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EFL Cup: Greatest finals of all time

The EFL Cup is not long past its 60th birthday and, down the years, the secondary cup decider in English football has produced some thrilling finals. 

This Sunday at Wembley it will be Manchester United facing Newcastle United in the quest to pick up the first piece of silverware of the season.

Erik ten Hag's Red Devils are favourites at 6/5 in the Full Time Result market, with the Geordies at 12/5 and the 90-minute draw priced at 23/10 for their Wembley date.

The days of EFL Cup final replays are gone, ensuring extra-time and penalties may be needed, with Newcastle 10/1 to win via shootout and Man Utd 9/1 for a penalties Method of Victory. 

Here we look back on some of the greatest EFL Cup finals of all time.

Aston Villa 3-2 Everton 

1977, Old Trafford, second replay

The 1977 instalment was a three-act affair between Villa, winners of the inaugural running in 1960, and an Everton side in their first final. The original date at Wembley ended scoreless in front of 100,000 disappointed spectators before a 1-1 draw in the replay at Hillsborough. 

The initial goalless draw at Wembley was so drab that no highlights were shown, but they shared two goals in Sheffield and once more required extra-time at Old Trafford at the end of a really entertaining game where Bob Latchford broke the deadlock for Everton before Chris Nicholl's 40-yard wonder-strike and Brian Little's angled shot put Villa ahead.

Mick Lyons equalised to make it three goals in four minutes, but Little finally settled the marathon tie with 90 seconds remaining at the end of another [period of extra-time. 

Having taken 330 minutes to find a winner, this tie resulted in a rule change whereby all replays were decided by a penalty shootout if level after extra time – making this the last ever tie in English football to be played three times over.

Luton Town 3-2 Arsenal

1988, Wembley

This showpiece game has left Arsenal red-faced on a few occasions. The Gunners conceded the only major trophy in Swindon Town's history in 1969 when the then third division side beat them 3-2 on a dreadful Wembley pitch as the north Londoners had at least half a dozen squad members suffering from flu.

Then in 1988, Arsenal, holders after defeating Liverpool a year previous, were stunned by Luton. Brian Stein put the Hatters in front early on but two goals in three minutes after the midpoint of the second half from Martin Hayes and Alan Smith turned things around for George Graham's side.

The game should have been safe soon after but Nigel Winterburn's penalty was saved by Andy Dibble and Danny Wilson soon headed home a leveller. 

In the final minute, Tony Adams conceded a free-kick and Stein scored his second to hand Luton the first piece of major silverware in their history. 

They were first division peers at the time, but this was still a shock result for Arsenal to take and it wouldn't be the last time as they lost the 2011 decider against Alex McLeish's second-tier Birmingham City side and now have a record of two wins and six losses in EFL Cup finals. 

Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday

1993, Wembley 

To give due credit to the Gunners, it hasn't always been bad and back in the spring of '93 they played a trilogy of cup finals against Sheffield Wednesday.

These sides would go on to meet in the same season's FA Cup final, which Arsenal won via a dramatic Andy Linighan header in the 119th minute of a replay, but it was perhaps the League Cup decider that lasts longest in the memory as it went down in infamy. 

John Harkes gave the Owls an early advantage - Wednesday at the time looking to make it two wins in three years having stunned Manchester United in the 1991 decider – but Paul Merson soon levelled things.

In the second half, Merson teed up utility man Steve Morrow to get what proved the winning goal for the George Graham-led side. 

In the post-game celebrations, skipper Tony Adams lofted the match-winner onto his shoulders, slipped, and promptly dropped Morrow who landed awkwardly and broke his arm. Rushed from Wembley to hospital, he'd pick up his League Cup winners' medal a month or so later, back at Wembley before the FA Cup decider between the same teams.

Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool 

2005, Millennium Stadium

Jose Mourinho's first trophy in English football came in dramatic and fortuitous fashion in Cardiff against Rafael Benitez's Liverpool.

John Arne Riise gave the Reds the lead in the first minute but they surrendered that advantage with a little over 10 minutes left to play, after Steven Gerrard's attempted headed clearance flew into his own net to send the contest to extra-time.

Didier Drogba fired Chelsea in front at the start of the second period of extra-time as he nipped in ahead of Jamie Carragher to score, and Mateja Kezman soon added a third. Reds sub Antonio Nunez got one back almost immediately but Liverpool could not find a leveller in the seven remaining minutes. 

In what proved a fruitful season for both clubs, Chelsea would lift the Premier League trophy in Mourinho's first season in London, while Liverpool would win the Champions League in Istanbul with their famous come-from-behind win over AC Milan. 

Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

2021, Wembley 

A sure-fire quiz puzzler of the future as this game was officially attended by just 7,773 spectators at Wembley as part of a pilot programme for returning supporters post-pandemic. 

Manchester City, who went from 1976-2014 without a League Cup win, would now make it five EFL Cup wins in eight years and equal Liverpool's early 1980s tally of four on the trot as Aymeric Laporte nodded home a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick with eight minutes left on the clock. 

The build-up to this game was quite something, with Jose Mourinho sacked by Tottenham just days before, leaving 29-year-old Ryan Mason as the stand-in boss and the youngest man ever to manage in this game.

Opposite number Pep Guardiola, by contrast, became the first and so far only coach to win the trophy in four consecutive years.

With their new owners in place, Newcastle – who last won a major trophy in 1969 – will be hoping a win at Wembley on Sunday can put them on a springboard to emulate the silverware-laden journey that Man City have experienced. 

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