Carling Cup semi final second leg
Gerrard (41) (pen) Bellamy (74)
Manchester City 2
De Jong (31), Dzeko (67)
(Liverpool win 3-2 on agg)
This is Have you ever been to Liverpool’s thousand post so it’s a pleasure to be writing in a positive way about the team getting through to their first domestic cup final since I began this nonsense in the winter of 2006.
During those thousand bits of “writing” we have had some up and downs, off the pitch (talk about understatement) and very, very tense nights, particularly in the Champions League, on it. Although this game wasn’t as nail biting it gave them good run as it ding donged, switching from one team to the other.
City pulled us back twice and even when we got our nose’s in front for the second time and when added time was being played, one still felt there might be a sting in the tail!. However, we remained resilient, serving up a pleasing combination of positive attacking play and resolute defending. In short Liverpool deserved it and as fans we can take compensation from Saturday’s defeat. We are on the way to Wembley and, Cardiff exile and rebuild allowed, it’s been sixteen long years since we’ve been able to say that.
I guess this was Craig Bellamy’s night. Tonight he was in Doctor Jekyll mode scoring the vital goal that made the difference and scampering about as if his life depended on it. Perhaps he was inspired at the prospect of a final against his home town club? It was also an inspired move from Kenny to pit him against Savic. The City defender was given a torrid time, dogged by the Welshman from the start until he was “hooked” for Aguero at half time.
We began positively however, once again Joe Hart proved why he is England’s first choice goalkeeper. He kept us at bay in the league game and last night, despite scoring two goals at the other end, his team mates have him to thank that they were in the game right until the end of it. In the first half Hart produced terrific saves from Enrique, Adam and Bellamy bringing up familiar worries about our inability to take our chances. These were compounded when an off balance De Jong still managed to curl an impressive long range effort past Reina. It was sloppy goal, the “midfield moths” were attracted to Silva’s “headlights” all the Spaniard needed to do was square the ball to De Jong who did the rest, despite Gerrard’s last gasp lunge.
So all square but for only ten minutes. Controversy and Manchester City never seem too far away it usually involves a dodgy (in their eyes at least) refereeing decision and tonight it happened again. Agger’s shot was blocked by Richards but the ball bounced up onto his hand. A deliberate act or something Richards could do nothing about, he was only about four feet away? Nonetheless we’ll take it and that was what Gerrard did with the resulting penalty, which was to Hart’s right again just it was in the first leg.
The second half also began brightly with Hart having to work hard again. He failed to hold Kuyt’s rasping drive and was lucky that the ball found safety. He redeemed himself by saving Skrtel’s toe poke and Downing’s effort from Kuyt’s cross. Again it looked as if City might make us pay as they edged in front again. This time it was Dzeko who got on the end of Kolarov’s low hard cross. Johnson and Skrtel couldn’t cut it out probably because of the speed however, Agger should have stayed closer to the scorer?
I have to admit that by now I thought that was going to be that. All those chances over the two legs but we were still reliant on spot kicks, surely now City would assume control? However, we were not be denied Kuyt embarked on a arcing run into the danger area, fed Bellamy who exchanged a slick one two with Johnson before neatly finding space to despatch a low shot past Hart’s flailing right hand.
After that it was nerve racking truncated repeat of the final part of the first leg with us getting plenty of men behind the ball. City tried to prise us open however, and not for the first time in this tie, they were valiantly thwarted. As “You’ll Never Walk Alone” tumbled down from The Kop the game was up. At the end Kenny puffed out his cheeks. Was it in relief? Perhaps so but surely there was a huge dose of pride in there as well?
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Adam, Kuyt (Carroll 90+1), Bellamy, (Kelly 88) Substitutes: Doni, Coates, Carragher, Kelly, Maxi, Shelvey, Carroll
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kolarov, Savic (Aguero 46), Barry, Nasri, Silva, De Jong (Johnson 78), Dzeko Substitutes: Pantilimon, Clichy, Rekik, Milner, Johnson, Hargreaves, Aguero