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February 26, 2012
• Wembley Stadium, London
Referee: M. Clattenburg
• Attendance: 89044
J. Mason 19'
B. Turner 118'
Liverpool won 3 - 2 on penalties
M. Škrtel 60'
D. Kuijt 108'
That's it for Goal.com's LIVE! commentary on Liverpool's League Cup final penalty shoot-out win over Cardiff City. I urge those of you who didn't see the game to seek the highlights out as it was a brilliant example of football at its finest. Continue to Tweet me your reaction @Miles_Chambers and thanks for stopping by folks.
Personally, I wish Cardiff all the best. I honestly haven't witnessed a match that truly epic since Liverpool's Champions League final win against AC Milan a few years back, when they came back from 3-0 down at half-time to beat the Italian's on penalties. The Welsh club more than played their part in the cup final, and although their fans will leave the stadium gutted they ought to be proud of the quality and spirit the Bluebirds showed.
Wayne Veysey, Goal.com's man at the London stadium, gives us a post-match update: "Wembley is echoing to the tune of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' as the Liverpool captain lifts the Carling Cup and this famous venue goes stage-managedly razamatazz. Defeat was cruel on Cardiff, who provided heart, guts anf quality, and left nothing on the pitch. Liverpool triumphed - just - through their slightly greater know-how but they certainly make hard work of cup finals against lower league opposition."
Whichever side lifted that silverware you would argue they deserved it, as each Reds player has his turn at lifting the cup. Reds fans are in superb voice at Wembley. Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish looks ecstatic. day to remember for everyone involved with the Merseyside club.
Steven Gerrard collects his medal and lifts the trophy - Liverpool are winners of the 2011-12 League Cup!!!
Steven Gerrard leaves his team up the Wembley steps now. I imagine for these players the walk will be less tiresome as they will be pumping with adrenaline on the back of that win. Anyone who's every won a penalty shoot-out before, at whatever level of football, will tell you of the elation when that winning penalty goes in or your opposition miss that crucial spot-kick.
City players climb the Wembley steps. Who decided that cramp-riddled footballers should have to struggle up that many steps after 120 minutes of scintillating football? They collect their runners-up medals. The loss will feel bitter now but no doubt in future they'll fondly remember this terrific performance.
Let me know your reaction to Liverpool's 2012 League Cup win on Twitter @Miles_Chambers and I'll keep you informed on the happenings at Wembley Stadium.
What. A. Game. Seriously, a brilliant match but a cruel way to lose for Cardiff City after the Bluebirds played bravely. Poor Anthony Gerrard, his cousin Steven consoles him as he fights back tears.
ANTHONY GERRARD MISSES FOR CARDIFF!!! LIVERPOOL WIN THE LEAGUE CUP!!! Steven Gerrard's cousin follows in his footsteps and drags the penalty to the left of goal.
GLEN JOHNSON SCORES FOR LIVERPOOL!!! Smashes it into the roof of the net!
PETER WHITTINGHAM SCORES FOR CARDIFF!!! 2-2.
STEWART DOWNING SCORES FOR LIVERPOOL. 2-1 after seven penalties.
RUDY GESTEDE MISSES FOR CARDIFF!!! Hits the left post!
DIRK KUYT SCORES FROM LIVERPOOL!!! Hammers it home calmly and coolly - it's 1-1 on penalties.
DON COWIE SCORES! CARDIFF 1-0. Shoots the left and defeats reina who can't reach it.
CHARLIE ADAM MISSES!!! The Liverpool midfielder skies the penalty to the left over the crossbar. And it's still 0-0 in the shoot-out!
TOM HEATON SAVES FOR CARDIFF!!! The Bluebirds goalkeeper leaps to his right to deny Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in the first penalty of the shoot-out.
120' + 10'
Pen SO MissAnthony Gerrard
120' + 9'
Pen SO GoalGlen Johnson
120' + 8'
Pen SO GoalPeter Whittingham
120' + 7'
Pen SO GoalStewart Downing
120' + 6'
Pen SO MissRudy Gestede
120' + 5'
Pen SO GoalDirk Kuyt
120' + 4'
Pen SO GoalDon Cowie
120' + 3'
Pen SO MissCharlie Adam
120' + 3'
Wayne Veysey, at the stadium for Goal.com: "Amazing scenes here at Wembley as both teams prepare for the dreaded penalties. Cardiff fans are in especially good voice after their sensational late equaliser and possibly in the knowledge, too, of Liverpool's terrible record from the spot this season."
120' + 2'
Pen SO MissKenny Miller
120' + 2'
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Cardiff shot-stopper Tom Heaton are preparing for the spot-kicks. The Bluebirds keeper was the hero in the semi-finals when he pulled off two stunning saves in the penalty shoot-out against Crystal Palace. Repeat heorics for the Welsh side? Or will Liverpool prevail as victors? Either way, we have been treated to one of the best matches I have have ever seen. Stick with Goal.com for every spot-kick, And Tweet me @Miles_Chambers what you see happening at Wembley.
120' + 1'
Pen SO MissSteven Gerrard
120' + 1'
Penalties at Wembley as Cardiff equalise late in the second-half of extra-time, Ben Turner scoring from a City corner after Dirk Kuyt scored what looked to be the winner for Liverpool. A simply remarkable match will be decided in the pot-luck that is a penalty shoot-out.
It's Liverpool's turn to have a stream of corners. Kuyt tries to score a second by overheading kicking a loose ball inside the box but Cardiff clear the ball like their lives depend on defending the goalmouth.
Yellow CardBen Turner
WOULD YOU BLOOMING BELIEVE IT?!?! Cardiff equalise with less than three minutes on the clock and Ben Turner, at the back post for City and poorly marked by Kuyt, prods in on the left. Drama indeed! The previous corner had yielded an off-the-line clearance from Liverpool and the Premier League side suffered the consequences for taking their foot off the gas. Just..wow. What an amazing match.
It's time for Liverpool fans to have their hearts in their mouths as Cardiff urge forward en masse. Cardiff win their first corner of the match, in fact. It only took them 116 minutes.
Rudy Gestede lands awkwardly in the Liverpool half and the Frenchman requires some treatment. The City forward hasn't had much of an impact on the match today but there is still five minutes remaining.
Cardiff midfielder Aron Gunnarsson can barely move with cramp on the left flank yet is repeatedly passed the ball. Most of the players looked wearisome but the Bluebirds continue to valiantly press forwards seeking a goal that would give them a penalty shoot-out.
Cardiff have one hell of a mission of their hands now. Liverpool have looked in the ascendancy for so long and it will take a minor miracle for them to salvage a result from this match. But cup finals are where miracles can happen...
LIVERPOOL SCORE!!! Dirk Kuyt scores for the Reds and scores what might potentially be the winners for the Premier League club. The Dutch winger, who came on the end of the last half, reacts swiftly after his first shot is semi-cleared by Cardiff on the right, to hammer past Heaton and into the City net. 2-1 to Liverpool!
Barely a second to catch your breath as play gets back underway in London. 15 minutes lie between now and a penalty shoot-out if neither side score. Many of you on Twitter predicting Liverpool - and Gerrard in particular - will win this game. What will happen?
105' + 2'
Wayne Veysey, at Wembley stadium: "The first half of extra time ends with Cardiff fans in noticeably chirpier mood than their counterparts from Liverpool. Both sets of players are looking shattered now. Liverpool, with their poor record from the spot this season, will be desperate to avoid penalties."
105' + 1'
Glen Johnson has a shot for Liverpool that skids wide to the left of Tom Heaton's left upright and, one Cardiff goal-kick later, the referee blows for half-time of extra-time in this League Cup final.
Bellamy dribbles beautifully with the ball practically glued to his feet across the edge of the Cardiff box, but his dribble from the Liverpool left ends in a delicate shot that he scoops over the woodwork.
Downing whips a corner in from the right and Carroll rises highest to nod the ball inches wides of the left post.
A quick snippet from Wayne Veysey at the League Cup final for Goal.com: "Every Cardiff fan is standing to applaud a magnificent display by skipper Mark Hudson, who has limped off with cramp after an excellent 98 minutes of intercepting, clearing up and averting danger. His withdrawal could prove to be a defining moment."
Chants of "there's only one Gerrard echo around Wembley", nice. Downing turns inside from the right wing and shoots on his favoured left foot but the strike sails considerably high over the City crossbar.
Yellow CardFilip Kiss
Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, comes on for Cardiff captain Mark Hudson who has been struggling for a while with severe cramp.
Silip Kiss, who came on for goalscorer Joe Mason at the start of this first half of extra-time, writhes his way through the Liverpool middle but his shot is too weak and Reina dives down to his right to hold the ball.
Free-kick to Cardiff deep on the left now...but Pepe Reina sprints from his goalline to catch the lofted cross easily.
Suarez runs in behind the Cardiff defence from Steven Gerrard's free-kick from deep on the left, but the striker is called back for being offside. He doesn't look too distraught as his flick trickled off target anyway.
Extra-time began as the previous 90 minutes had ended: breathlessly. Cardiff will be lucky to survive 30 minutes of this Liverpool onslaught, although to their credit the Welsh club have pushed against the attacking tide magnificently all match.
Off the line!! Suarez nods the corner from his previous shot on goal but Cardiff left-back Andrew Taylor blocks the certain goal from putting the Reds ahead at Wembey.
Immediately once play gets back underway Luis Suarez lashes a vicious right-footed shot to the bottom right corner, but Tom Heaton tips it wide for Cardiff.
90' + 8'
Let me know @Miles_Chambers on Twitter how you see the extra-time panning out. Many of you previously predicted Liverpool would score three goals - can they add the extra two in these final 30 minutes?
90' + 7'
More words of wisdom from Goal.com's man at the stadium, Wayne Veysey: "Applause from both sets of supporters at the end of normal time, as the backroom staff enter the pitch to gee up the players and prepare them for another half hour. Most of Cardiff's players are sat down or on their haunches. By contrast, Liverpool's players are all stood up, stretching, drinking water and listening to the coaches."
90' + 6'
Liverpool's Martin Skrtel scored the equalising goal midway through the second half and has set the scene for extra-time at Wembley stadium. Both sides had opportunities to win the game as the 'final' whistle loomed but neither team have socred that crucial second goal -yet. Cardiff deserve another half an hour at League Cup glory as their grit and determination has earnt that much.
90' + 5'
The 90 minutes ends Cardiff 1-1 Liverpool!
90' + 4'
Suarez loses his appeal for a Liverpool corner on the right flank and, as the seconds tick by, it looks more and more likely that extra-time is heading our way.
90' + 2'
Steven Gerrard now has his go at missing the target, curling high from 25-yards out in front of the goalmouth. A frantic, exciting end to a frantic, exciting 90 minutes.
Luis Suarez has an opportunity at the other end after a poor defensive header puts him through one-on-one with Heaton; poor control from the Liverpool striker leads to Cardiff getting men back though and the Uruguayan's left-footed shot from the right in the area drifts wide.
Oh Kenny...Kenny Miller that is. The Cardiff striker is in a perfect position inside the box on the right to smash the Welsh side into the lead after a quick free-kick is taken. However, the Scotland international's shot is way too hard and too high, and Pepe Reina watches the attempt sail over Liverpool's crossbar. What a let-off for the Reds. And what a letdown for the Bluebirds.
Agger is forced off with an injury and Liverpool veteran Jamie Carragher comes on for the centre-back. Last time a sub was made for the Reds they scored, can that happen again? Or are we looking at extra-time at Wembley?
Five minutes remain and the Welsh club have a renewed attacking thrust. The Championship side are left vulnerable in defence when they do charge forwards though, and Adam almost gets his cracking shot past the safe hands of Tom Heaton, but the Cardiff keeper dives to his right to save the effort.
Oh my! Ben Turner almost puts Cardiff ahead! The Bluebirds fool Liverpool into thinking they will use Gunnarsson for another long throw, when in fact a short one is taken quickly and Cowie's cross from the left is nodded wide by the City centre-back at the back post.
Johnson has an ambitious shot on his left foot from 25-yards out after dummying on his right foot. The ball trickles out to the left of goal though and it's a Cardiff goal-kick.
No they can't, is the answer to that question. The shot is drilled into the wall and a Gunnarsson long throw from the left for Cardiff comes to nothing too.
Miller half-slips and is half-pushed by Downing at the opposite end of the Wembley pitch and a free-kick is given. Can City get something from this set-piece?
Downing gets a shot away from in front of goal, drilling a low left-footed effort past the legs of three Cardiff players before Heaton has to tip the ball away to his left.
Cardiff's attack looks relatively wary and their primary focus is evidently in defence. Mark Hudson intercepts Bellamy's short cross from the left, inside the box, to Carroll. The Cardiff captain pulls up with cramp afterwards and the Bluebirds physio is on the treat the defender, who is returning from injury in this League Cup final.
89,041 spectators at Wembley to watch this League Cup clash. From an umpteenth (11th, actually) corner, Skrtel almost doubles his tally but Cardiff keeper Heaton reacts well to scoop the low reflex shot into his arms.
Replays show Steven Gerrard was a bit of a naughty boy - he threw his arms into the face of Gunnarsson on his run. The Icelandic midfielder is a bit stunned from the incident but doesn't make a meal of it and play gets back under way after a brief pause.
Some might call this a lull in play, but I call it a breather! Liverpool crowded out as Gerrard tries to weave, wriggle and one-two his way through Cardiff's ranks.
Goal.com's man at the ground, Wayne Veysey, gives us some more mid-match analysis: "Save for the odd Cardiff counter-attack, Liverpool are in total command now. Suarez is beginning to find some space as Cardiff tire, while Bellamy, who is being jeered by some of the Bluebirds fans when he touches the ball, has instantly made Dalglish's team more incisive and dynamic."
Nothing concrete comes from the corner, as the Bluebirds flee in an attempted counter-attack which fails to ebb and flow as they might have liked. Liverpool get the ball back under their control.
...and the Reds force another corner, Suarez and Bellamy instigating the attacking play. The goal from Skrtel has really kicked the game into an additional gear and the tempo is fast and absolutely furious at Wembley.
Mason fires a stinging low shot from the left edge of the Liverpool area but Reina does his best long-barrier to stop the ball from skidding into the back of the net. What an open, exhilirating game we have on our hands here as Liverpool power up the pitch...
Wayne Veysey fills us in from Wembley Stadium: "That was a great celebration from Martin Skrtel after banging in the loose ball to level the scores. He ran halfway across the pitch to the half-way line, urging his tesm-mates to go with him. Call that the Bellamy effect, who had come on omly minutes earlier for the hopeless Jordan Henderson. Wembley is now echoing to strains of 'Liv-er-pool' from those in red."
A cacophony of noise inside the stadium in the aftermath of that goal. The red half of Wembley celebrate almost as wildly as the Liverpool players did, who jumped on each other as Skrtel looked jubiliant after the goal.
A Liverpool corner and a Liverpool goal!!! Martin Skrtel taps in from seven yards out for the Reds and makes it 1-1 at Wembley stadium! Luis Suarez originally headed the set-piece from the right onto Tom Heaton's left upright, but the Anfield defender is quick to pounce on the rebound!
Here's something you rarely see: a substitute cheered on by both sets of supporters. Craig Bellamy comes on for the ineffectual Henderson, whose also on a yellow card, and all of Wembley seem to cheer the former Bluebirds winger onto the pitch. Will he have a say in today's cup final?
Ben Turner gets back to slide tackle Luis Suarez and prevent him from shooting inside the Cardiff area. A quality bit of defending from the City centre-back.
Aron Gunnarsson unleashes another enormous throw into the Liverpool area; Reina punches the first foray into the 18-yard box before saving and collecting the return towards the Reds goal.
Agger gives the ball cheaply away and Cardiff counter but the Danish defender gets back to slide tackle Mason and concedes a throw-in.
Yellow CardJordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson is given the first yellow card of the game when he slides in rashly on Cardiff goalscorer Joe Mason.
Cardiff are throwing players in front of Liverpool shots, Charlie Adam has his long-ranged attempt blocked by a Blue shirt. Suarez tries to claim handball but the referee waves away his appeal.
The hearts are in Cardiff City fans mouths as Luis Suarez pouches the ball from the feet of Bluebirds right-back Kevin McNaughton. The Uruguay international sees his shot across goal from the right inside the box saved by Tom Heaton before danger is cleared by the Championship side.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Don Cowie does his second backheel of the match to lay-off Kenny Miller. The Scottish striker's shot skewers wide to the left of Pepe Reina's goal though and the ball is back in Liverpool's possession.
Referee Mark Clattenburg makes his first erroneous decision of the match, not allowing the Reds to have an advantage when Jose Enrique shrugs off Kenny Miller's shirt pulling to whip a cross in from the left. Nothing comes of the free-kick midway in Cardiff's half.
Liverpool get the second half underway. Plenty of you telling me on Twitter how the Premier League side will score three goals to put down any hopes of a Cardiff win. Well, we're about to see if you're right...
Not long until the second half of the 2012 League Cup final begins. On Twitter, 'thegentlemen' says, "Liverpool are going to comeback and win. Probably 3-1. With goals from Carroll, Suarez and Downing. 47th, 65th, 78th minutes." while 'Sulley144' believes, "Liverpool need to wake up, I say they score 3 goals in the second half, Gerrard reminds us what L'Pool can do when they play."
With England's friendly against Netherlands on Wednesday, in the country's first match since Fabio Capello resigned as head coach, will any Liverpool players come away with a better chance of featuring in the friendly tie? Theo Walcott's brace at the Emirates Stadium will probably see the winger start but Stewart Downing has put in one of his finer displays in a Reds shirt this season.
What a say of English football this has been so far. Arsenal's phenomenal derby victory at home to Tottenham and Manchester United's last-ditch triumph at Carrow Road has been followed by this beauty of a tie. Still (at least) 45 minutes to go at Wembley though and who knows what this match might have in store. At the Britannia Stadium it's just finished Stoke 2-0 Swansea.
What do you think will happen in the second half? Can Cardiff really come away with the League Cup? Or will Liverpool show their Premier League chops and comeback against the Welsh side? Leave your comments, thoughts and predictions below or write to me @Miles_Chambers on Twitter.
Wayne Veysey gives us his half-time thoughts: "Contrasting emotions from the two sets of fans at the break. Every Cardiff fan has jumped to their feet to vociferously salute their team, while the reaction from the Liverpool supporters is more muted. Liverpool have completely dominated the play since Joe Mason's wonderfully taken goal put underdogs Cardiff 1-0 up. But Kenny Dalglish's team have struggled to break down the bank of blue protecting the Cardiff goal and when they have, their players' techniques have let them down. An exciting second period awaits."
Half-time and Cardiff lead Liverpool 1-0 at Wembley! Joe Mason slotted calmly slotted under Pepe Reina's legs after 19 minutes but the Reds will feel frustrated not to be level as they have seen far more possession. The Bluebirds, players and fans alike, won't care one jot though as the underdogs head in after 45 minutes ahead.
One minute of stoppage time to play at Wembley.
Well I said he would play his part in today's final and there is Tom Heaton's first significant impact on the match. Steven Gerrard whips a cross into the right post from deep on the left and - although the header from Daniel Agger is admittedly soft - the Cardiff keeper does admirably to hold onto it in the packed penalty area.
Suarez cleverly dummies on his right before shooting on his left 25-yards out, but Cardiff's Heaton drops low to smother the bouncing effort from the former Ajax striker.
Here' some more detail from Wayne Veysey, Goal.com's reporter at Wembley stadium: "The suited Malky Mackay is a fidgety, hands-on figure on the touchline, interrupting a constant stream of instrctions to his players only for the occasional sip of water or to make the odd tactical note. Kenny Dalglish, who has not let a cup final stop him donning his tracksuit and padded jacket, looks outwardly more relaxed, occasionally taking his hands out of his pockets to clap his players or fold his arms."
Liverpool fans will be cursing under their breaths at Wembley after that sequence of play. Downing, who has been the Reds' stand-out player in the first-half so far, whips another dangerous ball in from the left. Henderson somehow misses his volleyed attempt and Gerrard's attempt to shoot from in front of goal on the right flies harmlessly over the Cardiff crossbar.
Heroic defending from Cardiff skipper Hudson, who intercepts a ball for Carroll six-yards out which could easily have led to Liverpool equalising.
The roars of delight from Bluebird fans have died down and Liverpool's lot are beginning to rediscover their voice now that their men are in control of the ball.
I would imagine City will be happy to defend Liverpool's constant waves of attack now they are 1-0 up. Another corner is flown in by Gerrard but Heaton punches clear for Cardiff.
Seconds after that (correctly-ruled) penalty appeal, Charlie Adam lashes a left-footed shot from 30-yards out along the floor. Cardiff keeper Heaton will have been relieved to see that shot dribble just wide of his left upright.
Downing is seeing plenty of the ball on the left flank for the Merseyside club. Appeals of handball from Liverpool fans inside Wembley referee Mark Clattenburg ignores the shouts.
Aron Gunnarsson does his finest Rory Delap impression and launches a long throw in from 35-yards out on the left, but his lofted launch is hastily dealt with by the Liverpool defence.
Downing drives a low cross across the face of goal from the left but the ball is a few-too-many inches ahead of Carroll and Cardiff scoop it clear.
Mason is oozing confidence now his name is on the scoresheet. He dribbles at England full-back Glen Johnson, doing a couple of step-overs before passing away to a Blue shirt. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, meanwhile, looks on bemused on the touchline, no doubt thinking how his side can get back into the game.
The Cardiff defence is packed tighter than a tin of sardines now, as Downing, Suarez and Johnson try to pass it through the Bluebirds' back-line to no avail.
Liverpool are pressing forwards in a more frantic fashion. Carroll hammers the ball angrily over from 30-yards out. A bit (understatement alert) of a wild and rash shot from the Geordie striker.
Wayne Veysey gives us his post-goal analysis from the London ground: "Joe Mason, wearing number 20 and aged 20, has stunned the red half of Wembley and sent the blue half potty with a wonderfully calm finish from Kenny Miller's neat pass. That might wake Liverpool up, who, Johnson's shot apart, have started in sluggish fashion."
Well, well, well, we have a cup tie on our hands! It may not please Liverpool fans but that goal was completely deserved, an excellent little spell of passing play from the Welsh side. And what a finish from the 20-year-old, Mason, who belied his age and inexperience on the big stage to put the favourites one goal down at Wembley.
CARDIFF TAKE THE LEAD!!! Skrtel heads poorly from a City cross and Miller slides the ball through to Joe Mason, who calmly slots the ball under Pepe Reina's legs to send the unfancied Bluebirds 1-0 up!
Wayne Veysey gives us anothe update from Wembley: "At the home of English football, Luis Suarez has not exactly received a warm welcome. The Uruguayan is being boed by the Cardiff fans massed behind Tom Heaton's goal every time he touches the ball. He has been tidy enough up until now but has yet to spark into life."
Cardiff are fighting admirably for a hold on this tie but so far they're on the back foot. Carroll, whose ability to get his noggin on the ball was part of the reason why Liverpool paid £30 million for his services from Newcastle United, heads over from Charlie Adam's dinked ball into the area.
Suarez has a half-hearted pop on goal from 25-yards out but the shot is blocked before it ever enters the Cardiff 18-yard box. Moments later Gerrard whips one of his trademark crosses in from the right which Turner has to head behind for another Reds corner.
Don Cowie gives Cardiff striker Kenny Miller a delightful flick inside the Liverpool area, but the Scotland international blazes over. Some cup final jitters probably caused that shot to gly high of target.
Wayne Veysey is Goal.com's man at Wembley today, and he gives us our first update from the ground: "There is a terrific atmosphere insidea sunlit Wembley, which is a jam-packed sea of red and blue. It is regarded as the peoples' final, and with this classic battle pitting second underdog versus the mighty Liverpool on their long-awaited return to Wembley, there is a special feeling about this match. Novelty value and historical significance."
Suarez is buzzing about like a boisterous bee in a bee hive; standard stuff from the Uruguayan. Ben Turner, playing at centre-back for the Championship contenders, upends the striker and a foul is given against Cardiff.
The first corner is headed behind for a second, but the subsequent set-piece drifts too near the back post and Martin Skrtel's header back across goal is claimed by Cardiff keeper Tom Heaton.
Hudson turns behind a dangerous, low, fast ball from Downing near the byline of the left. A Liverpool corner now, the first of the game.
The Bluebirds are trying to shrug off those shaky first 180 seconds. The Reds are seeing much of the ball though as Jordan Henderson whips in a cross from the right but Andy Carroll is judged to have pushed Cardiff captain Mark Hudson when leaping in the box.
Off the crossbar!!! Wow! What a start to the game! Steven Gerrard marauds magnificently down the field from deep in his own half. The England international passes it wide to the left for Stewart Downing, who lays off Glen Johnson to hammer a curled effort against the crossbar. The ball bounces down and is swiftly cleared. Let's hope the rest of this match lives up to this early tempo!
Here..we..go..the first cup final of the season in the English calendar is underway as referee Mark Clattenburg blows his whistle Cardiff kick-off.
In the preview for this game, I picked Tom Heaton as the Cardiff player to watch today. The goalkeeper was the penalty shoot-out hero in the semi-final's triumph over Crystal Palace. Liverpool have been foiled on numerous occasion by top performances from shot-stoppers - will today be another of those games for Dalglish's side?
The stadium is buzzing with both sets of supporters in superb voice. The teams are out, have shaken hands and we're only moments away from the whistle will be blown to get the game started.
Liverpool are only the second side ever (after Arsenal five years ago) to have reached the final of this competition having played just one home match. Cardiff have never appeared in a League Cup final before. The Reds, on the other hand, are the most successful club in the cup’s history, winning on seven occasions (most recently in 2003) and finishing runners-up three times.
Cardiff have a noteworthy record against the Merseyside men, having won 18 of the 29 matches between these two clubs. Liverpool have won nine of those clashes, with two drawn. If it’s a draw come 90 minutes then expect extra-time then penalties if scores are still tied. Personally, I’m a massive fan of penalties, but I know if I was a supporter of either side that I would be praying for no nerve-wracking spot-kicks at the death.
Both of these clubs have top goalscorers on 10 for the 2011-12 campaign – Luis Suarez for Liverpool and Kenny Miller for City. Andy Carroll for the Reds and Gestede for the Bluebirds will be strikers wanting to leave their goalscoring mark on this match, however.
11 minutes – no wait! 10 minutes! – until kick-off at Wembley. Fancy some tasty statistics to fill the gap between the League Cup final begins? I hope so, because that’s what you’re getting!
A quick update from the Premier League games underway today: Arsenal came back from two goals down against Tottenham to thrash their north London rivals 2-1; Manchester United old boys Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs ensured a 2-1 win at Norwich City, with the Welsh winger scoring a late winner for the Red Devils in his 900th appearance for the club; and Stoke City are leading Swansea City at half-time with Peter Crouch and Matthew Upson giving the Potters the lead at the Britannia Stadium.
Some might sneer at the League Cup as being the lesser brother of the FA Cup, but ask Liverpool and Cardiff fans today if they see it that way and I imagine you’ll be impassioned responses that it is a huge competition. Also, the winner today will automatically qualify for next season’s Europa League, adding an extra incentive to the game. Birmingham conquered the Gunners in last year’s final, and although they exited the continental competition at the group stages they put up a real fight and notched up a few impressive results.
Cardiff coach Malky Mackay just now: “Underdogs should be beaten nine times out of 10 but there’s always the other time.” He will be hoping the team can harness some of the spirit and energy that last season’s victor’s, Birmingham City, used when Obafemi Martins scored a late, late goal to them a 2-1 win over Arsenal.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, speaking before the match to the BBC, said: “You measure your success by how often you play at Wembley.” Can this appearance at the famous ground herald in a new era of success at Anfield?
And now, let’s look at Liverpool’s starting eleven: Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, is his first game at the new Wembley, opts to a field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Craig Bellamy surprisingly left out for the match against the club he took to the Championship play-offs last season. The Welsh winger was struggling to find full fitness this week but expect him to make a substitute appearance at some point. Steven Gerrard is surrounded in midfield by Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. Luis Suarez will be playing in the hole just behind Andy Carroll, who plays in his first cup final this afternoon for the Merseyside club.
Right, let’s dissect these announced teams. Firstly Cardiff: manager Malky Mackay chooses Rudy Gestede up front in a surprisingly attacking 4-4-1-1 formation for today’s League Cup final. Kenny Miller, expected to start as the lone striker, slots in just behind him with wingers Joe Mason and Don Cowie flanking them. Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Liverpool sipper Steven Gerrard, has to settle for a place of the bench with City captain Mark Hudson overcomes a calf problem to lead his team out at Wembley. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton, not the regular choice in Championship matches but crucial to the Bluebirds side throughout the cup run, returns after shrugging off an ankle injury.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique; Adam, Gerrard (c); Downing, Suarez, Henderson; Carroll. Subs: Doni, Spearing, Henderson, Maxi, Carragher, Kelly, Bellamy.
Cardiff City: Heaton; McNaughton, Hudson (c), Turner, Taylor; Mason, Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Cowie; Miller; Gestede. Subs: Marshall, Kiss, Gerrard, Earnshaw, Conway, Naylor, Blake.
Startling line-ups are in boys and girls...
The astute/picky of you will have noticed that Cardiff are ahead of Liverpool – a team has to be, but no this is no home match for the Welsh club of course. The Bluebirds will be wishing it was, as away from home they are yet to win in 2012. On a neutral ground can they prove many punters wrong and snatch the trophy from under the heavy favourites’ noses?
The squads have arrived at the iconic London stadium and both sets of fans are streaming in and getting seated. There seems to be a genuine excitement today amongst Reds fan who have not won silverware since 2006, six years ago. Although they are one of the most successful clubs in English football, Liverpool have not visited the new Wembley yet – playing their finals over the past decade at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff – and 1996 was the last time they played on Wembley turf.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com’s LIVE! commentary of the League Cup final between Cardiff City and Liverpool. I’m Miles Chambers and I’ll be guiding you through the Wembley clash this afternoon. The match kicks off at 16:00 GMT and the starting line-ups will be posted as soon as they are announced.
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