Five cup final upsets that give Sunderland hope vs Manchester City

Jake: 'do the business, Vito'
Jake: ‘do the business, Vito’

Every so often, we get the sniff of beer money for the wonderful fellow Sunderland supporters who toil cheerfully at the Salut! Sunderland coalface to produce artciels and images out of the goodness of their hearts. This is such an occasion and Monsieur Salut reckons it’s the turn of Goldy and Gareth, the podcast wizards, to profit. Let Dan Fitch* take up the story …

With Sunderland fighting against relegation and Manchester City battling for the title, it’s no surprise that it’s Manuel Pellegrini’s side that are heavy favourites for Sunday’s league cup final.

Manchester City trade at just 1.17 at Betfair to win the Capital One Cup, with Sunderland the outsiders at 6.2, but that doesn’t mean that Gus Poyet’s team doesn’t stand a chance. League Cup history is littered with shock results in the final. Here are five League Cup upsets that will make Sunderland supporters believe they can beat Manchester City.


5. 1969 – Swindon Town 3 Arsenal 1

The first major League Cup shock came in 1969 when Third Division minnows Swindon Town beat the might of First Division Arsenal.

Arsenal had been runners-up in the competition the previous year, losing to Leeds, but would have expected to blow away lower league opposition. Yet the odds started to even out as a bout of flu in the Arsenal camp robbed the favourites of eight players and the Wembley pitch was reduced to a quagmire having hosted the Horse of the Year show the previous week.

Indeed, it was Swindon that took a first-half lead when Roger Smart capitalised on a mix up in the Arsenal defence. That goal looked like it was going to be the match-winner, until Bobby Gould equalised for Arsenal in the 86th minute.

The game went into extra time but Swindon were not to be denied. Don Rogers restored The Robins’ lead in the 104th minute and then scored again five minutes later, as Swindon took advantage of Arsenal’s frantic attempts to level the scores.

4. 1980 – Wolves 1 Nottingham Forest 0

In 1980 Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side were looking to complete a hat-trick of League Cup wins, having defeated Liverpool and Southampton in the previous two finals. Forest were also the European Cup holders so they were naturally the heavy favourites against a Wolves side that had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season.

Wolves were put under pressure from the off, but their goalkeeper Paul Bradshaw kept them in it and the match went into half-time at 0-0. In the second-half Wolves started to create their own chances and took the lead in the 67th minute when Andy Gray took advantage of a collision between David Needham and Peter Shilton.

Forest pressed for an equaliser but Wolves held firm. The dream of a League Cup hat-trick was over for Clough and his team, though they would end the season on a high with a second successive European Cup win.

3. 1987 – Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1

Arsenal beating Liverpool might not seem like much of a shock result these days but put in historical context, it was just that. The Gunners had not won a trophy since the 1979 FA Cup final, while Liverpool were the dominant force in English football and had won their first League and FA Cup double the previous season.

It seemed as if Liverpool were going to add another trophy to their collection when Ian Rush gave them an early lead. At the time Liverpool had famously never lost a match in which Rush had scored.

Yet Arsenal were not in the mood to be spooked by this statistic. Charlie Nicholas equalised to level the scores going into half-time and scored again with seven minutes of the match remaining to secure a trophy in George Graham’s first season at the club. It was to be the first of many as a major football power shift took place.

2. 1991 – Sheffield Wednesday 1 Manchester United 0

Winning the FA Cup in 1990 saved Alex Ferguson’s job and set Manchester United on a path to greatness. There were hiccups along the way though and Second Division Sheffield Wednesday caused a major upset in 1991.

Managed by Ferguson’s predecessor Ron Atkinson, Wednesday would win a promotion and League Cup double in the 1990-91 season. The game was won by a first-half goal from John Sheridan – a boyhood United fan, raised in the streets of Stretford.

Wednesday’s after-match celebrations went down in history, as Yorkshire Television decided to cut away from Wembley in order to broadcast War of the Monster Trucks. Manchester United would recover from this blow to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup in ’91.

1. 2011 – Birmingham City 2 Arsenal 1

Arsenal’s long wait for a trophy looked to be over when they reached the League Cup final in 2011. Their opponents Birmingham would go on to be relegated that season, yet they gave their long-suffering fans something to cheer for and inflicted more misery upon the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger’s side fired 20 shots at Birmgham’s goal but were left frustrated by the performance of man-of-the-match Ben Foster. The game would go into half-time tied, as Birmingham took the lead when Nikola Zigic headed home, before Arsenal equalised through Robin van Persie.

In the second-half both sides hit the woodwork and the game looked to be heading for extra-time, until a terrible error in the Arsenal defence gifted victory to Birmingham in the 89th minute, as Obafemi Martins was presented with an open goal.

* Dan Fitch is counted among Salut! Sunderland’s friends, having graced these pages in a past ‘Who are You?’ prior to a match against his beloved Tottenham Hotspur. This is a sponsored piece, published because it is relevant and interesting, in collaboration with Dan’s clients, Betfair.

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