For Liverpool to end a six-year title drought in the League Cup final on Sunday, the influence of a player called Gerrard was expected to be crucial. That it came down to Cardiff City defender Anthony Gerrard’s penalty miss was less predictable.
After Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s spot-kick in the penalty shootout was saved following the teams’ 2-2 draw after extra-time, cousin Anthony came to his rescue by also failing to score.
It was the miss that ensured Liverpool won the shootout 3-2 at Wembley, giving the Reds a record eighth League Cup and their first title since the 2006 FA Cup.
“It’s always cruel when it comes to penalties,” Steven Gerrard said. “It was always going to be that one of us was sad and one celebrating. I’ve got mixed emotions. I’m delighted to win the cup for our supporters, but I feel for Anthony and Cardiff. It doesn’t matter what I say to him — he’s going to be down. I’ll be there for him.”
Despite the second-tier club being the underdogs, Cardiff proved to be stubborn opponents for Liverpool to break down.
Liverpool had to fight back after Joe Mason gave Cardiff a shock lead in the 19th minute, with Martin Skrtel leveling on the hour and forcing the game into extra-time.
Liverpool took until the 108th minute to hit the front, with Dirk Kuyt smashing in the rebound after his initial effort was blocked by Anthony Gerrard.
Despite Kuyt making an initial goal-line clearance from Filip Kiss, the Netherlands international could not prevent Ben Turner from scrambling the ball over the line from a corner to level in the 118th minute and ensure the match would be settled by spot-kicks.
It was a nerve-racking way for Kenny Dalglish to win his first trophy for Liverpool since the 1990 league title and complete his collection of domestic honors as a manager.
“It’s not a nice way to win a cup, but we’ll take it,” Dalglish said.
It is 13 months since the 60-year-old Scot was brought back by new owner John Henry after a 20-year absence to rescue a club closer to the relegation places than chasing a 19th English league title.
“Although we have won something today, that is not us finished,” Dalglish said. “We don’t want to stop here, we want to keep going. [Liverpool] means an awful lot to a lot of people. All we do is try to make them as happy as we possibly can. Today, we have been able to do that. Hopefully it makes up for some of the days when we have not been able to.”
With Liverpool currently outside of the European places in the Premier League again this season, the victory ensured that they will return to the Europa League next season.
“This is what I came to Liverpool for, and to win a first trophy is excellent,” Kuyt said. “Hopefully we can add another [the FA Cup] later in the season.”
Cardiff have visited Wembley four times in the past five seasons, but the venue has been demolished and rebuilt in the 16 years it has taken for Liverpool to return to England’s national stadium, an eternity for a club that dominated English soccer throughout the 1980s.
However, it was Cardiff, without a major title in 85 years, who took a shock lead.
After Skrtel’s wayward headed clearance, Kevin McNaughton picked up possession and squared the ball to Kenny Miller, who fed it through for Mason to slot between goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s legs.
“We were always going to be under pressure,” Dalglish said. “They have very good delivery from set-plays and they were never going to lie down.”