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Five League Cup comebacks

20 January 2014

We take a look at five of the best League Cup comebacks

Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal – Final, April 1988

Luton Town and Arsenal finished the 1987/88 First Division season separated by only three places but, as the defending League Cup champions, the Gunners were strong favourites. 

Luton took an early lead through Brian Stein, holding the advantage for 58 minutes before Martin Hayes levelled for Arsenal. Striker Alan Smith then pounced three minutes later to give George Graham’s side a 2-1 lead with only a quarter of an hour remaining.

But the Hatters, seeking their first major trophy, scored in the 82nd minute to make it 2-2, before Stein registered his second of the match with under a minute left to play and give Town a last-gasp 3-2 victory. 

Aston Villa 3-2 Rotherham United – Final (two legs), August-September 1961

Hosting the first leg at Millmoor, Second Division side Rotherham United were facing Aston Villa, of the First Division, in the inaugural League Cup Final.

Despite the teams finishing the season 24 places apart in the pyramid, the Millers won the first leg 2-0 thanks to two goals in five minutes from Barry Webster and Alan Kirkman. 

Returning to Villa Park the following month, the second leg had just 23 minutes to run when Alan O’Neill reduced the deficit. Two minutes later, Harry Burrows scored for Villa to force extra-time.

In the days of no substitutions, legs were starting to fatigue but Peter McParland popped up with the winner for Villa to secure their first ever League Cup. 

Watford 2-3 Norwich – Round 3, September 2013

A minor upset was on the cards when goals from Javier Acuna and Marco Faraoni put Championship representatives Watford 2-0 up against the Premier League’s Norwich City in their Round 3 clash.

The Hornets held onto their lead for over 20 minutes, but a Josh Murphy strike and a 95th-minute Gary Hooper leveller sent the tie at Vicarage Road into extra-time.

Hooper’s second of the match, on 115 minutes, ensured the Premier League side advanced into the last-16.

Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion – Final, March 1967

Two-legged Finals were a feature of the League Cup’s first six seasons, but in 1967 the trophy was decided over one match, competed between Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion at Wembley Stadium.

Just under 98,000 fans packed inside the national arena - 1,000 more than the number that had watched England win the 1966 World Cup seven months earlier.

QPR were a Third Division team, going on to win the title that season, but were up against First Division club West Brom, who showed their higher league status by going 2-0 up inside 36 minutes.

Rangers hit back with three goals in 18 second-half minutes, the last arriving with only nine to go, shocking their opponents in one of the greatest ever League Cup Finals. 

Reading 5-7 Arsenal – Round 4, October 2012

The two Premier League sides came together at Reading’s Madejski Stadium with many people predicting it was Arsenal’s tie to lose. After 37 minutes, Arsene Wenger’s side looked destined for defeat, with the Royals 4-0 up and coasting to victory. Even Theo Walcott’s goal just before half-time, to make it 4-1, barely registered. 

Olivier Giroud made it 4-2 just after the hour-mark, which is how it remained until the 89th minute when a Laurent Koscielny header brought Arsenal to within one goal. Four minutes into injury-time, Theo Walcott’s second levelled the match up and extra-time was needed to settle the thriller.

In the additional half an hour, Maroune Chamakh put Arsenal 5-4 in front before Pavel Pogrebnyak equalised to make it 5-5. Penalties looked certain, but Walcott had other ideas and completed his hat-trick to restore the Gunners' advantage.

Chamakh grabbed a second to complete Arsenal's comeback and their passage into Round 5, and wrap up one of the most riveting League Cup matches ever.

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