LONDON, Jan 9: Cup action took centre-stage in Europe on Tuesday with Premier League side Aston Villa being upset by fourth-tier Bradford City but there were no problems for Serie A high-flyers Lazio and La Liga duo of Malaga and Valencia.
Bradford pulled off another major surprise in their extraordinary League Cup journey with a 3-1 home victory over Villa in the first leg of their semi-final as the prospect of a shock Wembley final — the club’s first major final since 1911 — moved ever closer.
Two goals from Brazilian Hernanes saw Lazio advance into the Coppa Italia semi-finals after they eased to a 3-0 win over mid-table Catania and keep their so far successful season on track for silverware.
Malaga flirted with danger against third-tier Eibar before a flurry of late goals helped them win 4-1 to advance 5-2 on aggregate into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey while Valencia won 2-1 against La Liga rivals Osasuna to go through 4-1 on aggregate.
Bradford, who had already disposed of top flight Wigan Athletic and Arsenal, took the lead when Nahki Wells scored from close range in the 19th before Rory McArdle doubled the advantage in the 77th.
Villa squandered several good chances with substitute Darren Bent guilty of arguably the worst miss, heading over an open goal in the second half before Andreas Weimann pulled a goal back 83rd.
It proved to be a brief ray of light on a grim evening for Premier League strugglers Villa however, as Carl McHugh added gloss to the scoreline a powerful header with two minutes remaining.
“You are playing against a class team, you need to be on your game,” Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke told Sky after a superb individual display. “We’ve got an even bigger challenge ahead of us now.”
Ahead of the return leg at Villa Park on January 22, Paul Lambert’s Villa face the prospect of yet another disappointment in a sorry season that has seen them sink to within a point of the Premier League relegation zone.
“We’re very disappointed we lost the game,” said Lambert. “You know what’s coming with the set pieces. We never defended them well and that’s what hurt us. It wasn’t good enough.”
Lazio, riding high in second in Serie A, never looked in difficulty once Romanian defender Stefan Radu headed in a corner on the half hour at the Stadio Olimpico.
But it was only when Hernanes doubled their lead just after the hour mark, converting Sergio Floccari’s assist that the hosts could relax as Vladimir Petkovic rested Lazio’s top scorer Miroslav Klose.
The 27-year-old Brazilian international Hernanes — who has scored seven times in the league this season — rounded off the scoring with a well-taken third in the first minute of time added on.
Argentine midfielder Diego Buonanotte saved Malaga from potential humiliation when he scored twice and created another in a comeback win against Eibar at the Rosaleda stadium after the first-leg had ended 1-1.
Eibar took a surprise lead in the 12th minute of the return game when Ruben Arroyo was quickest to the rebound from a long-range Mikel Arruabarrena effort and held on relatively comfortably until the 74th minute when Buonanotte exchanged passes with Javier Saviola to score.
Two minutes later, Buonanotte set up Seba Fernandez to make it 2-1 on the night and substitute Francisco Portillo glanced a header in the 82nd before Buonanotte scored his second in added time.
“Nobody thought it was going to be easy,” Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini told a news conference. “They are a team with a lot of confidence and they are having a great season,” the Chilean added.
Valencia led 2-0 from the first leg of the round-of-16 match-up, and midfielder Tino Costa put the team further ahead when he sent a free kick straight into the top of the net in the 34th minute.
Osasuna striker Joseba Llorente pulled one back with a long-range shot after a solo effort three minutes later but Roberto Soldado scored with a low shot for Valencia’s second in injury time.—Agencies