By ROB HARRIS
2013-01-23 06:24 AM
With players signed for barely 7,500 pounds ($12,000), Bradford held on for a 4-3 aggregate victory after losing the League Cup semifinal second leg 2-1 at Villa Park.
"It's dreamland," Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said. "We said tonight we had a chance to make history and we have done it."
Bradford has plummeted down the football pyramid while enduring financial turmoil since 2001, and is now the lowest-ranked former Premier League side, sitting 10th in England's lowest professional division.
"What this means to the club and the city is tremendous," Parkinson said.
While Bradford's only major success came by winning the 1911 FA Cup, Villa has not only won the League Cup five times, but also both the English championship and FA Cup seven times and the European Cup once.
But reaching the semifinals was no fluke for the Bradford players who have already conquered Premier League sides Wigan and Arsenal in this remarkable season.
Yet, it was a nervy night initially for the history-makers in Birmingham after the hosts looked on course to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit when Christian Benteke scored just before half time.
But James Hanson headed Bradford level 10 minutes after the break and Andreas Weimann's 89th-minute goal for Villa came too late to spark a comeback.
Not since Rochdale in 1962 has a fourth-division side reached the League Cup final _ in fact any major English final _ though back then not all the top teams entered the competition.
Now Bradford will play Chelsea or Swansea in the final at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 24, with a Europa League place awaiting the winner. Swansea holds a 2-0 lead over Chelsea heading into Wednesday's second leg.
"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."
The humiliating loss is the latest chapter in a wretched season for Villa, which is a point and a place above the Premier League relegation zone.
Villa is owned by American billionaire Randy Lerner.