Reds and Bluebirds back at Wembley
Written By: Robert Halter
Liverpool paid their first visit to the new Wembley to face lower league opposition Cardiff City in the 2012 Carling Cup Final on Sunday, February 26. The Reds were close to scoring in the first minute and a half, when Glen Johnson’s curling effort rebounded off the crossbar and Luiz Suarez was unable to follow up, as the Bluebirds had a lucky escape. But it was Cardiff City that took the lead after absorbing the early pressure, when Jose Enrique’s failed clearance fell to Kevin McNaughton, who in turn gave the ball to Kenny Miller, whose incisive pass put Joe Mason clean through and with just Jose Reina to beat, he struck a low shot through the Liverpool keeper’s legs into the left corner of the net, to open the scoring on nineteen minutes. In the thirty first minute, Charlie Adam struck a low drive from outside the box which was fractions away from the right post, as the Reds searched for a way back into the game. Three minutes from the break, Steven Gerrard drove in a free kick that Daniel Agger headed towards Tom Heaton, the acting goalkeeper on the Bluebirds line, as the Reds trailed 1-0 at half time. Four minutes into the second half, a miss kick from Mark Hudson from a header in by Andy Carroll, presented Suarez with a chance left of centre but a full length save from Heaton kept the shot out. Craig Bellamy got the chance to play against his boyhood club on fifty seven minutes, as the Reds took off Jordan Henderson. A minute later Liverpool were back in the game, when Stewart Downing swung in a corner, Carroll won the aerial battle and as Suarez’s header rebounded off the right post, Martin Skrtel drove the ball through Heaton into the centre of the goal. In the seventy seventh minute Heaton was called into action as he dropped down to his right post to stop Downing’s low drive creeping in. The Bluebirds pressed late on when Don Cowie’s cross was narrowly headed wide by Ben Turner in the eighty third minute. Liverpool replied moments later with a well struck shot from Adam which was clawed to safety by Heaton. But Miller could have won the final for Cardiff in the eighty seventh minute but blazed the ball over with only Reina to beat, after Cowie’ s pass had split open the Reds defence. Liverpool started the first half of extra time strongly as a finger tip save by Heaton kept out Suarez’s low drive following a fine run by Bellamy and from the resulting corner by Bellamy, a header from Suarez was cleared off the line by Andrew Taylor. Anthony Gerrard got the chance to play against his cousin Steven, eight minutes into the half as Cardiff brought off Mark Hudson. Three minutes from the end of the first period, after Carroll spurned a header wide from Downing’s corner, he then left the field of play as Dirk Kuyt came on and Kuyt immediately supplied Bellamy with a chance who blasted over. A fine move between Downing and Adam resulted in Johnson driving the ball wide before the change over. Finally the Reds pressure paid off two minutes in the second period, as Kuyt’s first strike at goal was played back to him off Anthony Gerrard and at the second attempt Kuyt dropped to the ground to meet the rebound with a soaring right footed strike that flew into the right side of the net. But the Bluebirds had a storming finish and from a Peter Whittingham corner, Kuyt hooked the ball off the line from Filip Kiss’s effort and from another Whittingham corner, Turner drove the ball in from close range from a Kuyt clearance, to end the final 2-2 and take the match to a penalty shoot out. Steven Gerrard’s penalty was saved onto the bar, Miller hit the right post, Adam blasted over, Cowie then Kuyt scored, Rudy Gestede hit the left post, Downing, Whittingham and Johnson all scored before Anthony Gerrard hit his spot kick wide as Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties to lift the Carling Cup.