Six of the best: Carling Cup semi-finals

We know you’re looking forward to the game tonight, come on, whet your appetite.

THE LEAGUE CUP has undergone something of a renaissance period over the the last ten years.

Once, under a different sponsor, it was branded the Worthless Cup by football fans, and the teams who aspired to win it were generally derided for chasing a cheap route into European football.

In fact, the only way you could win the cup and retain dignity was to send out the under 14′s and hope for the best.That all changed when Jose Mourinho came along.That greedy auld bugger wanted to win every trophy he set his magpie-ish eyes on. So, with Chelsea cruising towards the league title in 2005, the Carling Cup started to bubble up nicely.

It’s two-legged format makes the semi-final the most interesting stage of the competition. Suddenly English clubs are forced to adjust to playing a continental style; the ‘romance’ of a one-off cup tie was put aside for a more pragmatic approach in the away fixture. That was the plan anyway.

Here are our favourite semi-finals from the past decade.

2005 semi-final, second leg: Man Utd 1 – 2 Chelsea

This was the beginning of the competiitions revaluing. Though United’s powers were on the wane, they somehow held on for a first leg stalemate against the imperious Blues. So it all rested on the return fixture at Old Trafford.

It’s an extended highlights package, so unless you are keen to relive the glory of Claude Makelele, the goals start coming around the 4.30 mark.

YouTube credit: 2010landcruiser

2004 semi-final, first leg: Bolton 5 – 2 Aston Villa.

Of course, Mourinho didn’t invent football (contrary to his Wikipedia page) and good matches existed before his arrival. Jay Jay Okocha was on his last legs in England, but he still managed to turn on the style here.

YouTube credit: angelaily

2011 semi-final, second leg: Birmingham 3 – 1 West Ham

Last year’s semi was a real humdinger too. With the help of an ultra funky backing track, Birmingham overcome a first leg deficit to win with a dramatic extra-time goal from Craig Gardener. The now-homesick Sunderland player’s strike was made all the more dramatic because he had already earlier been denied by the inside of the post - twice.

Third time’s a charm

YouTube Credit: zulublusue

2007 semi-final, first leg: Spurs 2 – 2 Arsenal

Julio Baptista had a big say in 2007. In the quarter final he scored four times as Arsenal beat liverpool 6-3 at Anfield.

In the next round he scored three at White Hart Lane; the first was an own goal which pushed Spurs into a 2-0 lead. He would later singled handedly pull the Gunners back into it and they went on to lose against Chelsea in Cardiff.

Spurs were not done, though. Almost exactly a year later they would exact sweet revenge with a 5-1, second leg victory down at the Lane.

YouTube credit: tarek17fnideq

2010 semi-final, second leg: Man Utd 3 – 1 Man City.

Carlos Tevez (remember him) was the star of the show across this tie. His brace goals at Eastlands gave City a 2-1 lead to protect as they travelled across town. Tevez would grab another to narrow United’s two goal lead. At 3-3 on aggregate the game was headed for extra time.

YouTube credit: ManUtdBot

2010 semi-final, second leg: Aston Villa 6 – 4 Blackburn.

If it’s goals you want, you’d do well to better 2010′s other semi-final. Villa took a 1-0 lead into their home fixture but soon found themselves trailing Blackburn by two Niko Kalinic goals. Those goals however, only woke the beast from it’s slumber and Rovers were forced to reap the whirlwind.

YouTube credit: LeagueCupGoals

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