Carling Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg
Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City
(Liverpool win 3-2 on aggregate)



Liverpool’s Daniel Agger tries a shot which hits the arm of Man City's Micah Richards for the penalty converted by Steven Gerrard


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Anfield

Craig Bellamy scored the decisive goal against his old club as Liverpool knocked out Manchester City to reach the Carling Cup final, setting up their first Wembley appearance since 1996.

Man of the match Bellamy, who spent last season on loan at Cardiff City, ensured the Reds will face the Welsh outfit at Wembley next month with a super finish in the second half.

Nigel De Jong's distance strike and Edin Dzeko's close range finish had twice given Roberto Mancini's side the lead at Anfield - the first cancelled out by another Steven Gerrard penalty given for a handball against Manchester City full-back Micah Richards.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish publicly criticised his team's performance in their disappointing 3-1 loss to Bolton in the Premier League on Saturday but only made two changes to the side with Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll going to the bench as Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing came back into the team. Luis Suarez continued to be suspended and midfielder Jay Spearing injured.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was without Mario Balotelli after the club chose not to appeal the four-match ban inflicted by the FA for the stamp on Scott Parker during the rollercoaster 3-2 victory over Tottenham which came into effect straight away.

They started with three centre-backs - Micah Richards, Stefan Savic and former Everton defender Joleon Lescott with Kolo Toure still away on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Yaya Toure and captain Vincent Kompany sitting out the final match of his own four-match ban. Aleksandar Kolarov got his turn over Gael Clichy at left-back while Nigel De Jong also came in with Sergio Aguero among the substitutes.

The hosts came out of the traps quicker and looked determined to finish the job having taken a slender advantage from the first leg following their 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

Like in both games between the sides already this month, Joe Hart was worked early on as his own defender Kolarov made a mess of clearing Downing's cross.

The City keeper thrust out a leg instinctively to deny Enrique, who jabbed the ball goalwards, before Downing blazed the ball high into the stands as it came back into play.

There was also an early yellow card from referee Phil Dowd for Reds skipper Steven Gerrard for a nothing tackle on Gareth Barry - who was close to joining Liverpool two years ago in a £12 million deal.



Liverpool are unbeaten against Manchester City in all competitions at Anfield since April 2003 when City won 2-1 with former Liverpool strikers Robbie Fowler and Nicholas Anelka leading the line for the visitors.

The visitors, who won the League Cup back in 1970 and 1976, were beaten semi-finalists in 2010 at the hands of rivals Manchester United, who eventually won the competition, and were looking to avoid another exit at this stage as they looked to build on a good 2011 for Wembley appearances for the club - making three in total.

They started with a system containing three centre-backs (Richards, Savic and Lescott) with Zabaleta and Kolarov providing width in the wing-back positions as protection for the vulnerable young Montenegran international Stefan Savic - who was at fault for Tottenham's first goal on Sunday and gave away the first leg penalty which Gerrard scored to give Liverpool the upper hand in the two-legged tie.

After ten minutes, Adam, knocked out with Blackpool at the first hurdle in the League Cup last season at MK Dons, had a fizzed effort at goal which was well held by Hart, certainly the busier of the two keepers, with Dirk Kuyt closing in on him if he had spilt as Liverpool made the kind of start that Dalglish would have demanded from the players.

The weakness at the heart of the Manchester City defence was young centre-half Savic - the only player to start every League Cup match for City this campaign - who was far too hesitant allowing Bellamy past him too easily.

And the Welshman put his laces through his attempt which warmed the palms of Hart who was once again equal to anything thrown his way to keep out the dominant Reds.

Liverpool did have one ruled out on 24 minutes when Bellamy firmly placed past Hart from Kuyt's through-pass at the second time of asking however the flag of assistant referee Simon Bennett had already been raised and correctly so as he was slightly ahead of the last defender.

The 1-0 defeat in the first leg was the first time City had failed to score in 12 League Cup matches since Tottenham's 2-0 victory in the fifth round in December 2007.

The home side's first leg lead was wiped out just after the half-hour mark from twenty-five yards as the Dutchman, slipping whilst he hit it, got elevation and direction on the ball to stun the Kop sending Liverpool back to square one to put Manchester City ahead on the night with only his second goal for the club- the other in a Premier League victory over West Ham in May.

A quick response is what the Reds were hoping for and further looked to expose Savic's defensive frailties which they found in the league match at Anfield in November within two minutes through Joleon Lescott's own goal in the 1-1 draw and were sooner rather than later back into the tie on the night and in the lead on aggregate through a penalty kick. 

Gerrard drilled the ball low into the box and Lescott got a boot to it to clear but then Micah Richards blocked Agger's shot with his hand and the referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and was choreographing moves with his hands to say that the City defender had his arm raised. With it happening quickly, confirmed by replays, the ball hit up off Richards' foot onto his arm which isn't, as the law states, a deliberate handball which was very difficult for him to keep his arms down. Hart tried to use mind games to put Gerrard off taking the penalty but he went for the same corner as the first leg with the same result as Kenny Dalglish's men were back in the box seat.

City made a half-time swap with a change in formation also as Stefan Savic was taken off and striker Sergio Aguero, expected to start the match and scorer of the winning goal in the quarter-final at Arsenal, came on as Richards moved to centre-back and Zabaleta to right-back as they moved to 4-4-2.



Manchester City have now won only three of their eight fixtures in all competitions since Christmas and are now out of the Carling Cup, Champions League and FA Cup as well as losing the Community Shield.

Despite the change in tactics, Liverpool continued where they left off from the first half with a lovely passing move in the first two minutes of the second period as Hart added to his series of saves. It came about from a defensive free-kick in their own half. Bellamy started and continued his run. 

Kuyt hit it into the deck and it came back off the body of Hart, who got a bit of deserved luck, with Lescott reacting quickest to get the ball away.

An instinctive poke of the right boot from Skrtel brought another super save from the England number one choice keeper as Gerrard's free-kick bounced and bobbled around the box with Hart fumbling initially as the ball ricocheted off Richards' back to the Slovakian defender. Just a minute after that Downing was denied at the back stick also by more Hart heroics.

For City, there was a not a great deal of attacking all night as Liverpool were by far the better side and appeared to want it more even still after some rather harsh words you imagine from Roberto Mancini they couldn't get a foothold in the match.

Dzeko did give them the lead on the night which no-one saw coming as Glen Johnson was caught out of position as Kolarov's low cross was allowed to flash across and Dzeko arrived with perfect timing to tap in with clout at the far post to put City back in pole position as the complexion changed once more through the Bosnian striker. It was the first time this season that Liverpool had conceded more than once in a match at home this term.

Liverpool drew level when an incisive one-touch move involving Craig Bellamy and Glen Johnson exchanging passes and an unerring finish with sumptious quality bringing an emotional reaction from their Glaswegian boss on the touchline as Bellamy, who played over 50 matches for City before falling out of favour with Mancini, celebrated.

City made a fight of the last few minutes with Dzeko releasing Johnson with a beautifully-weighted cross-field pass and the winger always looking to get the ball onto his favoured left foot cut inside and hit his shot across Reina who didn't have a lot to do throughout the match who got down and saved easily. Dzeko also had a late shot blocked by Daniel Agger.

Bellamy received a standing ovation and applause from the entirity of Liverpool fans and even some Manchester City fans were clapping as Martin Kelly replaced him for the final three minutes.

Kuyt was also taken off having ran his socks off as well with Andy Carroll making a brief cameo. Silva looked distinctly average as most of his play was broken up by the better performers in the Liverpool midfield.

The most successful team in League Cup history made some history and reached a major cup final for the first time since May 2006 as Liverpool maintained an unbeaten run at home this season as the fortress Anfield played their part in helping them.

They have won the competition seven times and are three-times runners-up and have won all of their Carling Cup ties on the road this season. This is their 14th semi-final and have won the last three. City are now out of the Carling Cup, Champions League and FA Cup.

Wednesday 25th January 2012

Carling Cup Semi-Final Second Leg

Anfield (Liverpool, Merseyside)


Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City                                 KO 7:45pm           Live on Sky Sports 1/HD1            (HT 1-1)

Gerrard 41 (pen)     De Jong 31
Bellamy 74             Dzeko 67


(Liverpool win 3-2 on aggregate)


Liverpool:  (4-4-1-1)  25 Reina - 7/10, 2 Johnson - 7/10, 5 Agger - 7.5/10, 37 Skrtel - 8/10, 3 Enrique - 8/10, 18 Kuyt - 7/10 (Carroll 90 - 0.5/10), 14 Henderson - 7.5/10, 8 Gerrard (C) - 8.5/10, 26 Adam - 8/10, 19 Downing - 8.5/10, 39 Bellamy - 9.5/10 (Kelly 88 - 2/10).

Subs not used:  32 Doni (GK), 16 Coates, 23 Carragher, 11 Maxi, 33 Shelvey

Booked:      Gerrard (4), Enrique (63)


Manchester City:  (5-3-2)  25 Hart - 9.5/10, 5 Zabaleta (C) - 7/10, 2 Richards - 8.5/10, 15 Savic - 5/10 (Aguero 45 - 5/10), 6 Lescott - 6.5/10, 13 Kolarov - 5.5/10, 34 De Jong - 6.5/10 (Johnson 78 - 3.5/10), 18 Barry - 7/10, 21 Silva - 6.5/10, 10 Dzeko - 6.5/10, 19 Nasri - 6/10.

Subs not used:  30 Pantilimon (GK), 22 Clichy, 44 Rekik, 7 Milner, 20 Hargreaves

Booked:      Kolarov (55)

My Man of the Match:
   Craig Bellamy (Liverpool) - Rating 9.5/10

My Worst Performer of the Match:   Stefan Savic (Manchester City) - Rating 5/10

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) - 8/10
Attendance: 44,590



Match Facts

Possession: Liverpool - 44%                  Manchester City - 56%

Shots: Liverpool - 16                     Manchester City - 8

Shots on target: Liverpool - 13                   Manchester City - 6

Shots off target: Liverpool - 3                     Manchester City - 2

Corners: Liverpool - 12                      Manchester City - 2

Fouls: Liverpool - 7                     Manchester City - 7

Offside: Liverpool - 6                        Manchester City - 0

Assists: Liverpool - 2 (Agger, Johnson)                     Manchester City - 2 (Silva, Kolarov)




Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish

"It's not been the best times and it's a fantastic reward for the supporters that have stood by us. And it's a fantastic reward for the new owners, it's their first final. For everybody connected with the club, it's a great reward. If the players have been the ones who have pushed us over the line by the performance and the result tonight, then every single one of the other people we have mentioned have helped us. I think it was a great spectacle for everybody and I think overall we deserved to win. [Manchester City goalkeeper] Joe Hart put in a fantastic performance which wasn't pleasing for us but must have been very pleasing for them. The attitude and commitment we showed when going behind both times and coming back to get on level terms was fantastic. We're delighted to go to Wembley. It's been too long for a major cup final for this club so I'm really happy for our supporters. We had a lot of cup finals at Cardiff, but it's extra special going to Wembley. I've been dreaming of doing it for Liverpool and now that it's here I'm really looking forward to it, but there are a lot of big games before that. It was a tough night. Manchester City are a fantastic team with very dangerous players, but I thought we were superb tonight and stuck together. The best form of defence was attack, that's what we've done and we got our rewards. Craig (Bellamy) put in a special performance. I'm sure he will enjoy it tonight. Craig was fantastic with his quality as well as his effort and commitment. For us, he was fantastic but so was every single one of the players. It's great for the people who stood by us. It's not been too good a time for Liverpool Football Club in the last couple of years. We stuck together and showed a lot of quality tonight. We are certainly pleased with the outcome and performance. Everything we thought was lacking on Saturday was there in abundance tonight. Every single one of the squad have made a contribution to getting us to the final and I think that's a great reflection of the squad we have here. We have got to Wembley, but that's all we have done so far. We have not been there for a while so that's one achievement – but that's not where our ambition stops."



Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

"It was impossible that it was a penalty. Micah (Richards) can't cut off his arm because the ball touched his leg before. It's impossible to concede a penalty like this and not give one with Edin Dzeko [when he went down in the box under a challenge from Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam]. I am 200% sure it [Dzeko incident] was a penalty. We were very unlucky for this moment with the referee. Without the first penalty we would have won the game. It was not a penalty for Liverpool. I'm happy with the performance because when you come here and score two goals against a team like Liverpool you should do a good performance but we made some mistakes. (Stefan) Savic is young, he needs to improve but he can make some mistakes like me and the other players. But we changed Savic after the first half because we were 1-1 and we needed to put another striker on the pitch, only for this reason."


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