a smart save from Matt Duke with a firm low drive.
Andreas Weimann was played in behind and his attempted shot was blocked behind for a corner by Curtis Good. From the resulting corner, Villa should've gone in front. Barry Bannan's corner fell invitingly for Christian Benteke who headed narrowly wide after stealing away from his marker.
Moments later, the Belgium international had a chance to redeem himself when Bannan picked him out from a corner once more, but again he couldn't find the target as he powered a header wide at the near post.
Former Bradford and Leeds youngster Fabian Delph found the run of Benteke with a neat through pass but his angled shot was foiled by Matt Duke.
Against the run of play somewhat, City went ahead. Gary Jones' corner was cleared as far as Zavon Hines whose powerful strike from outside the area deflected into the path of Nahki Wells who beat the offside trap to pass the ball past Shay Given from inside the area to send the stadium into rapturous celebrations.
Christian Benteke was the centre of the vast majority of Villa's attacking play and his eyes lit up when he roamed into space outside the area to hit a venomous drive towards goal. Matt Duke, however, was equal to the effort and pushed the ball behind for a corner kick.
The Bantams almost doubled their lead shortly after when James Hanson met Gary Jones' corner with a powerful header that beat Shay Given but was headed off the line by Fabian Delph.
Matt Duke made a vital save to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor just before the break and keep City's one goal lead in tact. Charles N'Zogbia had too much power and pace for Curtis Good as he got the better of him to race towards the byline, his cross was cleared as far as Agbonlahor who tested Duke with a first time shot from 15 yards.
Seconds into the second half and Agbonlahor was at it again; a long ball forward fell into the path of the former England U21 forward who was denied by Duke and the loose ball fell to Benteke who saw his attempt saved by the legs of Duke.
Christian Benteke almost made up for his earlier 'off target' headers by equalising when he met Bannan's cross with a powerful header, but it was Matt Duke to the rescue yet again as he produced a point blank save to deny The Belgian.
Carl McHugh went close with a header of his own when he headed Gary Jones' corner narrowly over the bar.
Substitute Darren Bent wasted a glorious equalising opportunity shortly after his introduction; Fabian Delph's cross deflected invitingly into his path but a rush of blood saw Bent blaze a fierce strike over the bar when he looked certain to at least test Matt Duke.
Gary Jones' corner following Wells' deflected shot, was headed clear but the ball was worked back to Jones who made no mistake with the second bite of the cherry; his delivery was inch perfect and was met by McArdle who thundered a header past Shay Given from close range to give City a two goal lead against their Premier League opponents.
Almost instantly from the restart Blair Turgott produced a cross that was met by a diving header from James Hanson, the effort had Given beaten but clipped the crossbar and went behind to safety as The Bantams looked to punish the visitors even further.
Five minutes later, Villa had a lifeline as they scored to get back into the contest. A long ball forward was not defended by City and Andreas Weimann latched onto the loose ball to loop it over Matt Duke.
City defended well against the resurgent sea of Green shirts backed by their noisier than ever supporters in the Midland Road stand, and they grabbed a late third goal in the 89th minute through Carl McHugh. Gary Jones' deep corner was attacked expertly by the young Irishman who powered a header into the top corner and give The Bantams a two goal lead heading into the second leg in Birmingham in a fortnight.