Arsenal agony features in five of the best League Cup finals

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Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side may head into this Sunday’s Capital One Cup final as firm favourites for victory but they need only look at past failures for Arsenal and Manchester United to see there is potential for an upset.

City can be backed at 3/10 to win the game but with Sunderland fresh from a two-legged victory over the Red Devils and 9/1 for a shock victory, stranger things have happened, with the game also 4/1 to be level come the end of 90 minutes with Ladbrokes.

If punters need any inspiration as to why the Black Cats could prove a lucky pick, they need only look at these famous five finals.

1988:  Luton Town celebrate with the trophy after their League Cup Final victory against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium in London. Luton won the match 3-2.  Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal (1988)

Luton look set for a Football League return, but for now fans can console themselves with memories of the 1988 League Cup. Going into the game the Hatters were outsiders against holders Arsenal but when club legend Brian Stein gave them an early lead, the Kenilworth Road club were on course for an upset.

The Gunners weren’t going down without a fight though and hit back in three devastating second-half minutes to go 2-1 up with just over 15 minutes left on the clock.

The cup looked to be heading back to north London when David Rocastle then won a penalty for Arsenal, but keeper Andy Dibble saved Nigel Winterburn’s spot-kick to keep Luton in the game.

With seven minutes remaining an error from defender Gus Caesar left Stein clear to cross for Danny Wilson who levelled the scores and Stein’s star turn was completed in the 90th minute with a free kick that lives long in the memory of most Luton fans.

Undated:  Portrait of Ron Atkinson, Manager of Aston Villa.  Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United (1994)

The Red Devils may have claimed a historic Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble in 1999 but they have never come closer to collecting a trio of domestic honours than in 1994.

Aston Villa were widely written off after a run of three defeats going into this Wembley encounter. Their chances of victory looked even less likely after Alex Ferguson opted to field a full strength side, with the only exception being Les Sealey in place of Peter Schmeichel.

What the Scot didn’t account for though was the canny nous of opposite number Ron Atkinson. Adopting a 4-5-1 formation that relied on counter-attacking play, Big Ron’s secret weapon was comedian Stan Boardman, who was drafted in to ease nerves on the team bus and in the dressing room.

It did the trick as Villa went 1-0 up by half-time through Dalian Atkinson before Dean Saunders added a second with 15 minutes to go. Mark Hughes pulled one back for United but Villa were not to be denied and sealed victory with a 90th minute Saunders penalty.

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Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (2002)

Glenn Hoddle will forever be haunted by his cutting assessment of Andy Cole, made when the former Spurs boss was in charge of the England national team.

Claiming the former Manchester United man needed six or seven chances to score, the comments came back to the fore years later when he went in search of silverware at the White Hart Lane club.

Having dispatched Chelsea in some style in the semi-finals, winning 5-1 on aggregate, Spurs were favourites against a Blackburn Rovers team who had only just made a return to the Premier League.

What Hoddle and Tottenham didn’t count on, however, was Andy Cole, who arrived from Old Trafford for £7.5 million in December and would go on to play a decisive role in the final scoring a second-half winner.

“That made it feel really good,” Cole admitted afterwards.”I’m not prepared to hold grudges as I’m too old for that … But the way he [Hoddle] went about it, in telling the Press before he told me, well that just shows his style.”

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Liverpool 2-3 Chelsea (2005)

Among the first games to offer Chelsea fans a glimpse of the histrionics that make Jose Mourinho such a divisive figure in the world of football, this was a pulsating encounter that would set the tone for their controversial Champions League semi-final meeting a few months later.

It started explosively, with John Arne Riise giving Liverpool the lead with a record-breaking goal in the first minute of the game. Club hero Steven Gerrard then turned villain with a comedy own goal ten minutes from time, before the Special One, not for the first time, decided to take centre stage by approaching the previously buoyant Liverpool fans and attempt to silence them by putting a finger to his lips.

The game then headed to extra time, where Chelsea’s dominance soon shone through with goals from Didier Drogba and a rare strike from misfit forward Mateja Kezman. It looked to be all over but the Reds weren’t ready to give up just yet and pulled one back through Antonio Nunez – the player who arrived at Anfield as a makeweight in Michael Owen’s move to Real Madrid.

However, it wasn’t enough to deny Mourinho his first piece of silverware on English shores.

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Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal (2011)

Arsenal fans no doubt still despair at their 2011 loss to a Birmingham side who would end the season relegated and have yet to return to the English top flight.

The final was seen as the Gunners’ easiest chance to end an eight-year trophyless spell, but straight from the off the north Londoners looked nervy, with their Midlands opponents adopting the kind of old school tactics that still give Arsene Wenger nightmares.

Alex McCleish’s approach soon bore fruit, with man-mountain Nikola Zigic bullying in the opener with a header from a corner.

Arsenal were level before half-time though with Robin van Persie producing the one bit of class in the game to restore parity.

The second half was largely uneventful, though as time ticked on Arsenal nerves increased, culminating in the most comedy of comedy goals on 89 minutes as a mix up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny allowed substitute Obafemi Martins to tap in the winner.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.