Kenny Dalglish won his first silverware of his second tenure in charge of Liverpool as his side overcame a resilient Cardiff City to lift the Carling cup via a penalty shoot out.
Anthony Gerrard (cousin of Liverpool captain Steven) was the unfortunate player who missed the decisive penalty, placing just wide of Pepe Reina’s right hand post, in this dramatic penalty shoot out, to give Liverpool their first trophy in six years- the last of course being the 2006 F.A cup also via a shoot-out.
Although many had backed Liverpool to come out on top without too much worry, it was the Championship side that took a surprise first half lead through Joe Mason, and defended bravely until the 60th minute when defender Martin Skrtel levelled the score.
The game went into extra time and substitute Dirk Kuyt thought he had added another valuable goal to his long list when he reacted to the rebound and instinctively finished only for Ben Turner to bundle the ball in with only 2 minutes remaining.
Even after all this the reds were still determined to do it the hard way with Steven Gerrard seeing his penalty saved before Charlie Adam blazing his way over. Kenny Miller hit the post while Don Cowie calmly slotted his home, giving the underdogs the advantage by 1 after 2 spot kicks each. Liverpool’s next three takers all found the net, with Kuyt, Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson slotting home, before a tired looking Rudy Gestede hit the woodwork and then Anthony Gerrard cruelly putting it wide to give Liverpool their 8th League Cup and Cardiff their third defeat at Wembley.
This means that Dalglish becomes one of only seven managers who have won all three of the major English competitions with this memorable victory was, one of the closest of his managerial career which almost ruined their first visit to Wembley in 16 years.
Liverpool started this final just how they did back in August, when they began the competition in the 2nd round, with the intent of winning this competition, with Glen Johnson hitting the crossbar with their first attack. Steven Gerrard surged out of his own half before finally the ball came to Johnson who calmly curled in a shot which had the Bluebirds goalkeeper Tom Heaton beaten, but came off the underside of the bar with Gerrard then blasting over with the follow up.
Cardiff were pushed back and looking like the occasion had got to them, with Downing and Henderson seeing a lot of the ball on the wings, aiming a succession of crosses towards the big man Andy Carroll.
The Championship outfit had already threatened with Kenny Miller who swivelled and blasted over after a neat passing move by the side, before Mason’s 18th minute goal shocked everyone. A poor defensive header by Skrtel was picked up by Kevin McNaughton and, from his pass Miller slid a perfectly timed ball to Mason who powered his low shot under the onrushing Reina.
Although finding themselves behind, Liverpool’s creativity in the final third still did not improve and went into half time a goal down, with Cardiff’s defence holding strong expertly led by skipper Mark Hudson.
Liverpool went into the second half looking for an equaliser and you could see the frustration in their fans, calling for a change to be made, and their demands were answered when Dalglish brought on the influential Bellamy, who had raised eyebrows by not starting. Almost immediately after entering the field of play a Liverpool equaliser followed, although the Welshman had nothing to do with it.
Downing’s corner was first met by Andy Carroll and glanced on by Luis Suarez to hit the post, only for Skrtel to react first to the rebound taking a touch before driving the ball through Heaton’s legs
The Merseysiders continued to push forward, however the Welsh side were not about to give it up just yet, and themselves had the better chances towards the end of the second half.
The game went into extra time and all of Cardiff’s strenuous efforts seemed to have caught up with them, with the instrumental Hudson being forced off with cramp and Liverpool enjoying a flurry of chances. Suarez’s shot was tipped wide by Heaton, and the Uruguayan also seen is header cleared off the line from the resulting corner by Andrew Taylor, while Carroll, Bellamy and Johnson all were off target with their efforts.
The Cardiff defence who had held so strong finally caved and in the 108th minute Dirk Kuyt got what he and everyone else thought was the winning goal. Kuyt’s wayward shot was blocked by Anthony Gerrard, but the ball fell back to him and blasted it into the bottom right corner.
However there was still more to come, in the final few minutes Cardiff pressed and Kuyt needed to be on hand to header off the line, and from the resulting corner he was unable to stop Turner from bundling the ball in, leading the game to be decided on penalties.