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League Cup

  • 26 February 2012
  • • 16:00
  • • Wembley Stadium, London
  • Referee: M. Clattenburg
  • • Attendance: 89044
2
PEN
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Liverpool won 3 - 2 on penalties

Cardiff City 2-2 Liverpool (aet, 2-3 on penalties): Reds edge thrilling Wembley final to taste League Cup glory

Cardiff City 2-2 Liverpool (aet, 2-3 on penalties): Reds edge thrilling Wembley final to taste League Cup glory

Getty

Anthony Gerrard missed the decisive penalty to hand Kenny Dalglish's side victory in a dramatic final after the Bluebirds had grabbed a stunning equaliser at the death

Liverpool broke Cardiff City hearts and secured League Cup glory with a dramatic penalty shootout victory.

Joe Mason sent the Championship side into a shock first half lead, and they held out courageously until Martin Skrtel pounced from a corner to level the score after an hour.

Kenny Miller spurned a glorious chance to secure victory in the dying moments and Cardiff seemed to have paid the price when Dirk Kuyt scored in extra time.

Ben Turner poked home from a corner to seal a phenomenal Cardiff comeback, but Anthony Gerrard missed the decisive spot-kick at the end of a tumultuous shootout.

Two players with more than a stake in this game than most were left on the bench by managers Kenny Dalglish and Malky Mackay. Craig Bellamy, the Welshman who spent last season on loan with the Bluebirds, appeared on the team sheet only as a substitute, while Cardiff defender Gerrard, cousin of opposition captain Steven, was dropped as Mark Hudson returned to the back four.

Both teams lined up in much the same fashion, with target men Andy Carroll and Rudy Gestede looking to provide an aerial threat up front. Luis Suarez and Kenny Miller supplied pace and guile alongside them.

Steven Gerrard has a knack for making his presence felt in Cup finals and he signalled his intent as early as the second minute here. Driving a Liverpool counter-attack forward from midfield, he picked out Stewart Downing on the left. Glen Johnson, controlling the winger's subsequent pass just outside the box, deftly curled a shot that dropped beyond goalkeeper Tom Heaton and hit the crossbar.

Cardiff kept their composure and Miller might have done better when Don Cowie cleverly flicked Andrew Taylor's pass into his path. Generally, though, Mackay's side were happy to sit deep and soak up pressure.

After a tame Liverpool attack ended in Heaton comfortably saving from Carroll, the Bluebirds ventured downfield and showed their Premier League counterparts how it should be done with a simple opening goal. Miller, dropping into space in front of the Reds defence, slipped a through ball into the path of Mason, who finished through the legs of Pepe Reina to stun the red half of Wembley.

Downing's form has come under scrutiny in recent weeks but, while unspectacular, he offered an improved display here. With half-time approaching and Liverpool searching for some sort of inspiration, he gave the Reds' support a glimpse of what he is capable of by turning Kevin McNaughton inside out before seeing his cross missed by Jordan Henderson and sent flying into the stands by Gerrard.

Gerrard was to create a better chance for Daniel Agger moments later. Mackay will have been less than pleased with his team's marking from the 31-year-old's free-kick as Agger, entirely unchallenged, headed straight at Heaton from point blank range.

With victories in rugby and boxing on Saturday, Cardiff were looking to hold out in the second half to crown a terrific weekend for Welsh sport but it was their Scottish element causing Liverpool the most problems. McNaughton and Miller had combined to create the opening goal and Cowie's intuitive flick was driven narrowly wide by Miller from distance.

Cardiff continued to defend bravely, surviving a couple of minor appeals for handball in the penalty area along the way, while Dalglish opted to introduce Bellamy, who entered the fray to applause from both sets of supporters, just before the hour mark.

Bellamy was not involved but Liverpool grabbed an equaliser almost immediately. Downing's corner from the left was diverted towards goal by a crowd of bodies and headed on to the post by Suarez, with Skrtel on hand to control and drive home the rebound from close range.

Mackay will have been desperately disappointed to see his side's lead slip away at a set-piece, as Liverpool continued to struggle with their approach in open play. They might have been better off playing for corners, as Skrtel again latched on to a loose ball from a Downing delivery to force a superb save from Heaton.

Cardiff were tiring but continued to restrict their opponents to efforts from range, Downing and Charlie Adam testing Heaton, before carving out a golden chance to grab a dramatic winning goal. Cowie acted quickly to catch Liverpool unawares from a free-kick, sending a pass into Miller who controlled the ball with a brilliant spin only to blast his finish over the crossbar.

Neither side could find a way through within 90 minutes but Liverpool came out on top in the early stages of extra time. After Suarez and Carroll had gone close from yet more corners, Bellamy powered an effort over the bar as Dalglish's team inched closer to a decisive second goal.

It seemed to have arrived after 108 minutes. Kuyt, who as a substitute had added his usual energy to the Liverpool attack, burst down the right and reacted swiftly when his initial shot rebounded straight back to his feet, slamming the ball past Heaton before the 25-year-old had time to move.

With Aron Gunnarsson barely able to walk, Hudson already withdrawn with cramp and Gestede also struggling, Cardiff somehow summoned the energy to push back. Kuyt had already made one goal-line clearance when the Bluebirds grabbed an incredible equaliser. Turner diverted the ball home from close range after a corner had been flicked into his path.

Their delight was short-lived. After Steven Gerrard and Miller both missed their opening penalties, Gestede and then, crucially and cruelly, Anthony Gerrard could not hit the target as Liverpool earned their first trophy since 2006.

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