Liverpool have won their 8th Carling Cup after defeating Cardiff City on penalties in the 2011/12 Carling Cup final at the Wembley Stadium.
Liverpool were called as the favourites before the game. But, it was not an easy night for the Reds, who had to dig deep to make sure they narrowly won against their opponents from the Championship.
Kenny Dalglish looked under pressure from his owners as he had to play all his expensive signings in the starting XI, which meant that the experienced duo of Dirk Kuyt and former Cardiff City player Craig Bellamy had to sit out.
The Merseyside club paid the price for the poor team selection as Cardiff scored the first goal inside 20 minutes to take a shock 1-0 lead. Despite dominating possession, Liverpool could not restore the lead till half time.
In the second half, the same story continued as the Reds dominated Cardiff with the ball but failed to score a goal. Meanwhile, two definite penalty decisions were not given to them as Cardiff City defenders escaped despite putting their hands in the way of the ball.
It was just after Craig Bellamy came in that Liverpool got that extra pace. And they were soon rewarded with an equalizer as Martin Skrtel scored from Stewart Downing’s corner.
Players from both the sides looked pretty tired as full time came close and Cardiff held their nerves to pull Liverpool into extra time.
Liverpool added some fresh legs into the team with Jamie Carragher and Dirk Kuyt coming in. And Kuyt proved it again that he is an important player for the club by putting them in front in extra time.
It looked as if Liverpool had sealed a win, but Ben Turner shocked Liverpool with an equalizer in the 118th minute, thus eventually taking the match to a penalty shoot-out.
Steven Gerrard missed the first penalty to put his team under pressure. But Cardiff did not capitalize on that as they hit three penalties off target. Anthony Gerrard last penalty went wide and Liverpool finally got the cup they were carving for.
Downing was adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’ for his dominance on both the flanks as he put in his best display so far in a Liverpool jersey.
The cup win will lift Liverpool who can now seriously challenge for the 4th spot in the Premier League in a four-way battle involving Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle United. Besides, Liverpool can possibly make another trip to Wembley this season if they beat Stoke City in the FA Cup quarterfinals.