Full marks to Cardiff. Battered, bruised, and buckling at the knees after the Dirk Kuyt goal in extra time with what looked like the winner for Liverpool, they willed themselves back into the game earning three corners in the last few minutes and pulled back from the brink through Ben Turner's goal following a goalmouth melee. Just seconds before it was Kuyt rescuing the Reds from another damaging corner with his goal line save. The match ended 2-2 after extra time.
Cardiff had shot into the lead in the 20th minute against the run of play with Joe Mason's opener. Liverpool for all their possession had to wait till the 60th minute to equalize through the heavily tattooed Martin Skrtel. A note on Skrtel. Has any film maker ever considered him for a skinhead role? He looks perfect in that part.
Onto the penalty shootout and the Bluebirds could not have asked for a better start with Tom Heaton bringing off a fabulous save to stop Steven Gerrard's blistering shot. But Kenny Miller's effort clanged off the upright as both teams missed the mark with their opening statements. Charlie Adam's response was dire spooning the ball over the crossbar by a mile.
Don Cowie brought huge cheers from the Cardiff fans when he found the net to draw first blood. Kuyt brought it all back when he finally found the target for Liverpool. Rudy Gestede pushed his ball through tiredly finding the upright and it was 1-1. Stewart Downing and Peter Whittingham traded spots moving the shootout to sudden death. Glen Johnson converted his spot leaving Anthony Gerrard, Steven Gerrard's lesser known cousin under tremendous pressure to save Cardiff. He did not deliver and Liverpool were left to celebrate their 8th League Cup title. Anthony Gerrard was inconsolable and Gestede was overcome with tears. PK shootouts are cruel but Cardiff can be proud about the way they played.
The quality was inconsistent but there was no denying it was a engrossing 120+ minutes of football. Cardiff had their chances with none better than Miller's in front of goal with Reina at his mercy but the striker sliced the ball over the crossbar. The side from South Wales were also helped by a sub par Gerrard and Luis Suarez. The Liverpool captain found the stratosphere every time he lined up to shoot. The Uruguayan was more Bendtner than Brahms on the ball. But the introduction of Kuyt was the game changer. He scored, effected a goal line save, and converted his spot kick to keep Liverpool in the final.
Both Liverpool goals came from second time efforts as Skrtel managed to latch onto a rebound after Suarez's header found the upright. Kuyt's first effort was tame but it fortuitously returned to him by a Cardiff defender and he managed to stroke the ball past Heaton even as he lost his footing. Yes, good fortune does play a huge part even as Liverpool proved to be a superior team.