Trezeguet’s injury-time winner fired Aston Villa into the Carabao Cup final with victory over Leicester City on a dramatic night at Villa Park.
The game had entered four minutes of stoppage time and penalties were looming when substitute Ahmed Elmohamedy sent over a superb cross for Trezeguet to drill a far-post finish across Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
It sparked wild scenes of joy and a pitch invasion at Villa Park, as the hosts reached their first showpiece final since the FA Cup in 2015, when they lost 4-0 to Arsenal.
Villa – who face either Manchester City or Manchester United in the final – were indebted to goalkeeper Orjan Nyland for a string of magnificent first-half saves that allowed them to go in at the interval leading through Matt Targett’s 12th-minute strike.
And the hosts were enjoying their best spell of the game when Kelechi Iheanacho turned in Harvey Barnes’ cross with 18 minutes left, leaving the momentum with Brendan Rodgers’ side.
But Trezeguet’s late intervention means Dean Smith’s side will be in their first EFL Cup final since 2010, when they lost to Manchester United.
Nyland and Grealish Villa’s heroes
Villa had two standout performers on this glory night as the hosts produced a finale that left Leicester with no chance of a comeback in the dying seconds of a thunderous encounter.
Nyland formed a one-man barrier against a barrage of Leicester attacks as the Foxes went for the kill in the first half.
The 29-year-old Norwegian produced an astonishing string of saves, particularly two low down from James Maddison and arguably the best of all when he touched Youri Tielemans’ rising drive on to the bar.
It kept Villa in contention and protecting that precious lead given to them by Targett, allowing Grealish to exert his own influence both as a creator and someone who could hold the ball in moments of stress.
Grealish should have set up a debut goal for £10m striker Mbwana Samatta, who somehow failed to even get a touch on his cross from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Samatta, who was substituted, will have been a relieved man when Trezeguet produced that decisive finish and Villa were on their way back to Wembley, a place they last sampled when they beat Derby County in the Championship play-offs last season.
Heartbreak for Leicester and Rodgers
Leicester and manager Rodgers will reflect on this night and feel the fates were against them, from Nyland having the game of his life to an incident in the first half when VAR did not award a penalty for handball against Marvelous Nakamba.
Leicester had their chances to win, with Jonny Evans’ header dropping agonisingly wide in the closing seconds, only for Villa to sweep upfield and make that last chance count.
This has been an outstanding season for Leicester as they look destined for the top four in the Premier League and a return to the Champions League, but this will still be a bitter disappointment for Rodgers and his players, who lay flat on the turf as Villa’s players celebrated the winner.
And for Rodgers, it was more punishment at the hands of Villa, who beat him in the 2015 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley when he was Liverpool manager.
Man of the match was Orjan Nyland.
Grealish pulls the strings – match stats
- Aston Villa have reached the final of the EFL Cup for a ninth time (level with Manchester United) – only Liverpool (12) have made it to the final of the competition on more occasions
- Leicester City have been eliminated from the EFL Cup at the semi-final stages for the first time, having progressed from each of their previous five such ties in the competition.
- Leicester City attempted 43 shots compared to Aston Villa’s total of 12 over the two legs of this semi-final tie but could only score twice.
- Aston Villa have ended Brendan Rodgers’ 32-game unbeaten run in domestic cup competition (EFL Cup, FA Cup, Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup – W28 D4) across spells with Liverpool, Celtic and Leicester – they are the first team to beat a side managed by Rodgers since Villa beat Liverpool in the 2014-15 FA Cup semi-final.
- Jack Grealish has been directly involved in 16 goals across all competitions for Aston Villa this season (nine goals, seven assists), more than any other English Premier League midfielder.
‘I’ll be a very proud man at Wembley’ – what the managers said
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith speaking to Sky Sports: “I certainly let myself go with the goal. That deep into stoppage time, there was a bit of emotion from everyone and the place erupted.
“Our goalkeeper made three great saves but I thought we were aggressive as well.
“To go and get the win at the death like we did there, to take this club to Wembley, I’ll be a very proud man to walk out there with this team.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers speaking to Sky Sports: “I thought we were excellent. Their goalkeeper made some outstanding saves.
“We had a nice control in the game. I thought we should have had a definite handball for a penalty. By the end of the game I thought only one team looked like they were going to win it.
“It’s tough to take looking back over the two games, but congratulations to Aston Villa and we have to move on.”