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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Liverpool End 16-Year Wembley Voodoo

Bellars and Hendo Celebrate
Craig Bellamy returned to haunt his former club as he scored the equalizing goal that earned Liverpool a 2-2 draw and 3-2 aggregate win over his former employers Manchester City in a League Cup semi-final match played at Anfield.

The Welshman converted after a neat one-two with Glen Johnson to draw Liverpool level after Nigel De Jong and Edin Dzeko had scored for the visitors either side of Gerrard’s converted penalty.

Liverpool began the match looking the most likely to add to their 1-0 first leg advantage but were warded off by the impressive Joe Hart between the City posts. They probed, shot and attacked from right, left and center but Hart was inspired.

It looked like it was going to be one of those days when a goalkeeper would rob the Reds a deserved victory. It even became worse when Liverpool were sucker punched in the half-hour mark when Nigel De Jong riffled in a screamer from 30 yards that flew past Pepe Reina and into the top corner. That was City’s first real effort at goal, and it went in.

Never to be heartbroken, the Reds continued to probe and were rewarded just 10 minutes later when City captain for the night Michael Richards blocked Daniel Agger’s drive to earn Pool a spot-kick amid protests from the Citizens. Referee Phil Dowd was firm and so was Steven Gerrard who tucked in the spot-kick to make it 1-1 in the night and 2-1 on aggregate in favour of the Reds.

Roberto Mancini pulled off Stefan Savic who was vulnerable in the first half and brought in Sergio Aguero in an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation. But it was the home team who created more chances early in the second half with Dirk Kuyt, Martin Skrtel and Stewart Downing forcing heroic saves from Joe Hart.

But like the first half, it was Mancini’s charges who pulled ahead. Alexander Koralov raced down the left channel and whipped a dangerous cross into the Liverpool box that evaded everyone but Edin Dzeko who tapped the ball in to put City ahead in the 68th minute.

It could have been harsh had Kenny Dalglish’s side crashed out in a night they dominated the Citizens from the off. Liverpool refused to let their spirits die. They engineered a move just six minutes later.

Dirk Kuyt’s workmanlike approach saw him slide the ball to Bellamy who exchanged a one-two with Glen Johnson before the Welshman scored a goal worth winning any match.

With the score at 2-2 in the night and 3-2 in favour of the L4 club, City could not find a way past the Liverpool resolute defence. By the time the referee blew the final whistle after four additional minutes, the Citizens had crashed out of their third Cup campaign after being knocked out in the Champions League, the FA cup and now the League Cup.

For the gritty Redmen, they booked a February 26 Cup final against Bellamy’s hometown club Cardiff City. It’s been 16years since the Kops visited the ‘home of English football’ when they lost to Manchester United in a league cup final in 1996, a game that was marred by the now infamous pre-match white suits worn by the likes of Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp.

Liverpool will be firm favourites to win the cup, their first major trophy since 2007.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!