Carling Cup Final
Skrtel (60), Kuyt (108)
Cardiff City 2
Mason (19), Turner (118)
AET Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties
What a game. Liverpool only seem to win trophies on penalties (our last three) and, after giving their fans a torrid, tense time and the rest of neutral viewing public value for money, we came through. Liverpool, cup finals and straightforwardness is not a compatible combination these days!
Yesterday’s game seemed to last an age. I actually got to the point where at times I was so tense that I just wanted it to end, it was agony! Anyone who says we should have made easier meat of Cardiff simply doesn’t understand sport and psychological element that accompanies it. On such days form is thrown out of the window and two sides simply go to war and slug it out. Skill or past form doesn’t come into it, and there are numerous cases of such incidents across the word of sport, it’s on the day, man against man and who holds their nerve the longest and at the right moment. Yesterday we just edged it on a heartless penalty shoot out but, despite the game stats, it could have easily been Cardiff, they were magnificent, it’s cliché but it was sad that someone had to lose.
Clearly I’m glad we won, but the feeling I had after Cardiff wasted their last penalty was one of relief, the celebratory mood will kick in later as it always does presumably once it has had time to sink in- my other half always says I’m slow on the uptake when it comes to emotion! However, take away the euphoria, strip out the venue and we see a familiar picture, Anfield or Wembley it’s still the same, a consistent level of inconsistency in front of goal. I don’t know what the possession or shots on target stats where but I’d wager my life savings that we were better than Cardiff by a considerable distance. However, as we all know, stats are stats!
Kenny’s line up was something of a surprise in the sense that everyone expected Bellamy to start. However, he opted for Henderson and Downing as the wide men with Suarez, Gerrard and Carroll starting together for once. Agger replaced Carragher at the back. Cardiff threw five across the middle with one man up front.
We got off to a great start with Johnson, aka Ronnie Whelan against the Mancs in this competition all those years ago, curling one in from the right, however this time the cross bar intervened. Gerrard blasted the follow up into row Z. Henderson then set up Carroll put he was penalised for a push on Hudson. Cardiff’s first effort was from Miller, a skied shot from distance that failed to trouble Reina.
All in all it was a fair start. We knocked the ball around well, found Carroll well on a number of occasions so the Cardiff goal was something of a surprise. Skrtel’s poorly headed clearance went straight to McNaughton who found Miller unchallenged and with space. He made no mistake in finding Mason who had an easy task to finish under Reina.
The goal failed to deter us and we carried on pushing. Downing actually provided the service we bought him for only for those in the middle, step forward Messers Carroll and Henderson, to take no advantage. Elsewhere Adam and Suarez went close from distance but Gerrard produced the first in a series of wildly inaccurate slashes at goal that suggested he had walked out onto the pitch with his shooting boots on the wrong “setting”!
Things didn’t improve in the second half. Putting the ball in the back of the net is hard but the law of averages suggests that if you have enough chances it will come! Suarez had a low shot from an acute angle that Heaton spilled but no one following up. Eventually Kenny lost patience and hooked the ineffective and anonymous Henderson for Bellamy. Perhaps it was coincidence but it seemed to have the desired effect. Downing flung over a corner, one of many that we won, it eventually found Suarez who headed onto the post Skrtel picked it up and, after a touch to steady himself which saw time stand still, converted.
Despite this we still made heavy weather of it. Chances came with a satisfying regularity but the lack of an end product was equally consistent thanks to poor finishing or tenacious Cardiff defending. Suarez had the best of the efforts forcing Heaton to save well and another that was cleared off the line but Downing, Bellamy, Adam, Johnson, Skrtel and Carroll all had go’s which didn’t really produce anything convincing. At the other end Miller had a good chance to put Cardiff back in front but blazed wide. Then right at the death Turner had a header at the far post which had me saying “it’s in game over”.
Extra time saw more thrills and spills with Bellamy and Johnson missing more efforts however, it looked like the tale had been written when Dirk Kuyt, on for a lackluster Carroll, reminded everyone of his knack for scoring vital goals when it really matters. Gerrard (Steven’s cousin) blocked Kuyt’s initial effort but the fresh legged Dutchman reacted far quicker than any of his teammates had so far in the game and smashed the rebound home. Job done with Dirk, who hasn’t had the best of times or opportunities this season, a worthwhile and popular hero, he even cleared one of the line at the end. However, football has a habit of cruelly and unexpectedly shredding a well written script and, at the death, Turner forced the ball over the line to take the game to its ultimate if unsatisfying way of forcing a conclusion.
So the “lottery” began. Gerrard capped a woeful afternoon in terms of shooting by missing but his effort was positively laser guided in comparison to Charlie Adam’s kick which is still orbiting North London! Cardiff failed to capitalise, we regained our composure, via Kuyt Downing and Johnson and, in a twist of fate that the papers would have wanted, Stevie G’s cousin screwed his effort wide.
At end Kenny said
“Although we have won something today, that is not us finished. We don’t want to stop here, we want to keep going. We’ve won it and we are going to really enjoy it. I know how much the players have enjoyed it and it gives you a wee flavour to come back and do it again.”
Great stuff but if we are back again will we ever face a side with Cardiff’s bottle, I hope not!
Cardiff City: Heaton, McNaughton (Blake 106′ ), Taylor, Hudson (Gerrard 99′ ), Turner, Whittingham, Cowie, Gunnarsson, Miller, Gestede, Mason (Kiss 91), Substitutes: Marshall, Gerrard, Naylor, Kiss, Conway, Blake, Earnshaw
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger (Carragher 86′ ), Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson (Bellamy 58′ ), Downing, Adam, Suarez, Carroll (Kuyt 103′ ), Substitutes: Doni, Carragher, Kelly, Maxi, Spearing, Kuyt, Bellamy