LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool is tackled by Don Cowie of Cardiff City during the Carling Cup Final match between Liverpool and Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Cardiff Vs. Liverpool, Carling Cup Final: Reds End Trophy Drought

Cardiff forced a shootout with an extra time equalizer, but Anthony Gerrard missed the decisive penalty to hand Liverpool the victory.

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Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: Liverpool Win On Penalties, Lift First Trophy In 6 Years

Liverpool have won their first trophy in six years, beating Cardiff City on penalties to hoist the Carling Cup at Wembley Stadium. It was an incredibly hard-fought win, and Cardiff were desperately unfortunate to be on the losing side having gone ahead in the first half and then battling back to draw level right at the end of extra time.

From the very beginning, it looked like Liverpool's day. Glen Johnson issued a statement of intent in the second minute, sending in a beautiful curling strike which cannoned off Tom Heaton's crossbar and then was scrambled away. It was all hands on deck for the Cardiff backline, who had to deal with the Premier League side controlling the vast majority of play. Mark Hudson and Ben Turner were magnificent in dealing with the threat* posed by Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in the box, throwing in thunderous challenges and excellent blocks all evening.


It looked for a while as though Cardiff were actually planning on defending like madmen for 120 minutes to force the shootout, but then they scored with virtually their first attack of the game. Martin Skrtel only partially cleared a Kevin McNaughton delivery, and the right back then found Kenny Miller in space just outside the Liverpool box. Miller did well in drawing out Jose Enrique, giving him the space to slip in Joe Mason for a legitimate chance to go 1-0 up.

The 20-year-old took it brilliantly, rolling a first-time shot between Pepe Reina's legs to give Cardiff the lead. They'd hold it through half time, despite a number of fantastic chances for Liverpool to go in front, although eventually the defensive effort was undone by Martin Skrtel an hour in.

Luis Suarez was still recovering from the shock of seeing his flicked header hit the post from two yards out when Skrtel controlled the rebound and slotted past a helpless Heaton. It was harsh on the Cardiff back line and goalkeeper, who'd done superbly in keeping Liverpool out to that point, but giving a team that much possession is just inviting a mistake or a stroke of bad fortune, and the Reds were well worth their goal, and deserved to be even at 1-1.

That state of affairs persisted through the full ninety minutes, although Kenny Miller wasted an absolutely glorious chance for the winner before Mark Clatteburg blew for full time (and stoppage time also featured the curious spectacle of Jamie Carragher clutching the ball like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum after conceding a free kick). Extra time it would be, although some tired Cardiff legs meant that you'd have put some decent money on Liverpool making that half hour count.

Why Dirk Kuyt wasn't starting from the beginning is a question you'll have to ask Kenny Dalglish, but the Dutch forward made a real impact as a substitute, collecting a rebound and blasting past Heaton in the 108th minute. It looked like a hammer blow for Cardiff, who had several players walking wounder by this point and no substitutes left - Aron Gunnarsson could do little more than hobble to the touchlines and take throw ins - but the Championship team wasn't done yet, and Liverpool invited disaster by opting to sit on their lead rather than add the killer third.

Cardiff pressure around the penalty box slowly built up for the remainder of extra time, and it finally told just two minutes from time. There had been plenty of warning when Kuyt, who was putting in a great shift, managed to clear the ball off the line, but Liverpool failed to take heed and were stunned when Ben Turner managed to scramble home from close range to make it 2-2. The match would go to penalties.

Heaton has a reputation as something of a penalty kick wizard, and it looked like Cardiff were in the driver's seat when he pulled off an absolutely spectacular save against Steven Gerard, clawing the Liverpool captain's effort out from under the top corner. He then saw Charlie Adam blast well over the bar - Liverpool's first two spot kicks had resulted in zero goals.

Unfortunately for the Bluebirds, Kenny Miller's effect had also missed, rattling Reina's post, and they were relieved when Don Cowrie's penalty finally found the back of the net. From then on, however, Liverpool would not miss, with Dirk Kuyt, Steward Downing and finally Glen Johnson scoring, while an exhausted Rudy Gestede could only hit the post with Cardiff's third. Peter Whittingham managed to score to keep things close, but at 3-2, everything rested on Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Steven.

He missed wide, and Liverpool are your 2012 Carling Cup champions.


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: A Goal Apiece In Extra Time Means Penalties

Well, we've had 120 minutes of football, and nothing is separating the two sides contesting for the Carling Cup.It looked as though Liverpool were set for an extra time victory, with substitute Dirk Kuyt sending a blistering shot past Tom Heaton just after the halfway point of extra time, but Cardiff were undaunted, pressing Liverpool hard and eventually reaping their reward in the 118th minute.

Pepe Reina failed to deal with a series of corner kicks, and although Kuyt managed to clear off the line once, his powers failed him the second time when Ben Turner managed to scramble the ball through Reina's legs while lying on his back three yards from goal. Liverpool went hell for leather for the winner, but they had nowhere near enough time to get it, and after a minute of stoppage time we're going to penalties.

This has been some game of football. Stay here for the details of the shootout ...

Steven Gerrard MISSES. That is probably the best penalty save I've ever seen. Destined for the top corner and kept out by Tom Heaton. 0-0.

Kenny Miller MISSES. Pepe Reina sent the wrong way, but hits the outside of the post. 0-0.

Charlie Adam MISSES. Shocking penalty, virtually put into orbit. 0-0.

Don Cowie SCORES. About time too. 1-0 Cardiff.

Dirk Kuyt SCORES. Heaton sent the wrong way, sweet finish from Kuyt. 1-1.

Rudy Gestede MISSES. Reina guesses the right way and the ball smacks the base of the post. 1-1.

Stewart Downing SCORES. Cool as you like. 2-1 Liverpool.

Peter Whittingham SCORES. Of course he does. 2-2.

Glen Johnson SCORES. Roof of the net, perfect. 3-2 Liverpool.

Anthony Gerrard MISSES. Liverpool win the Carling Cup!


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: To Extra Time We Go

We're through a full ninety minutes of our first big cup final of the season, and it's been a cracker. We're not done yet either - Liverpool and Cardiff are locked at one piece after a first half goal from Joe Mason was cancelled out by Martin Skrtel's 60th minute strike. Liverpool have had by far the better of play, forcing Cardiff into a defensive performance that on a different day could have won this match. The Bluebirds' back line has been superb, only faltering when a Luis Suarez effort ricocheted off the post and straight to the feet of Skrtel three yards from goal, and Cardiff definitely deserve to still be in the competition.

If not for some blown chances from both side late on, however, we might be looking at the end of the match right now - Ben Turner and Kenny Miller have both spurned golden opportunities for Cardiff, while as we went to injury time Suarez managed to turn a one on one with Tom Heaton into a one on four, capping it off with a shot to nowhere. It's been that sort of game for him. Anyway, to extra time we go!


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: Martin Skrtel Levels

Well that was coming. We're all square in the Carling Cup final thanks to the right boot of Martin Skrtel. The second half has gone pretty much the same way as the first, with Liverpool creating virtually all of the chances with Cardiff City more than happy to defend. The difference, of course, is that despite playing very well, the Bluebirds have conceded this time.

From a corner, Andy Carroll headed the ball towards Luis Suarez, standing in front of Tom Heaton's goal. The Uruguay international's deft flick looked goalbound only to flick off the post. Fortune favoured Liverpool this time, however - the rebound went straight to Skrtel and he slotted home from close range. The goal was long enough in coming to force Kenny Dalglish into a substitution, with the ineffective Jordan Henderson replaced by Craig Bellamy.

So, with the score at 1-1 and half an hour left, you'd probably fancy Liverpool to win this in normal time. Cardiff have played well, but they're well and truly on the back foot here - and it looks like Kenny Miller might have to come off with an injury soon.


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: Cardiff Take 1-0 Lead To Halftime

We're at halftime at Wembley in the Carling Cup final, and on the balance of play one would probably expect favourites Liverpool to be out of sight against Cardiff City. The Premier League side have been buzzing around Tom Heaton's box all night, with Luis Suarez looking dangerous, Stewart Downing all over the left flank, and Glen Johnson rattling the crossbar very early on with a lovely shot that probably was deserving of a goal. The Reds have also had a legitimate-looking shout for a penalty turned down by Mark Clatterburg and had a host of other chances besides.

But it's Cardiff City who are in front, thanks to excellent work from Kenny Miller during Cardiff City's only real attack of the match. Miller found himself in space at the top of the box, drew out the defence, and slipped Joe Mason in for a one on one against Pepe Reina. Mason made no mistake, shooting through Reina's legs for a 1-0 lead that Cardiff have been clinging onto tenaciously ever since. They've made it to the half, at least.


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: Joe Mason Gives Cardiff Lead

Well, that was unexpected. Liverpool have been in complete control of the Carling Cup final in the first twenty minutes at Wembley, but Kenny Dalglish's men now find themselves 1-0 down thanks to a goal from Joe Mason. 'Against the run of play' doesn't really begin to describe it - Glen Johnson had rattled the bar in the early stages with a brilliant strike and Andy Carroll had also threatened to score on more than a few occasions, but still, it's Cardiff City who strike first to stun their Premier League opponents.

It was something like the Bluebird's first proper attack, built up well through the middle and eventually crossed in by Kevin McNaughton. Martin Skrtel heads partially clear, but nobody tracks Kenny Miller at the top of the box and he's able to slip Miller through the back line, leaving him one on one with Reina. Mason finished coolly, slipping the ball through the veteran goalkeeper's legs and it's 1-0 Cardiff! Can they hold it? We'll have to see, but the stadium is rocking now.


Cardiff City Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Carling Cup Final: Lineups

Liverpool announce a strong team to face Cardiff City as they attempt to win their first trophy in six years. The venue: Wembley Stadium. The prize: the Carling Cup. Kenny Dalglish has selected Andy Carroll to lead the line, flanked by Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez, while the midfield is a dangerous mix of silk and steel with Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. Cardiff City, without midfielder Stephen McPhail, are just going to have to make do with what they've got. Don't rule the Bluebirds out, though - remember what happened to Arsenal against Birmingham City in last year's final.

Cardiff City starting lineup (4-4-2): Tom Heaton; Andrew Taylor, Ben Turner, Mark Hudson, Kevin McNaughton; Joe Mason, Peter Whittingham, Dan Cowie; Rudy Gestede, Kenny Miller.

Liverpool starting lineup (4-3-3): Pepe Reina; Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson; Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez.

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