Carroll grabs Wembley glory

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Suarez and Carroll celebrate © Trinity Mirror

Andy Carroll was the hero as Liverpool secured a place in the FA Cup Final and the bragging rights on Merseyside after coming from behind to beat Everton 2-1 at Wembley in a dramatic semi-final.

For the Blues it was a dreadful day for defender Sylvain Distin, whose second half error allowed Luis Suarez to level to scores after Nikica Jelavic had put Everton ahead in the first half following a mistake by Jamie Carragher.

The Reds had the much maligned Carroll to thank for a late winner as he headed home Craig Bellamy’s free-kick to send the traveling Kop into raptures as the Toffees’ faithful headed for the exit.

Over 60,000 Reds and Blues had descended on London with the blue half facing a desperately disappointing long journey home following defeat on what has been a bumper weekend of sport for the city, with the Grand National at Aintree.

For David Moyes the decade-long trophy drought during his time at Goodison Park continues, while Kenny Dalglish’s men have set up a third appearance at Wembley this season and the chance to complete a cup double against either Tottenham or Chelsea on 5th May.

Liverpool slightly edged the opening exchanges with Jay Spearing shooting over and Martin Skrtel hitting a shot straight at goalkeeper Tim Howard. For Everton, full back Leighton Baines sent a free kick just over the crossbar of Brad Jones’ goal.

Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper acquitted himself well in only his fourth appearance for the club with Pepe Reina and Alexander Doni both suspended.

But the Aussie stopper could do nothing about the opener on 24 minutes. A loose ball on the edge of the box caused left back for the day Daniel Agger and Carragher to hesitate with the veteran Scouser’s clearance striking Tim Cahill and setting up Jelavic to slot home from close range.

Liverpool attempted to respond quickly but could not force and equaliser before the break with Moyes’ men ahead at the interval.

Dalglish’s side emerged much the better in the second had and should have pulled level just minutes after the game resumed only for Carroll to somehow head wide from close range after Stewart Downing’s cross set up the Geordie frontman perfectly.

© Trinity Mirror

Liverpool dominated possession but could only equalise just past the hour when Distin’s attempted pass back to Howard from the right hand side was short, allowing Suarez to nip in and hit a low shot into the net with the outside of his boot.

The Reds remained on top with Everton failing to recover from the equaliser. But though Liverpool pressed as the clock ticked down extra time and the possibility of penalties appeared to be on the cards.

But victory for the Anfield men was secured with four minutes to go after substitute Craig Bellamy’s free kick from the left hand side was back-headed into the net by Carroll, who wheeled away in ecstatic celebration in front of the Liverpool fans.

Everton could not force a late equaliser, and at the other end Maxi hit the post before Liverpool toasted their first Wembley win over the Blues since the sides last met there almost 23 years ago.

For Everton, there remains only the hope of finishing above their city rivals in the Premier League but that would be somewhat tempered if Liverpool ensure a cup double when they return to Wembley next month.

About Hugh O'Connell, Senior Editor