BIRMINGHAM (AFP) – Trezeguet struck deep into stoppage time to send Aston Villa into their first League Cup final for a decade with a 2-1 win over Leicester on Tuesday to progress 3-2 on aggregate.
Matt Targett’s early opener put Villa in front, but Leicester enjoyed the majority of the chances and finally found a way past Orjan Nyland when Kelechi Iheanacho levelled 18 minutes from time.
However, Villa snatched victory and a trip to Wembley on March 1 to face Manchester City or Manchester United when Trezeguet connected perfectly with fellow Egyptian Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross three minutes into added time.
“It was emotional for everyone when that goal goes in,” said Villa boss Dean Smith, a lifelong fan of the club. “Taking this club to Wembley, I will be a very proud man.”
Defeat ends Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers’ unbeaten run of 31 straight domestic cup matches after a dominant spell at Celtic and he rued his side’s inability to turn their dominance into goals.
“I thought we were excellent in the game. We played with a nice control and composure, but their goalkeeper has made some outstanding saves,” said Rodgers.
“I’m gutted for my players because we put so much into the game. I thought at the end there was only one team was going to win it, but we switch off at the last minute.”
The visitors started with top scorer Jamie Vardy on the bench as he was eased back into action after a glute injury, but the Foxes still blasted out of the traps.
Iheanacho was denied in the first of a string of big saves by Nyland in the Villa goal inside the first three minutes.
James Maddison then had a hat-trick of efforts, two of which brought saves from Nyland.
However, it was Villa who struck first when the impressive Jack Grealish teed up Targett to fire across Kasper Schmeichel 12 minutes in.
Nyland may not even have played if Villa’s new number one Pepe Reina had been fit to play, but the Norwegian was inspired as he then produced his best save of the night to turn Youri Tielemans’s piledriver onto the bar.
“He (Reina) wasn’t fit so I didn’t have to make that decision,” added Smith on who would have played. “I knew the quality Orjan has got.”
Maddison was furious he was not awarded a penalty moments later when he saw another effort repelled by the arm of Marvelous Nakamba. Mbwana Samatta was making his Villa debut after a GBP8.5 million (USD11 million) switch from Genk, but his first experience of Villa Park is not one the Tanzanian will remember fondly as he somehow failed to turn home another brilliant Grealish delivery early in the second half.
That could have proved the knockout blow for Leicester, but instead they were very much back in the tie when an explosive burst from Harvey Barnes teed up Iheanacho to finish.
Just when both sides seemed to be preparing for extra-time, Leicester were hit with a sucker punch when Elmohamady’s cross was volleyed into the bottom corner by his compatriot.
Trezeguet had to be hauled from the field by Villa security personnel after he was mobbed in a pitch invasion following the final whistle as the home fans celebrated a famous win wildly having spent the last three seasons in the Championship.
“I love a trip to Wembley. We’re looking forward to it,” said Grealish, who has been instrumental to Villa’s improved form in the past few weeks.
“It shows what character we’ve got in the team. We were in a sticky patch before Christmas — we couldn’t string four passes together, never mind win a game, but we have started the new year in great form.”
The exception to that upturn was a 6-1 hammering at the hands of City and it is Pep Guardiola’s men who are likely to lie in wait for Villa in the final as they hold a 3-1 first leg lead heading into the second leg of their semi-final with United yesterday.