Lucky Liverpool win English League Cup

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Liverpool ended their six-year trophy drought here on Sunday after winning a penalty shoot-out to shatter Championship side Cardiff in the League Cup final at Wembley.

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 Premier League club’s 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.

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.”

Dalglish expressed relief after the win.

“It was a long way to win but the name is on the trophy,” he said. “Cardiff were always going to be difficult. They were never going to lie down and were a great credit. It’s not a nice way to win a cup but we’ll take it.

“It’s sad that the boy missed it and you always feel for the person that misses in that situation.”

Cardiff manager Malky McKay praised his side’s valiant effort.

“You have to lose with dignity and that’s what we did today,” he said. “There is a lot of emotion out there because it is a young side and emotions are running high but I am so proud of them all.”

The match had gone to penalties after a dramatic period of extra time that saw Cardiff force the shoot-out with a leveller from centre-back Ben Turner with just two minutes remaining.

Turner jabbed home from close range to send Cardiff’s large contingent of travelling fans into raptures.

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 game finished 1-1 after regulation time, Liverpool levelling in the second half through Martin Skrtel after Joe Mason had given Cardiff a shock first-half lead.

Earlier, a full house of 89,041 had watched Liverpool make a ferocious start, hitting the woodwork through Glen Johnson after only two minutes.

But the deadlock was broken on 19 minutes as Miller picked up the ball just outside the area and slipped in Mason, who took his time and drilled a shot beyond Pepe Reina.

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

A low strike from Charlie 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.

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

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 drew level, with Skrtel following up to rifle home after Suarez’s flick came back off the woodwork.

Cardiff went closest to grabbing a winner in the closing stages, with Turner heading just wide on 83 minutes before Miller lashed over from close range, setting up the game’s dramatic finale.

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