Liverpool lifted the 2012 Carling Cup on their long-awaited return to Wembley following a dramatic final against Cardiff City, which was finally won on penalties as the game finished 2-2 after extra time.
Steven Gerrard’s cousin, Anthony, missed the decisive spot-kick that gave Liverpool the victory and Kenny Dalglish’s first silverware during his second spell as manager.
The underdogs led 1-0 at half-time thanks to Joe Mason but the Reds equalised on the hour mark through Martin Skrtel. Dirk Kuyt then looked to have grabbed the winner before Ben Turner scrambled home a few minutes before the end of extra time.
Penalties loomed and Tom Heaton, Cardiff’s penalty hero in the semi-final, brilliantly saved Gerrard’s opening penalty to give Cardiff hope.
However, penalties from Kuyt, Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing meant Cardiff had to score their last penalty or face defeat.
Up stepped former Everton academy player Gerrard, who sent his shot wide and gave his cousin’s side the victory.
In a compelling final, Cardiff will feel aggrieved to have left with nothing after putting up a serious contest against the Premier League side.
The Reds almost went ahead in their first attack but Johnson’s long range effort struck the crossbar.
It was then Cardiff, who have been to the new Wembley three times already, that took the initiative when Kenny Miller slid Mason behind the Liverpool defence, who kept his head to give the Bluebirds a 1-0 lead.
Liverpool dominated throughout the game and produced 39 shots on Cardiff’s goal but disappointing games from Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll meant they struggled to find a breakthrough.
Following Welshman Craig Bellamy’s introduction, Downing was switched to the right and it was his corner that landed at Skrtel’s feet after Suarez had hit the post. The Slovakian showed great composure to take a touch and knock it through Heaton’s legs for 1-1.
Extra time was called as Cardiff’s defence restricted Liverpool to long shots and kept the favourites at bay. Kuyt was brought on for Carroll and the former powered a shot past Heaton’s near post early in the second half of extra time. Liverpool thought they had won it but a corner from Cardiff came to Turner five yards out and he prodded home the equaliser, sending the Welsh fans into celebration.
The game went to penalties and, despite misses from Gerrard and Charlie Adam, Liverpool won 3-2 as Miller, Rudy Gestede and Gerrard all failed to find the target for Cardiff.
Liverpool’s record eighth League Cup victory gave Dalglish his first trophy since returning to the club as boss, and makes him only the seventh manager to win all three of the biggest competitions in the English game.