LIVERPOOL - Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish hailed a “special performance” from Craig Bellamy after the striker fired his side into the League Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate victory over his former club Manchester City.
The 32-year-old scored the decisive goal in the 74th minute of the 2-2 draw in the semifinal second leg on Wednesday night to book Liverpool's place in the final against Cardiff on Feb. 26.
Bellamy was allowed to leave City on a free transfer in the summer but came back to haunt the Premier League leader with a superb all-round display that kept Liverpool on course to win its first silverware since 2006.
"Craig put in a special performance," Dalglish told reporters after the match. “I'm sure he will enjoy it tonight.
“Craig was fantastic with his quality as well as his effort and commitment. For us, he was fantastic but so was every single one of the players.”
Roberto Mancini's visitors twice took the lead, through Nigel de Jong and Edin Dzeko, but were pinned back by a Steven Gerrard penalty and then Bellamy's effort from 10 yards.
The result was all the more important for Liverpool as Dalglish's side is struggling in the Premier League this season, sitting seventh in the table and laboring in its attempts to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Dalglish, who returned to management to replace Roy Hodgson last January, admitted reaching the League Cup final was a big achievement for a club that has been starved of success in recent years.
The Scot lambasted his players for its attitude in the 3-1 defeat at Bolton on Saturday but the Kop legend was in joyous mood as he reflected on his side's display.
“It's great for the people who stood by us," Dalglish added. "It's not been too good a time for Liverpool Football Club in the last couple of years. We stuck together and showed a lot of quality tonight.
“We are certainly pleased with the outcome and performance. Everything we thought was lacking on Saturday was there in abundance tonight. Every single one of the squad have made a contribution to getting us to the final and I think that's a great reflection of the squad we have here.
“We have got to Wembley, but that's all we have done so far. We have not been there for a while so that's one achievement – but that's not where our ambition stops.”