Liverpool 2 Man City 2 - League Cup SF 2nd leg (Jan 25 2012) - 1st team 2011-2012 - The Liverpool Way Jump to content

Liverpool 2 Man City 2 - League Cup SF 2nd leg (Jan 25 2012)

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LIVERPOOL 2 Manchester City 2

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield



Scorer(s) – Steven Gerrard (pen), Craig Bellamy

Half Time - 1-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Wed 25 Jan 2012

Star Man – Craig Bellamy


















We needed a reaction and we got one. This was everything the Bolton game wasn't. Everyone in red did themselves, the club and their manager proud with a display full of energy, desire and quality. Craig Bellamy maintained the high level of performance he'd displayed at the Reebok Stadium, but this time he wasn't alone and he had every one of his team-mates matching his commitment. Once again City had Joe Hart to thank for keeping the game close but not even he could stem the red tide on an electric night at Anfield.


It's been too long since we were at Wembley and it's fitting that Kenny has got us back there. It was moving seeing how emotional he was afterwards, I'm more pleased for him than anyone else. We have to go on and finish the job now though and Cardiff will be a tough game as the smaller sides never get turned over in finals, they always give a good account of themselves and make it difficult. We've got experience of that having needed penalties to beat Birmingham in 2001. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it though, for now I'm just going to enjoy the moment.


There were two key tactical decisions that gave us the edge in this game I felt. Looking at the team beforehand, I imagine a lot of people thought it would be Dirk through the middle with Downing and Bellamy wide. Or maybe it would be Dirk and Bellamy up top with Henderson on the right. I don't think many expected to see Bellamy as the lone frontman but it couldn't have worked any better as it's a long time since we had that kind of movement, work rate, tenacity, intelligence and searing pace in the centre forward position. He was fucking brilliant.


The other move Kenny made that really paid off was having Gerrard sacrifice his normal attacking game to sit deeper and protect the defence. That was the biggest worry I had about this game, our midfield were exposed badly against Bolton because we were too open and didn't have anyone doing the dirty work, the kind of stuff Lucas had been doing so well. If Eagles, Reo-Coker and Mark Davies could have that much joy, what would the likes of Silva and Nasri do to us? The answer was very little. Gerrard was terrific in an unspectacular but vital role.


Kenny definitely won the tactical battle with Mancini this time. The Italian went in with three centre halves against one forward only for that one forward to run all three of them ragged. Micah Richards is an absolute fucking beast, but as good a centre half as he is I'm sure the likes of Enrique and Downing were much happier seeing him back there than marauding forward from right back. Downing clearly fancied it against Zaballetta and he had a very good game.


Mancini had to scrap that formation at half time, but even after sending on Aguero for Savic they weren't particularly threatening despite having lots of the ball. They were fortunate to go into the break at 1-1 as they only had one shot in the entire half, a 25 yard screamer from De Jong that found the top corner. At the other end we'd have several good openings and had clearly been the better side.


We started brightly and should have taken the lead when a bad clearance from Kolorov landed perfectly for Enrique. He controlled and then prodded a low shot towards the corner but Hart stuck out a leg and blocked it. Downing then sliced the rebound horribly wide. Hart makes so many saves with his feet, and we've found him to be an almost impenetrable barrier this season. A deflected Charlie Adam shot that went in off Lescott and a Steven Gerrard penalty was all we had to show for 180 minutes good work.


I wrote after the first leg that Hart was still the biggest obstacle we had to overcome to reach Wembley and when he saved from Enrique I just thought 'here we go again'. He made another stop to deny Adam and then denied Bellamy after he'd skinned the hapless Savic. We also forced several corners and were clearly on top. Then, out of nothing, we were behind. The elusive Silva broke forward, cut inside and squared to De Jong who curled one in leaving Reina with no chance. Typical of our luck, De Jong scores about as often as Rob Jones. Hell of a strike but he couldn't do that again if he tried it a hundred more times.


It was important to get level before half time and thankfully we did. Once again, it needed a penalty to beat Joe Hart although Agger's initial shot may have done so had it not been blocked by the hand of Richards. City can complain all they like, but what is the referee supposed to do in that situation? He's stood a few yards away as a player flings himself in front of a shot with both his arms raised above his head and the ball hits him on the hand. How can he not give a penalty for that? He'd have been rightly slaughtered if he didn't give that.


Richards argued that the ball had struck his knee and then bounced up onto his hand therefore it was unintentional. That doesn't wash, his spread himself as wide as he could, he looked like a goalkeeper the way he made himself as big as possible. He didn't try to block it with his knee, that was just where it hit him and was more luck than good judgement. It could just as easily have hit him straight on the hand. I can understand City's players feeling a little hard done by, but if that was at the other end they'd have gone fucking mad if they didn't get the pen.


They think they should have had one earlier for a foul by Adam on Dzeko. At the time no-one appealed for it, and it was only when I got home and heard that Mancini had been crying about it that I realised there'd been anything contentious about it. If it had been given I'd have said it was extremely soft, but technically Dzeko did get the ball first and Adam kicked him a split second later. No-one appealed for it because it wasn't clear that Adam had caught him and because Dzeko wasn't going anywhere. It's only after you look at replays that there's even a case for it. Whereas the entire stadium saw Richards' handball.


Both decisions could have gone either way, but anyone who thinks City's penalty claim was more legitimate than the one we got is either mental, biased or Alan Smith or Roberto Mancini. The City manager is an absolute fucking tit isn't he? He could take a few lessons in class and humility from his goalkeeper. I really want to not like Joe Hart as I'm sick of him making save after save against us. But the lad always warmly applauds the Kop and he handled this defeat with a maturity and dignity that Mancini could only dream of. I'll be happy for Hart if he gets a title winners medal. His manager? Not so much.


But back to the game. I felt good at half time, I felt that we'd played very well and restricted City to one long range shot that unfortunately went in. Tactically we'd been spot on, and performance wise we were looking good too. Downing was having his best game for a while, Bellamy was terrific and Kuyt was busy. This is exactly the kind of game that usually brings out the best in Dirk and this was his best game of the season by a mile. The 2nd half in particular he was tremendous.


As were the rest of the side. Bellamy led the way and the rest followed. We attacked in numbers and defended resolutely when we needed to. City couldn't get near to threatening Pepe's goal, but once again Hart was working overtime. Within minutes of the restart Bellamy got away down the right, his cross was cleared to Kuyt who drilled the ball goalwards. Hart could only parry it but fortunately for City it didn't fall to the lurking Downing.


Next it was Skrtel's turn to be thwarted by Hart. The keeper's poor punch dropped kindly for the reds' defender and his toe poke looked destined for the top corner but, predictably, Hart somehow managed to keep it out. Magnificent save that. I was cursing him at the time like, just as I was shortly after when he denied Downing at the back post following more great work by Kuyt. We were playing some great stuff at this stage, Bellamy and Kuyt were getting a lot of joy down the left of City's backline but we couldn't find a way past Joe fucking Hart. I said to the fella next to me that City would get one chance and score, and lo and behold they did.


The problem originated when Johnson was caught upfield when an attack broke down. As soon as it happened I feared the worst, but then Gerrard dropped in to cover for him and even when the ball was played out to Kolorov I thought we'd be ok, after all, the skipper was back there and we've seen in the past he's a brilliant right back. I expected him to cut out the cross but Kolorov did superbly to not only beat Gerrard but put in an unbelievably good ball that was converted at the back post by Dzeko.


Hard to take from our point of view, it was a real kick in the balls. Have to hand it to City though, that was just clinical as fuck. It needed a show of character now, and we got it. No-one typified it more than Bellamy and Kuyt. Bellamy never stopped running and chasing lost causes, he didn't give their defenders a minutes peace and that kind of thing fires up the crowd. The fans were tremendous, and this was one of those nights where team and crowd feed off eachother. When that happens, we can be unstoppable. We've defied the odds so many times on nights like this, and City became the latest victims.


The winning goal came seconds after a move had broken down due to a misunderstanding between Johnson and Henderson. They both blamed eachother and for a second Henderson's head looked to have gone done. Over came Dirk yelling and screaming, 'fucking come on!!!' and clapping his hands. Two or three times he yelled it. Next thing he collects the ball, holds off Lescott and finds Bellamy in the box. He rolled it to Johnson who took everyone by surprise by immediately knocking it back to Bellamy who steadied himself and rolled the ball past Hart.


I haven't enjoyed a goal this much in years. Anfield was absolutely bouncing and we could almost smell Wembley now. Despite having plenty of the ball City didn't look like getting another goal. There were a couple of nervy moments, Adam Johnson's shot was comfortably saved by Reina and Agger had to make a terrific block in his own six yard box, but generally we looked very comfortable. An exhausted Bellamy went off to a thunderous ovation, Martin Kelly replacing him as we put on an extra defender to see the game out. Carroll then replaced Kuyt in stoppage time.


There were joyous scenes at the final whistle, not least from Kenny who was clearly very emotional. It's been a while since our last cup final and personally I couldn't care less if it's 'only' the League Cup. It's a trophy, it's a day out at Wembley and ultimately that's what it's all about. Finishing fourth might be more important in some ways but there's no big day out and no trophy at the end of it. And there sure as hell isn't an open top bus parade through the city for it (not even the blues did that, and if anyone was likely to it was them).


This was a great night and it was something we needed after a couple of bad results in the league. Hopefully this will get us back on track again and sets us up nicely for another massive game on Saturday. The atmosphere was fantastic against City, but it will be something completely different against their neighbours this weekend. The City game was about football, about winning and getting to Wembley. It was nothing personal.


Saturday is personal. Very fucking personal. More of the same please Redmen, let's do these bastards.



Team: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Kuyt (Carroll), Gerrard, Adam, Downing; Henderson; Bellamy (Kelly):

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Dave I don't tell you this enough, but I love reading your match reports. It's like relving the game again. There's always a decent insight and a bit of humour and often we will have viewed certain events in a very similar way.


I look forward to them landing on my Twitter or Facebook and stop whatever I am doing for five minutes to make sure I get it read.

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He just wants to make us happy and nothing makes us happier than him smiling with his hands in the air.


Roll on 26/02/12.

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Hair's standing on end, just like at the final whistle, after reading that.


Loved the last bit as well. The Utd game is personal, very fucking personal. Yep.

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