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January 25, 2012
• Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 44590
S. Gerrard 40'
C. Bellamy 74'
Liverpool win Aggregate 3 - 2
N. de Jong 31'
E. Džeko 68'
Greg Stobart rounds off the evening with his full-time summary from Anfield. He says: "Absolutely magnificent noise from the Liverpool supporters after they booked their place in the final with a thoroughly deserved win. That was much-needed after the team's shaky recent form in the league and sets them up perfectly for the visit of Manchester United in the FA Cup this weekend. Kenny Dalglish looked particularly emotional at full-time and it will be interesting to hear from him after the match. I'm sure he will agree with me that Craig Bellamy was the best player on the pitch tonight, the 32-year-old free transfer making something of a mockery of the much vaunted sabermetrics in front of the watching owners, John W Henry and Tom Werner."
90' + 5'
That's it!! Liverpool are through to the League Cup final and will face Cardiff City at Wembley!! Anfield erupts! Kenny Dalglish celebrates with his staff on the sidelines and looks emotional as he salutes the fans. Bellamy's goal proved to be decisive after the Reds had twice fallen behind on the night, despite having had the better of the game.
90' + 4'
Liverpool have the ball safely by the corner flag - fans of the Reds should get ready to celebrate.
90' + 3'
Close!! Hart's long ball into the box bounces kindly for Aguero and he tries an ambitious overhead kick. Fortunately for Liverpool, it flies straight at Reina and there is huge relief around the ground. The Kop are signing You'll Never Walk Alone - they think it's all over, and it probably is.
90' + 2'
Final stages now. City are throwing everyone forward and are desperate to create just one more chance.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
As we enter four minutes of stoppage time, Dalglish makes another change to wind down the clock. It's Andy Carroll coming on, replacing Dirk Kuyt, who has had a good game. Carroll makes his 35th appearance since his £35m move to Anfield. How many goals has he scored I hear you ask? Six.
City are passing the ball around but Liverpool look too well organised, two solid banks of defence and midfield holding firm and there is no way through, Dzeko ending one slow move as his pass drifts out of play.
Kolarov whips in two crosses, but Skrtel clears the first and the second is wasted. It looks like Liverpool have done enough - the home fans are starting to believe and the away end is getting quieter by the second.
Craig Bellamy comes off for Martin Kelly as Dalglish looks to shut up shop. It's a standing ovation for the striker as he leaves the field after an impresive shift.
Zabaleta bombs down the right and cuts back for Dzeko. The striker turns dangerously in the box, but Agger is there to snuff out the danger. Close call!
City have definitely been second best in this match but it isn't over yet. Liverpool are starting to sit back and they are allowing the visitors time on the ball. One moment of magic from someone like Silva and we could still see extra-time. Under five minutes to go.
Agger half clears the corner and strong defensive work from Johnson ensures the hosts see out the danger. If they can do that for a couple more attacks they should be within touching distance of a first major trophy since 2007.
Corner for City. The dangerous Kolarov gets time and space to deliver a cross and the Reds can only knock it behind.
Close! A rare attack from City as Dzeko finds the substitute Johnson with a stunning pass. The winger cuts inside and gets his shot away, but it's too close to Reina. Nervy nine minutes ahead for the home fans!
Greg Stobart reports from Anfield: "The stadium really is rocking now as Liverpool find themselves 10 minutes away from the League Cup final. Steven Gerrard has just walked to every player in a Red shirt to gee them up for a final push."
Nigel De Jong
On comes Adam Johnson, the tricky winger replacing the scorer of tonight's best goal, Nigel de Jong.
Bellamy is down receiving treatment after a clash with Richards. That gives the visitors a chance to gather themselves ahead of a final charge.
Adam and Gerrard work a nice short corner but Barry clears it to safety.
Dirk Kuyt heads wide as Liverpool look to wrap things up. Bellamy then wins a corner off Lescott - City need to be up the other end. The Reds deserve this lead on the balance of play.
Goal Craig Bellamy
GOAL FOR LIVERPOOL!!! The hosts are back in control of this amazing tie. Kuyt does superbly, cutting in from the right and finding Bellamy. The Welshman exchanges passes with Glen Johnson inside the box and turns to fire an accurate shot into the far corner. Kenny is loving it. There won't be extra-time now!
City have only had two shots on target tonight - and they've both been goals! Liverpool are slowly coming back into things now, with Enrique and Downing combining well down the left - but the last 15 minutes have been the most quiet of the match for Joe Hart.
Just to be clear, if there are no goals in these final 18 minutes then we will be going to extra-time with the scores level on aggregate. It is only after 120 minutes of this second leg that away goals would come into play, so while City have an advantage, there is a long way to go yet.
City enjoy a nice spell of possession, they don't need to force anything now. That is how finely balanced this tie was.
Goal Edin Dzeko
GOAL FOR MAN CITY!! Just as I was about to say we are going through the first quiet spell of the match, Kolarov whips in a stunning cross from the left. No Liverpool defender is able to clear, so Edin Dzeko has the simplest of tasks to apply a finish at the far post. It's against the run of play, but City don't care, they lead 2-1 on the night and have levelled to 2-2 on aggregate!
Collector's item - a bad pass from David Silva. The Spanish maestro completely overhits his delivery into the box and the danger passes for now.
Yellow Card José Enrique
Free-kick to City on the right-hand side of the area. Enrique is booked for a blatant tug on Zabaleta.
As things stand the League Cup final will be Liverpool v Cardiff - will the closing stages of this match change that? City will need to improve on what they are currently producing if they are to turn around this tie.
Up the other end, Downing crosses into the box towards Bellamy, but the striker misses the ball completely - that was a good shooting opportunity.
Dzeko finds Zabaleta in space on the right. The Argentine's cross evades everyone, though. There were not enough blue City shirts in the box there considering they are chasing this tie.
The lively Bellamy wins another corner for Liverpool. Gerrard takes it, but Joleon (I really want to call him Julian) Lescott is there to head it away.
Liverpool have dominated this match but Joe Hart's heroics in goal and Nigel de Jong's first-half stunner have kept them right in this tie. They need to score next and if they do they will be in pole position to go through to Wembley, even if away goals only count after extra-time.
Yellow Card Aleksandar Kolarov
Henderson is down receiving treatment after colliding with Kolarov, who receives a booking - harsh one there, looked like an honest battle for the ball.
It's all Liverpool at the moment! Kuyt bursts down the right and finds Downing with a cross to the back post. The winger gets decent contact on his shot but that man Hart is there again to deny the Reds. Dzeko heads away the resulting corner.
Skrtel heads well wide from the resulting corner. The early signs are Liverpool will not be sitting back despite holding a one-goal lead in the tie.
Stunning save frrom Hart! Gerrard whips in a free-kick from the touchline and the keeper poorly flaps at the ball. It falls to Skrtel, who seems certain to score, but Hart makes up for his previous mistake with a super diving stop to divert the shot wide.
Up the other end it's an attempt from City. A slow, deliberate spell in possession results eventually results in a wild Gareth Barry shot from 20 yards. He blazes high and wide - it was never threatening.
Early chance for Liverpool in the second half. A good passing move eventually results in Kuyt firing in a shot from the edge of the box after nice work from Bellamy. Hart gets enough behind the shot and the away defence hacks the bouncing rebound clear to safety.
We are under way with the second half here at Anfield!
Substitution for Manchester City at half-time. The struggling Savic is coming off to be replaced by Sergio Aguero. It's an attacking move! Micah Richards will tuck into centre-back in a new formation.
Our man at the ground Greg Stobart regularly combines heroic acts with his general Goal.com work when he covers matches, as summarised by his latest update from Anfield: "Having saved Maxi Rodriguez's son from tumbling down a flight of stairs, I'm back in the press box and ready for what should be an enthralling second-half. The general consensus in the press room during the break was that the penalty was a harsh decision but I disagree. Once Micah Richards' dived with his arms above his head, he was risking handling the ball, however unfortunate the slight deflection off the City defender's knee."
45' + 2'
That's it, half-time! An excellent first half of action, of which Liverpool have had the better. They were shocked by De Jong's stunning strike from distance but levelled within nine minutes from Steven Gerrard's second penalty in this semi-final tie, albeit the award was controversial. Forty-five minutes to go, and the Reds lead 2-1 on aggregate.
45' + 1'
City enjoy a decent spell of possession as we move towards the half-time whistle, but they have work to do if they are to turn this around again. The Kop are in full voice now as Wembley looks to be just 45 minutes away.
Two minutes of added time are indicated by the fourth official and it lookes like we'll be going into the break with the score at 1-1 on the night.
While the penalty decision is a tough one to call, Liverpool certainly deserve their equaliser on the night, which puts them 2-1 up on aggregate. They win a corner as they chase a quick second goal but Bellamy's delivery comes to nothing.
Penalty Goal Steven Gerrard
City are not happy, Richards was unfortunate the ball deflected up onto his arm from his foot as he slid in to block Agger's shot. It will be Gerrard to step up and take the spot-kick... and he scores!! No mistake from the captain as he comfortably beats his England team-mate Hart.
It's a penalty to Liverpool! Adam crosses and Agger is there to fire in a shot. Richards gets down to block but the ball bounces off his foot and onto his arm. Phil Dowd instantly points to the spot!
A lovely cross from Charlie Adam seems destined to find Dirk Kuyt six yards from goal, only for the hosts to be denied by a crucial intervention from Lescott.
An ambitious effort from Enrique deflects off Zabaleta and out for a corner, which Richards heads clear. The Reds will feel hard done by to be 1-0 down.
Downing has had a good start to the game. He makes a threatening run down the left and flashes a cross into the box and City eventually struggle to get it clear.
This game is getting frantic now. Adam hacks down Silva 30 yards from goal and it's a free-kick. Kolarov takes it but Kuyt is there to clear the danger.
Almost an instant reply! Liverpool go straight up the other end and threaten. Gerrard makes good ground down the right and gets the ball into the box. It eventually falls to Adam and the Scotsman powers in a shot from a tight angle, which Hart gets down well to keep out.
Goal Nigel De Jong
GOAL!!! Nigel de Jong scores for Manchester City and the tie is level! It's a stunning goal from the most unlikely of sources. Silva weaves some magic to earn some space away from Gerrard 30 yards from goal and squares to De Jong, who hits a stunning curling effort from distance which finds the top corner. Reina had no chance! Game on!!
Dirk Kuyt is not happy . The Dutchman gets involved in a minor scuffle with Joleon - or should I say Julian - Lescott on the touchline after a disagreement over the award of a throw-in. Calm down gents, a long way to go in this one yet.
Bellamy wins a corner for Liverpool but it comes to nothing with Richards rising high to head clear.
That's a bit more like it from City. Nasri cuts in from the left and exchanges passes with Silva, before finding Dzeko just inside the area. The Bosnian's shot is then blocked by Skrtel.
Our man at the ground Greg Stobart has clearly been enjoying the early stages of this clash. He says: "The atmosphere has been cracking in the early stages here, with the Kop doing its best to roar Liverpool to Wembley. The Reds will be pleased with their side's high octane start, with Craig Bellamy buzzing as the focal point of the hosts' attack. City will be content to have avoided going a goal down and Roberto Mancini's gameplan appears to be to take the sting out of the game early on before looking to take charge of possession. The City manager is now very stylishly perched on the edge of the visitors' dugout, but he wasn't a moment ago when he stormed into the technical area to berate Stefan Savic for failing to get close enough to Bellamy.
The ball is in the net for the hosts, but it will not count. Kuyt feeds through Bellamy after a kind break of the ball and the Welshman slots past Hart into the far corner. However, the assistant referee's flag is quickly up and it's the correct decision - the striker was about a yard offside.
A decent spell of passing from City allows Zabaleta to get a cross into the box from the right, although Skrtel is there and able to mop up comfortably.
Close! Good trickery from Bellamy at the edge of the box allows him to escape the attentions of Savic and a driven shot from the Welshman forces Hart to beat the ball away with two hands. The England keeper has had plenty to do already.
These early stages have seen City enjoy slightly more of the ball, but the home side look far more threatening in front of goal and look the most likely scorers at the moment.
Suggestion that Charlie Adam might have caught Edin Dzeko in the penalty area a couple of minutes ago - the Scottish midfielder might have been a little fortunate the referee didn't spot that. At the other end, Craig Bellamy balloons a volley into the stands.
David Silva skips past Steven Gerrard and into acres of space in the Liverpool half. His pass for Aleksandar Kolarov is just a touch long and the Serbian is forced too wide to shoot. His cross to the back post is well cleared by Daniel Agger.
Manchester City are struggling to get a grip on this game. Liverpool's three central midfielders are all very comfortable on the ball, and they've dominated it so far.
Charlie Adam works in from the Liverpool left to fire a low shot towards Joe Hart's goal - it's a well-struck effort, and the goalkeeper does well to hold it, with Dirk Kuyt lurking in hope of a rebound.
Pablo Zabaleta has drifted out to the right quite frequently, playing somewhere in between central midfield and right wing-back. Micah Richards, as a result, has adopted a more cautious outlook, tucking in as third centre-back when Liverpool have the ball.
Liverpool have started on the front foot and look to be targeting Stefan Savic, who has been throw in at the deep end in the absence of Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure against difficult opposition.
Brilliant save from Joe Hart, who denies Jose Enrique from point blank range with a trailing leg - City would have found it very difficult to come back from that. Stewart Downing got to the rebound, too, but blasted a volley high and wide.
Yellow Card Steven Gerrard
Both sides look to be taking quite a conservative outlook as we get underway at Anfield. City will start with three men in central midfield, withdrawing Sergio Aguero in order to allow Pablo Zabaleta and Nigel de Jong to join Gareth Barry in midfield. Liverpool, meanwhile, start with five across midfield, Craig Bellamy the lone striker.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Kuyt, Gerrard, Adam, Henderson, Downing; Bellamy. Subs: Doni, Coates, Carragher, Kelly, Rodriguez, Shelvey, Carroll. Manchester City: Hart; Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov; Zabaleta, Barry, De Jong; Silva, Dzeko, Nasri. Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Rekik, Milner, Johnson, Aguero, Hargreaves.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's live commentary of tonight's decisive League Cup semi-final second leg between Liverpool and Manchester City. Roberto Mancini's visitors, of course, will need to overturn a one-goal deficit if they wish to progress to Wembley, where there victors will face Cardiff City.
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