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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 1 October, 2014

Brian Stein etc: The five best League Cup finals

If this list proves anything, it’s that the 1990s was a bad decade for the season’s first piece of silverware…

Image: Martin Cleaver/AP/Press Association Images

2011: Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham

A MATCH THAT, arguably, still reverberates around North London.

Arsenal were second in the Premier League at the time, only four points behind Manchester United, and seemed to have their first trophy in six years in their sights when Robin van Persie volleyed home to equalise Nikola Zigic’s opener.

Not so. A royal mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny let in Obafemi Martins to tap home in the final minute, and Alex McLeish had led his pedestrian charges to the first major trophy of the season.

Arsenal would go on to pick up just 12 points from a possible 33, sinking to fourth and barely claiming a Champions League spot.



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2008: Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea

Notable for being the first League Cup final to be held at the ‘new Wembley,’ before it reverted to being called ‘just Wembley.’

Chelsea, managed at the time by Avram Grant, took the lead through Didier Drogba’s excellent first half free-kick but the second half was all about Tottenham.

Wayne Bridge, a footballer in those days, handled in the box and Dimitar Berbatov converted the penalty. Jonathan Woodgate would score the winner when he headed at Petr Cech, the goalkeeper saving but Woodgate firing in the rebound.

It was a glorious moment in an otherwise mediocre season for Spurs, who would finish 11th in the Premier League. Chelsea would finish as runners-up twice more, to Manchester United in the Champions League and Premier League, and Grant was shown the door.



YouTube credit: Kevinfds

2005: Liverpool 2-3 Chelsea

Famous for being the game in which Antonio Nunez scored for… Well, not really, but it was a cracker. John Arne Riise put Liverpool into an early lead that lasted all the way to the 79th minute, when Steven Gerrard scored what, at the time, was being billed as his first goal for Chelsea.

The Reds captain’s own goal took the game into extra-time, with Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman helping Jose Mourinho to claim his first trophy as Blues manager. Nunez late, close-range effort was but a consolation.

Chelsea would go on to win the league for the first time since 1955, but Liverpool achieved arguably the greater feat that May, in Istanbul.



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2001: Birmingham 1-1 Liverpool (Liverpool win on pens)

Liverpool were favoured heavily going into the 2001 final against Birmingham City and Robbie Fowler got his side off to the perfect start, volleying brilliantly past Ian Bennett in the Blues goal.

The score stayed the same until the 90th minute when Stephane Henchoz was adjudged to have fouled Martin O’Connor. Darren Purse scored the penalty to send supporters of Trevor Francis’ side into raptures.

Thirty goalless minutes of extra-time later, and we had penalties. Martin Grainger and Dietmar Hamann missed their kicks to take it into sudden death, with Andy Johnson ultimately handing the first of three trophies that season to Liverpool.

Gerard Houllier’s side would go on to win both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup that season, while Birmingham would swap Johnson for Clinton Morrison. Bright move.



YouTube credit: BCFCArchive

1988: Luton 3-2 Arsenal

Arguably the greatest League Cup final of all time would see Luton spring a massive surprise, beating George Graham’s strongly fancied Gunners at Wembley.

Brian Stein gave Luton – managed by Ray Harford – the lead but they were put back in their box when Martin Hayes and Alan Smith put the Gunners 2-1 ahead.

Danny Wilson would equalise for Luton with just eight minutes remaining, before Stein made himself a hero to every Luton fan in the last minute.



YouTube credit: NobbyDVD

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