Perhaps the biggest shock of all was the FA Cup success of Wigan Athletic. When the 3rd round draw was made, Wigan were 100-1 outsiders. Coach Roberto Martinez made it clear that the FA Cup would be used to give experience to his younger players and that Premiership survival was the number one priority.
His younger squad members took the opportunity with both hands and a quarter-final victory over Everton put them through to a Wembley semi-final. They were drawn against Millwall with the draw pitting holders Chelsea against Champions Manchester City. A comfortable 2-0 victory put them through to the final where they would start 9-1 outsiders.
Manchester City held off a late Chelsea rally to secure their place in the final and were expected to gain compensation for finishing second to rivals United in the Premiership title race. Wigan had not read the script and substitute Ben Watson produced a match-winning header in the dying moments to give the Latics their first significant domestic trophy.
Swansea had won plenty of admirers for their excellent season in 2011-12 but nobody expected them to progress to winning silverware in 2012-13. They had established themselves as a credible top ten side capable of beating the best but they had never won a trophy in their 101-year history.
By the time they got to Wembley to face Bradford in the final of the Carling Cup there was a certain inevitability about it. They outclassed their lower league opponents to win 5-0 but the shocks had been supplied earlier in the tournament. League Two side Bradford had eliminated Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa but the biggest shock came in the semi-finals.
Cup favourites Chelsea had defeated Manchester United and were drawn to play Swansea, the first leg taking place at Stamford Bridge. Swans boss Michael Laudrup masterminded a sensational 2-0 away victory to leave the Blues an impossible task in the second leg. They soaked up the Chelsea pressure and took both opportunities that came their way to stun the home supporters. That was the performance that won them the trophy and also raised the profile of Laudrup. He had been a surprise appointment in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Liverpool in the summer.
It was not a surprise that Atletico Madrid won a trophy so much as that it was the Copa del Rey at the expense of rivals Real. The shock came in a bad-tempered final as Real finished the game with ten men as 14 yellow cards were dished out.
The defeat proved to be a “last hurrah” for José Mourinho and his three-year reign at the club. He was also sent to the stands as Cristiano Ronaldo saw red. With Mourinho rumoured to be returning to Stamford Bridge, it was ironic that his side were denied by two superb saves from Thibault Courtois who is currently own loan from Chelsea.
The defeat also meant that Mourinho would end his final season at Madrid without a trophy. He was quoted as saying “This is the worst season of my life. A Super Cup, a semi-final, a runner-up. For many coaches that would be a good year. For me it is the worst!”
To put the victory in perspective for Atletico, they had not beaten Real in their previous 25 meetings. Real Madrid had won the last ten encounters and looked comfortable when Ronaldo headed them in front after 13 minutes. Atletico fought back to grab an unlikely 2-1 victory.
The 2013 Scottish League Cup Final was won by St Mirren after they defeated Hearts 3-2 in the final. St. Mirren finished 8th in the Scottish Premier League and entered the League Cup in the second round. They secured victories over Ayr United. Hamilton and Aberdeen before facing Celtic in the semi-finals. They produced the shock of the tournament at Hampden Park to defeat the Cup favourites 3-2 and set up a final clash with Hearts. Another 3-2 victory game them their first trophy since the 1987 Scottish Cup victory.
AZ Alkmaar had been one of the major disappointments in the Dutch League. Having been expected to challenge for a top four spot, they spent much of the season languishing in the lower reaches of the division.
Their opponents in the Dutch Cup final were PSV Eindhoven who led the Eredivisie title at the winter break before throwing away a winning lead against Ajax. AZ Alkmaar went to Rotterdam in good form with three victories in four games but they had suffered a 3-1 loss against PSV in a dress-rehearsal of the final. Jozy Altidore had been one of AZ’s success stories and he capped a fine season by scoring in a 2-1 victory. AZ raced into a 2-0 lead and held off a PSV fight back to secure the trophy.