Liverpool 2 Man City 2: Lessons from a pulsating Carling Cup tie
What did we learn from Liverpool's dramatic aggregate victory over Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield?
The effervescent Craig Bellamy
Kenny Dalglish’s decision to start Craig Bellamy highlighted the Liverpool manager’s faith in the 32-year-old. Bellamy, in the twilight of his career, has rarely started two games in a week since returning to Anfield – but the Welsh international showed no signs of fatigue against his former employers. He tested Joe Hart with a rasping shot which the England goalkeeper pushed clear after 21 minutes and he had the ball in the net shortly after, only for it to be ruled out for offside. Bellamy’s tenacious performance was capped by his winning strike which sealed Liverpool’s place at Wembley.
Super Joe Hart
Joe Hart has been Manchester City’s outstanding performer this season and the England No1 proved his worth once again at Anfield. The 24-year-old was kept busy in a pulsating cup tie as Liverpool pelted his goal with shots. Hart’s handling was impeccable, collecting Charlie Adam’s low rasping effort in the first half, before he adjusted his body to block Kuyt’s dipping shot after the break. He continues to build a reputation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers and he showed quick reactions to save from Bellamy and produced an even better stop in the 52nd minute, getting his fingertips to Martin Skrtel’s shot.
Steven Gerrard is Liverpool’s Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier set the benchmark for all penalty takers – the Southampton legend took 48 spot-kicks in a career spanning 16 years and just missed one. Dalglish has put Luis Suárez, Charlie Adam and Dirk Kuyt on penalty duty this season and the trio have all missed from the spot. But the return of Steven Gerrard has seen the captain re-assume the responsibility – and the midfielder outwitted his England team-mate Hart for the second time in a fortnight. The 31-year-old was also keen to point out his feat to the City goalkeeper as he wheeled away.
Stefan is the weakest link. Goodbye.
Stefan Savić was the noticeable weakness in City’s back four as the Montenegrin’s difficult introduction to English football continued at Anfield. The defender has faced Liverpool twice, defending Premier League champions Manchester United and Harry Redknapp’s attacking Tottenham Hotspur side while deputising for the suspended Vincent Kompany. Bellamy terrorised Savić in the first half as the Welsh striker closed down City’s centre-half at every opportunity. He looked overwhelmed by the occasion and, unsurprisingly, Roberto Mancini chose to haul him off at half-time.
Kenny Dalglish’s League Cup love affair continues
Liverpool had never have never lost the home leg of a semi-final at Anfield ahead of City’s trip to Merseyside. And with Dalglish back in charge, there was a sense of destiny that it would be the Scottish manager who would lead the Reds back to Wembley for the first time since 1996. The 60-year-old triumphed in four successive League Cup finals between 1981 and 1984 as a player and while he lost as Reds manager to Arsenal in 1987, Dalglish now has the chance to win the competition for the first time as coach with his side as overwhelming favourites to beat Cardiff City on 26 February.