Villa defeat tops Arsenal scalp - Bradford boss Phil Parkinson

Bradford boss Phil Parkinson. Photo: PA

Bradford manager Phil Parkinson did his best to put a lid on expectation but claimed his side's 3-1 League Cup semi-final first-leg win over Aston Villa at Valley Parade topped their triumph over Arsenal in the previous round.

Parkinson's League Two side performed more cup heroics in front of another full house to claim a third win against Barclays Premier League opposition in the competition and give themselves a real chance of fulfilling a sensational Wembley dream.

Leading scorer Nahki Wells seized on a rebound to dispatch his 16th goal of the season in the 19th minute and, after a string of missed Villa chances and excellent saves from Bradford keeper Matt Duke, defender Rory McArdle punished Villa with a thumping 77th-minute header.

Bradford almost put the tie to bed moments later when striker James Hanson's header hit the crossbar.

Villa looked to have thrown themselves a lifeline when striker Andreas Weimann bravely turned home Christian Benteke's flick-on in the 82nd minute, but Carl McHugh sent Bradford fans into dreamland two minutes from time when heading a third goal for Parkinson's side from another pinpoint cross from skipper Gary Jones.

But Parkinson refused to be swept away by the occasion, saying: "It was important we got the message across to the lads at the end of the game and equally be respectful to Villa because in two weeks' time we've got to go down to Villa Park and do it all again.

"We're absolutely delighted with the way we played, obviously, because from the first minute to the last the lads were tremendous tonight. But equally we know we're only halfway there, we've got a very difficult job in a fortnight's time."

Bradford sent Wigan packing in the fourth round and claimed a famous penalty shootout win over Arsenal in front of a sold-out Valley Parade the quarter-finals, but this was their best yet according to their manager.

Parkinson added: "Against Arsenal it was a great night for us but I think the all-round performance tonight (was better), because Villa played a very attacking team and we had to defend well and equally they left a lot of space on the pitch for us to play.

"Our quality players had to stay composed on the ball and they certainly did that."

Parkinson, whose contract expires at the end of the season, will head for talks over a new deal with joint chairmen Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn later this week.

"Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later, not just for myself but my staff as well," said Parkinson.

"We want to tie up our good players on long-term deals and add to what we've already got and the sooner my future and the rest of the staff is sorted out we'll be able to do that.

"But that's not the talking point tonight. That's about how well the lads have done."

Villa manager Paul Lambert, whose side have won only one of their last seven league matches, was disappointed with his young players' defending but insisted the tie was far from over.

"At any level of football, you can't defend set-plays like that and expect to win games of football," Lambert said.

"But we're still in the tie, absolutely. It will be a different game at Villa Park. We had lots of chances to score and we never took them, but it's only half-time.

"It will be a totally different game at Villa Park, but when chances come our way we have to take them.

"But you've got to give Bradford credit, they defended resolutely and their goalkeeper made some good saves."