Reds end trophy drought
Liverpool's long wait for a trophy came to an end after defeating Cardiff City on penalties in an incredible Carling Cup final.
Last Updated: 26/02/12 8:47pm
Liverpool's long wait for a trophy came to an end at Wembley as Kenny Dalglish's team defeated Cardiff City on penalties in an incredible Carling Cup final after the decisive involvement of a Gerrard.
After failing to earn a piece of silverware since the shoot-out success in the 2006 FA Cup under former boss Rafa Benitez, it was fitting it was Kop idol Dalglish who guided Liverpool back to glory.
But Liverpool, who were returning to Wembley for the first time since 1996, did not have it all their own way against Malky Mackay's Cardiff side, who performed with heroic bravery.
Martin Skrtel's 60th minute goal had equalised Joe Mason's shock first-half opener to send the match into extra-time.
And Dutch international Dirk Kuyt appeared to have won the game in the 108th minute, but with just two minutes remaining Ben Turner sensationally scrambled an equaliser.
The match then went to penalties and, cruelly for Cardiff, it was the cousin of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, Anthony, who missed the decisive spot-kick in a 3-2 shoot-out.
The 26-year-old, on as a substitute in extra time, shot wide as the Merseysiders' earned a record eighth League Cup.
It was cruel not only on the defender - who was consoled by his cousin at the end - but the rest of his team who had seen their early lead overtaken but remained resilient and found the strength to snatch an equaliser with two minutes of an absorbing final remaining.
Over the last 40 years, the Reds have won a trophy early in the decade and gone on to add to it.
In Dalglish they certainly have someone who knows plenty about accumulating cups of every kind and this victory puts him alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho as the only managers to win all three major domestic competitions.
The Reds also equalled Manchester United's record of 15 domestic cup wins.
Things looked like they would go to plan for Dalglish's side when the Cardiff crossbar was rattled inside two minutes.
Steven Gerrard raced 60 yards on a quick counter-attack but Glen Johnson's shot - which beat goalkeeper Tom Heaton - came back off the crossbar, with Gerrard then blazing over the rebound.
But this was the closest the Reds came to threatening Cardiff's goal in the first half and the Bluebirds created two better chances, crucially converting one.
Having snatched at a shot from Don Cowie's clever movement and backheel, Kenny Miller did not make the same mistake twice.
The former Rangers front man was afforded all the time and space he required in the 19th minute when he picked up the ball just outside the area.
When Daniel Agger eventually closed him down Miller slid a pass into the space behind the centre-back where Mason collected and fired past Jose Reina.
The rest of the half saw Liverpool dominate but rarely trouble Cardiff.
Stewart Downing was their most creative outlet with a succession of crosses from the left but the Bluebirds dealt with them well enough, relying on Liverpool's over-complication and profligacy.
Charlie Adam flashed a low drive narrowly wide of Heaton's left-hand post while late in the half Andy Carroll was denied a clear close-range shooting opportunity when Cardiff captain Mark Hudson's outstretched leg hooked the ball away.
Liverpool fans tried to evoke memories of their second-half comeback in Istanbul in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final with a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone at the break.
The situation was not quite as dire as that night but certainly Dalglish's side needed to find more composure and their clinical side.
Luis Suarez was starting to have more of an influence and drew the first real save from Heaton with an angled shot and was denied by Kevin McNaughton's perfectly-timed intervention just as he was about to unload from close range.
The appearance of former Cardiff striker and boyhood fan Craig Bellamy for the ineffectual Jordan Henderson brought, probably for the first time in cup final history, a standing ovation from both sets of fans.
Liverpool's salvation, however, was to come from an unexpected source.
Downing's 60th-minute corner was nodded on by Carroll to Suarez whose header came back off the post and Skrtel showed the composure in front of goal unbefitting a centre-back by taking a touch and slamming home the equaliser.
Turner had a chance to be Cardiff's hero with six minutes to go but planted his far-post header into the side-netting.
Miller should have won it for the Bluebirds in normal time when a quickly-taken free-kick caught the defence napping but the Scot, in acres of space in the penalty area, shot over with the goal at his mercy.
Barely a minute into extra time Andrew Taylor cleared Suarez's header from a Bellamy corner off the line before Anthony Gerrard finally got the chance to square-up against his more illustrious cousin when Hudson was forced off with cramp.
Three minutes into the second period of extra time Liverpool took the lead when Kuyt drilled home the rebound from his own cross.
The Dutchman then headed a shot off the line but got himself in a tangle at the resulting corner to allow Turner to force penalties.In the shoot-out which followed Steven Gerrard and Adam missed for Liverpool, Miller, Rudy Gestede and Anthony Gerrard for Cardiff as the Reds claimed victory.
|Cardiff City||Team Statistics||Liverpool|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||11|
|6||Shots off Target||23|
|29.7||1st Half Poss.||70.3|
|36.8||2nd Half Poss.||63.2|