Well well well. Sunderland had the advantage heading into the second leg of their League Cup semifinal, but few expected them to actually go through against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Indeed, for most of the match it looked as though they'd fall meekly after Jonny Evans claimed a first-half goal, but a bizarre sequence as extra time ran down and one of the worst penalty shootouts in the history of the sport ensured that the visitors would be the ones with the privilege of being thumped in the final by Manchester City next month.
Chicharito had the chance to open the scoring in the sixth minute. After Fabio Borini hacked down Adnan Januzaj on the United left, and the striker met the resultant cross with a downward header that was, unfortunately, directed straight at Vito Mannone. Danny Welbeck missed in similar fashion half an hour later, hitting an effort directly at the goalkeeper after Alexander Buttner's header struck the post.
But where the strikers failed, Jonny Evans succeeded. Moments after the latest miss, Evans stole in at the far post on a corner kick, nodding Welbeck's flick past Mannone while virtually the entire Sunderland teamed flagged impotently for offside. 1-0, and we were level on aggregate.
United's lead did not translate to a comfortable game. The visitors had given them a real match at the Stadium of Light and they weren't cowed by Evans' strike. They were just as threatening as their hosts for the remainder of the ninety minutes, and with away goals not counting until the end of extra time their positive play earned then a further thirty minutes of Capital One Cup time.
The hosts knew that they'd go through on away goals after extra time should Sunderland not score, but they had a wonderful chance to put themselves at ease early on when Januzaj set Hernandez free on goal only his shot to sail well wide. That would
With time winding down, the visitors looked lost. They'd put some serious pressure on United, but couldn't find a way to goal, and without one they'd be going home. And then... well, it's difficult to say that David de Gea didn't ruin their day. Phil Bardsley had a hopeless long-range pop, and the goalkeeper palmed it into his own net for no apparent reason. It was their first shot on target
Sunderland were heading to Wembley. For about two minutes. Then, in stoppage time, Januzaj got into a position to cross from the left and Hernandez hammered in at the far post to level the score on aggregate and send the match to penalties.
It was a chance for de Gea to redeem himself, but neither goalkeeper was called into action in the first round of spot kicks, with both Craig Gardner and Danny Welbeck coming up with preposterous misses to lead off the shootout. Only then could de Gea step up, saving well to his right against Steven Fletcher before Darren Fletcher gave the hosts a vital lead.
Marocs Alonso leveled for the Black Cats before Januzaj had a shot saved. Ki Sung-Yeung, hero of the Chelsea match, then put Sunderland ahead before Phil Jones stepped up and rather predictably spooned his shot well over. It was all down to Adam Johnson, and so the winger was denied by de Gea, who punched away his well-struck shot.
Then Rafael missed to send Sunderland through after what might be the worst professional penalty shootout in the history of mankind. Congratulations in advance to Manchester City for winning the 2014 League Cup final.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-4-2): David de Gea; Alexander Buttner (Patrice Evra 85'), Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Rafael; Shinji Kagawa , Michael Carrick , Darren Fletcher, Adnan Januzaj; Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck.
Goals: Evans 37', Hernandez 120'.
Goals: Bardsley 119'.