The best League Cup finals of all time: Gus Caesar, 40-yarders and Jose's hushing

Gerard Brand picks the best of more than half a century of League Cup finals. Now's the time to look away, Arsenal fans... 

1. Luton 3-2 Arsenal, 1988

Nervy stand-in centre-back Gus Caesar resembled Benny Hill on speed in a chicken pen

Even though they were in the same division as their opponents, Luton Town were given little chance on a sunny day at Wembley against the League Cup holders, whose manager George Graham was assembling the side that would win the league 13 months later. Town took an early lead through Brian Stein, but normal service was resumed when Arsenal powered past with two goals in three second-half minutes from Martin Hayes and Alan Smith – and then won an 80th-minute penalty.

Stand-in goalkeeper Andy Dibble turned Nigel Winterburn’s spot-kick around the post to give the Hatters hope – and then minutes later came the kind of comical defensive failure all but eradicated under Graham. Nervy stand-in centre-back Gus Caesar resembled Benny Hill on speed in a chicken pen as he hashed a clearance, allowing Stein to cross for Danny Wilson to head home. As Arsenal attempted to collect their thoughts for extra time, Stein scored a 90th-minute winner to give Luton their only major trophy.

2. QPR 3-2 West Brom, 1967

A memorable comeback was completed by the fittingly surnamed Mike Lazarus

Having abandoned the previous home-and-away final format, the League Cup came alive with the first Wembley final. Top-flight West Brom were seemingly home and dry as Clive Clark brace's put them two up at half-time. But Roger Morgan's header halved the arrears, Rodney Marsh danced through the defence to equalise, and a memorable comeback was completed by the fittingly surnamed Mike Lazarus.

In 18 incredible minutes, the unfancied outsiders had come from behind to become the first third-tier side to win a major trophy. Even if only temporarily, the League Cup had trumped the underdog romance of its big brother, the FA Cup.

3. Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool, 2005

The Liverpool main man's misfortune was met with mirth by Mourinho, who scampered past Reds fans greeting them with a ‘shush’

Jose Mourinho’s first Chelsea trophy came in a match to be remembered for a captain’s own goal and a subtle celebration by the ‘Special One’. Trailing to a first-minute John Arne Riise special for most of the game, Mourinho had sent on forwards Eidur Gudjohnsen and Mateja Kezman – the latter for left-back William Gallas – when the previous summer's high-profile Chelsea target Steven Gerrard clipped a header into his own net with 10 minutes remaining.

The Liverpool main man's misfortune was met with mirth by Mourinho, who scampered past Reds fans greeting them with a ‘shush’. He was subsequently sent off, but watched from the changing room as Chelsea won with extra-time goals from Didier Drogba and Kezman – and if you think that was the latter’s only meaningful contribution for the Blues, consider that Liverpool's late consolation was scored by Antonio Nuñez.

4. Birmingham 2-1 Arsenal, 2011

The Blues were relegated three months later, but had won their first trophy since 1963

Arsenal’s clearest chance of silverware in the last six years looked straightforward enough. Relegation-threatened Birmingham should have provided no problems for Arsene's aesthetes, but again the Gooners' crazy-paving defence cost them dear. Giant Serb Nikola Zigic put Blues ahead before Robin van Persie’s volleyed leveller.

As Arsenal pressed, a string of fine Ben Foster saves earned the keeper a historic second Alan Hardaker Trophy (awarded for the League Cup final's man of the match). Then came a winner of comical ineptness befitting the north Londoners' downfall: a harmless long ball heading safely back to Wojciech Szczesny, until Laurent Koscielny's interjection gifted it to late sub Obafemi Martins. The Blues were relegated three months later, but had won their first trophy since 1963.

5. Aston Villa 3-2 Everton, 1977 (second replay)

The initial goalless draw at Wembley was so drab that no highlights were shown

Better late than never: after two dull draws, this second replay at Old Trafford produced 120 minutes of memorable football, including a wonder strike from Chris Nicholl. The initial goalless draw at Wembley was so drab that no highlights were shown, and a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough didn’t do much to help the ratings.

In Manchester, Toffees target man Bob Latchford broke the deadlock before Nicholl’s 40-yard belter and Brian Little’s angled strike put Villa ahead. Mick Lyons equalised to make it three goals in four minutes, but Little scored again a minute from the end of extra time to give Villa their third League Cup success. Probably worth the 330 minutes.  


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