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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Classic League Cup Finals: Leicester City 2 Tranmere Rovers 1 2000

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Bradford City and Swansea City will battle it out for the first major piece of silverware of the season this afternoon at Wembley with Phil Parkinson and Michael Laudrup looking to cement their place in their club's history.

Thirteen years ago Leicester City and Tranmere Rovers clashed in the League Cup final and the Foxes, led by Martin O'Neill and boasting players like Neil Lennon, Robbie Savage, Emile Heskey and Matt Elliott, were the bookies' favourites and got the job done against lower league opposition.

Here Squarefootball's Steve Coulter talks us through the game as he continues his look back at previous classic League Cup finals.

Believe it not Martin O'Neill wasn't always the idol of Foxes fans. The Irishman had a sticky start to his Leicester City career. A poor sequence of results prompted some fans calling for head of the City boss, but the doubters were silenced when Leicester were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs in 1996. A year later City beat highly fancied Middlesbrough to win the League Cup. On both occasions striker Steve Claridge scored the glory clinching goal.
In 2000 the East Midlands club reached another League Cup final. This time Leicester were the bookies' favourites to lift the three-handed trophy. Opponents Tranmere Rovers were making their first appearance in a major cup final. After years of struggle the Birkenhead club were making waves. Rovers were a now well established Championship club and had developed a reputation for giant-killings. Managed by John Aldridge, the Merseysiders had accounted for Everton and Southampton in cup competitions.
It certainly made a refreshing change to see two new clubs contest a showpiece final.

Leicester broke the deadlock on 29 minutes. Steve Guppy's corner was headed home by Matt Elliott. The result looked beyond doubt when Tranmere were reduced to 10 men. Clint Hill was sent off  after received a second yellow card. Rovers regained their composure and levelled on 73 minutes.  Gareth Roberts free kick was flicked on by Gary Jones. David Kelly latched on to the knock down and gave Tim Flowers no chance.

Nine minutes from time a trademark goal settled the issue. Leicester were renowned for their set pieces as Tranmere found to their cost. Once again Elliott nodded in a Guppy corner. 
Matt Elliott was named Man of the Match. The bulk of his career had been spent in the lower leagues. A number of high profile clubs had  considered signing the centre half. Leicester had taken the gamble and he had repaid them in style.
In the celebrations O'Neill received a pat on the back from Brian Clough. The Leicester boss had played for Cloughie's all-conquering Nottingham Forest. He had certainly done his mentor proud.



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