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Dublin: 18 °C Saturday 23 June, 2018

Here are the 5 best League Cup finals of all time

Swansea and Bradford City face each other at Wembley tomorrow. Let’s hope it all goes a little something like this…

Luton Town celebrate their win over Arsenal in 1988.
Luton Town celebrate their win over Arsenal in 1988.
Image: Martin Cleaver/AP/Press Association Images

Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal (1988)

THIS ONE HAD everything. A pulsating Wembley atmosphere, the commentary team of Brian Moore and David Pleat, glorious sunshine and Steve Foster’s hairband. Brian Stein put Luton ahead after 13 minutes. Martin Hayes (yes, THE Martin Hayes) and Alan Smith (no, not THAT Alan Smith) turned the match on its head inside a couple of second half minutes and it looked like the Gunners would take the first silverware of the season.

Enter Andy Dibble. Dibble, better known for conceding a rather dubious goal to Nottingham Forest’s Gary Crosby, saved a penalty from Nigel Winterburn and kept the deficit to just a single goal. Stein then crossed for Danny Wilson to head the equaliser past John Lukic on 82 minutes.

The game was heading for extra-time until man-of-the-match Stein, fouled by Tony Adams, took the trophy with a late free-kick. It was to be the finest moment in Luton’s history.

(YouTube credit: NobbyDVD)

Manchester United 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday (1991)

Sheffield Wednesday were a Second Division side and without a trophy in the post-war era when they met Alex Ferguson’s emerging United side at Wembley in what was then the Rumbelows Cup Final.

Managed by former United boss Ron Atkinson in a season where they would also gain promotion back to the top flight, Wednesday took the game to a United side featuring the likes of Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Lee Sharpe. The deadlock was broken by Irish midfielder John Sheridan in the 37th minute – a fierce drive that beat Les Sealey off the post – and the underdogs held firm, with club captain Nigel Pearson lifting the trophy.

(YouTube credit: tikabooson)

Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool (2005)

Affectionately known as The Antonio Nunez Final.

OK, not really, but this was an absolute cracker in both Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez’s first seasons in English football. John Arne Riise’s volley gave the Reds the lead just 45 seconds into the match, and it looked like the first trophy of the season would be going back to Merseyside until Steven Gerrard accidentally headed Paulo Ferreira’s free-kick past his own goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, on 80 minutes.

(Cue lots of ‘Gerrard scores his first goal for Chelsea’ jibes, given the Liverpool captain was heavily expected to leave Anfield for Stamford Bridge that summer.)

The match went into extra-time and Chelsea took control with strikes from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman, before Nunez’ only notable contribution in a season in England, a close range headed consolation minutes from the whistle.

This was notable for being the first Chelsea trophy under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, while Liverpool would go on to beat the London side on the way to winning the Champions League in dramatic fashion three months later.

(YouTube credit: silentalarmactiv8)

Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea (2008)

It’s easy to forget that Juande Ramos actually won a trophy with Tottenham, given the fact that his reign ended so badly the following season with just two points from the club’s opening eight fixtures.

The side that took on Chelsea in the first final to be played at the newly refurbished Wembley Stadium was led by the brilliant partnership of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, while that season the Blues would go on to contest, and lose, the Champions League final against Manchester United.

Chelsea took the lead in the 37th minute when a Didier Drogba free-kick made him the first player to score in three League Cup finals, but Tottenham – and Keane and Berbatov in particular – were running the show.

A penalty was awarded to Spurs when Wayne Bridge handled in the box, Berbatov stepping up to beat Petr Cech from the spot, and the match went to extra-time. The destination of the trophy was decided when Jermaine Jenas’ free-kick was palmed on to the head of Jonathan Woodgate by Cech, and the North London side had their first trophy in nine years.

(YouTube credit: MSRFish)

Cardiff City 2-2 Liverpool (2012)

Billed as the battle of the Gerrards, Liverpool captain Steven would come head-to-head with his younger cousin and Cardiff defender Anthony in last year’s final at Wembley.

Liverpool’s league form under Kenny Dalglish could kindly have been described as stop-start, but there was no arguing with the Premier League side’s Cup form as they would go on to face Chelsea in the FA Cup Final a couple of months later.

Championship side Cardiff started one of the biggest games in the club’s history in dramatic fashion, with Irish U21 striker Joe Mason slotting through the legs of Pepe Reina to put the Welsh side 1-0 up. Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez teamed up to fashion Liverpool’s equaliser in the 60th minute, the Uruguayan’s header coming off the post and Martin Skrtel following up to equalise.

Dirk Kuyt would turn from hero to villain in extra-time. The Dutchman would take advantage of a rebound to shoot past Tom Heaton and give Liverpool a 2-1 lead, but he allowed the impressive Ben Turner to beat him from a corner and the match went to penalties.

Liverpool’s first penalty was taken by Gerrard and saved by Heaton, before Reina managed to level proceedings by denying Kenny Miller. Another miss from Charlie Adam handed Cardiff the advantage when Don Cowie scored, but the Reds prevailed. Kuyt, Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson would all score from the spot, while Rudy Gestede and Anthony Gerrard’s misses meant heartbreak for Malky Mackay and company.

(YouTube credit: kLFCreds2)

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