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Football
Liverpool win League Cup thriller
Reds end a six-year trophy drought beating Cardiff on penalties in a dramatic League Cup final at Wembley.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2012 19:31
Dirk Kuyt celebrates his second goal in extra time - but Cardiff equalised to push the game to penalties [GETTY]

Liverpool ended their six-year trophy drought on Sunday after winning a penalty shoot-out victory over Championship side Cardiff in the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Merseysiders just about held their nerve in an error-strewn penalty decider, prevailing 3-2 after the two sides had finished locked at 2-2 after a thrilling period of extra-time.

The English Premier League club's shoot-out victory was clinched when Cardiff substitute Anthony Gerrard - cousin of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard - shot wide with Cardiff's fifth and final spot-kick.

The Cardiff player's miss came after Liverpool had seen Steven Gerrard's opening spot-kick saved and Charlie Adam's second blazed over the bar.

But Cardiff misses from Kenny Miller, Rudy Gestede and finally Gerrard proved decisive for the brave Welsh club from the second tier of English football.

Long-awaited silverware

The win was Liverpool's first trophy since their FA Cup triumph in 2006, and the first since Kop legend Kenny Dalglish returned as manager last year.

Liverpool skipper Gerrard extended sympathy to his family member after the penalty heartache.

"It's always cruel when it goes to penalties. There has to be a loser. Cardiff were superb today," Gerrard said.

"One (of us) was going to be sad, one was going to be celebrating. It happens. I've got mixed emotions at the moment but I feel for Anthony and Cardiff."

The match had gone to penalties after a dramatic period of extra-time which saw Cardiff snatch a 2-2 draw with a leveller from centre-half Ben Turner with just two minutes remaining.

Liverpool had seemed poised to claim victory after substitute Dirk Kuyt fired the Premier League giants 2-1 ahead after 108 minutes.

The extra-time drama unfolded after the two teams finished locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes, Liverpool levelling in the second half through Martin Skrtel after Joe Mason had given Cardiff a shock first-half lead.

Strong start

Earlier a full house of 89,041 had watched Liverpool make a ferocious start, hitting the woodwork.

Gerrard - realising a boyhood ambition by playing in his first Wembley final for Liverpool - picked the ball up in midfield and surged deep into Cardiff territory before feeding Stewart Downing.

The England winger then fed Glen Johnson steaming up from inside whose superb curling shot beat Tom Heaton in the Cardiff goal only to crash off the underside of the crossbar.

Liverpool dominated possession and territory but Cardiff were given encouragement by a rare sight on goal when Miller shot over shortly afterwards.

The deadlock was broken on 19 minutes as Cardiff stormed into the lead after a rare foray forward.

Miller picked up the ball just outside the area and slipped in Mason, who took his time and drilled his shot beyond Pepe Reina.

A shell-shocked Liverpool struggled to respond for several minutes but slowly picked up the pace to keep Cardiff on the back foot.

A low strike from Adam fizzed just past the post on 32 minutes and six minutes later only a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Cardiff skipper Mark Hudson denied Andy Carroll as the Liverpool striker went in on goal.

Yet Liverpool's attempts to equalise suffered from a telling lack of precision in the final third, most notably when Jordan Henderson swung and missed at an inviting cross from Stewart Downing on 39 minutes before Gerrard blazed over.

Gerrard was thwarted again on 45 minutes, his shot well-blocked by Andrew Taylor before the Liverpool captain blasted the rebound high and wide.

Second-half charge

Ben Turner taps in Cardiff's leveller in extra time with just two minutes remaining [GETTY]

Liverpool started the second half with the same verve that had marked their early play and instantly looked more purposeful in front of goal.

Only a brilliant recovering tackle by Kevin McNaughton denied Luis Suarez as the Uruguayan threatened to go clear on goal shortly after half-time.

Liverpool's attacking intent was given fresh impetus by the arrival of former Cardiff idol Craig Bellamy from the bench on 58 minutes, the Welshman receiving a standing ovation from both sets of fans as he replaced Henderson.

On 60 minutes Liverpool finally made the breakthrough. Downing swung in a corner from the right and Carroll headed towards goal where Suarez was lurking.

The South American's flick came back off the woodwork but only as far as Skrtel who rifled in a low shot for 1-1.

Yet Cardiff went closest to grabbing a winner in the closing stages, Ben Turner heading just wide on 83 minutes before Miller lashed over from close range, to set up the extra-time drama. 

Source:
AFP
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