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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 5 hours ago
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Feb 25, 2011

Six of the best: League Cup finals

Since its inception in 1961, the League Cup has been known by many guises - Milk Cup, Littlewoods Challenge Cup, Coca-Cola Cup, Rumbelows Cup, Worthington Cup, Carling Cup - the competition has provided numerous classic finals.

• Brewin: Carling Cup Final preview

Here, ESPNsoccernet runs down six of the best from history, ahead of the clash between Arsenal and Birmingham this weekend.

Aston Villa 3-2 Rotherham (1961)

Second Division side Rotherham almost caused a major upset in the first ever League Cup final as they beat First Division Aston Villa 2-0 in the first-leg. Barry Webster and Alan Kirkman put the Millers on the verge of a major upset but, due to fixture congestion, the club were made to wait until the start of the following season for their return leg.

After a first-half that ended 0-0, Rotherham looked like they might have pulled off a shock, but two goals inside two minutes from Alan O'Neill and Harry Burrows levelled the tie. Extra time was forced, but there was only ever going to be one victor as Peter McParland scored the winner to claim the trophy for Villa.

QPR 3-2 West Brom (1967)

The first final to be held as a single event - previous finals following the competition's formation in 1961 had been held over two legs - the Wembley showpiece did not disappoint. The famous stadium had hosted the World Cup final a year earlier and when top-flight West Brom took a 2-0 lead over Third Division QPR, thanks to two goals from Clive Clark against his old side, many thought that they would go on to finish the job.

However, the comeback began as Roger Moran headed home in the 63rd minute and one of the most memorable goals in the competition's history levelled the scores just 12 minutes later. Rodney Marsh dribbled through the Baggies' defence, eluding countless tackles on his way, before sliding his shot past goalkeeper Dick Sheppard and in off the post. With spirits high, QPR pushed on and, with nine minutes left, centre-half Ron Hunt challenged Sheppard and the ball broke for Mark Lazarus to smash home the winner.

QPR had scored three goals in 20 second-half minutes to turn the tie on its head, and they became the first Third Division side to win a major trophy, although were not allowed to enter the Fairs Cup due to their league status.

Swindon Town 3-1 Arsenal (1969)

Two years later, one of the biggest League Cup shocks of all time came as First Division side Arsenal, who had been losing finalists a year earlier, were beaten by Third Division Swindon. With torrential rain making the pitch a quagmire and Arsenal's players still suffering the effects of a flu outbreak that had forced them to postpone their league match a week earlier, Swindon sensed an opportunity, but were chasing shadows for most of the game against their more experienced opponents.

Against the run of play, Roger Smart scored for Swindon after capitalising on a defensive lapse by the Gunners, and the underdogs kept the scoreline at 1-0 until the 86th minute when the excellent goalkeeper Peter Downsborough spilled a ball into the path of Bobby Gould, who headed the equaliser.

Incredibly, it was Swindon who then took the bull by the horns in extra-time as Don Rogers coolly slotted home in the first period after Arsenal had failed to clear a corner. Rogers then wrote himself into history by rounding Bob Wilson in the 109th minute after a long ball had caught the Gunners' defence flatfooted and sealing an historic 3-1 win for their only major cup triumph.

Manchester City 2-1 Newcastle (1976)

Notable as the last time that Manchester City won a trophy, the game is best remembered for what is widely considered to be the finest goal ever scored in a League Cup final.

Teenage winger Peter Barnes gave City the lead after 11 minutes as a long free-kick was not cleared by the Newcastle defence and he latched onto a bouncing ball to fire home from close range, although the Magpies were back level by half-time as Alan Gowling finished from six yards out after a low Malcolm Macdonald cross. But, with just a minute gone in the second half, Dennis Tueart scored with a spectacular bicycle kick as the ball was headed back across by Tommy Booth, to put City ahead again.

Tueart called the goal "the greatest of my career", although possibly because it was against the side he had supported as a boy, and it would go down in history - as did City boss Tony Book, who became the first to win the competition as both a player and a manager.

Nottingham Forest 3-2 Southampton (1979)

Every good final needs a good story to go along with it and they don't come better than this one. Forest were favourites to win as they had already picked up the League Cup and First Division championship in the previous year and manager Brian Clough evidently thought they could do with more of a test.

As legend has it, Ol' Big 'Ed locked his side in a room together on the eve before the game, forcing them to finish a crate of champagne for reasons best known to himself. Saints were 1-0 up at half-time thanks to a goal from David Peach, before a second-half revival saw Garry Birtles and Tony Woodcock put Forest in control before a late consolation from Nick Holmes.

Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool (2005)

Early on in the English careers of Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho, Cardiff's Millennium stadium provided them with their first chance to win silverware as the new Wembley was still being built.

It was the first meeting in a cup final between the two sides and the game could not have got off to a better start as John Arne Riise's tremendous volley gave Liverpool the lead after 42 seconds - a League Cup record. It stayed that way until, with ten minutes to go, Reds skipper Steven Gerrard headed a long free-kick into his own net and Mourinho, ever the agitator, put his finger to his lips and 'hushed' the Liverpool fans, before being sent to the stands.

Without their boss, Chelsea continued their momentum into extra time, as Didier Drogba used his strength to nudge home from close range after a long throw to give Chelsea the lead. Mateja Kezman then stabbed the ball over the line (just) from a similar distance five minutes later and, although Antonio Nunez did hit back within a minute, it was not enough to deny Mourinho his first trophy in England.

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