Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liverpool 2 - 2 Man City (agg 3 - 2)


Liverpool booked their first Wembley appearance since 1996 as they edged out Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield.
City - trying to overturn Liverpool's one-goal advantage from the first leg at Etihad Stadium - took the lead twice on the night to revive their hopes of joining Cardiff City in the final.
Liverpool, however, were determined not to let the prize slip from their grasp, responding with spirit to earn the aggregate victory that their performance on the night deserved.
Nigel de Jong's spectacular goal for City - only his second for the club - put them ahead but Liverpool drew level before the interval through Steven Gerrard's hotly-contested penalty, awarded after Micah Richards deflected Daniel Agger's shot onto his own arm.
Edin Dzeko's close-range strike once again sparked anxiety around Anfield, but the outstanding Craig Bellamy had the last word against his former club, sliding home a cleverly crafted strike with 16 minutes left.
Liverpool's late nerves could have been settled earlier but for a superb display from City keeper Joe Hart, who produced a string of top-class saves, particularly from Martin Skrtel and Stewart Downing in the second half.
For delighted Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, it marks a return to the stadium that was a familiar scene of triumph during his first spell as player and manager at Anfield and he will now set his sights on Liverpool's first piece of silverware since their FA Cup win against West Ham United in Cardiff in 2006.
City boss Roberto Mancini, who will now turn his attention back to claiming the Premier League title, found a former star returning to haunt him in the shape of Bellamy, who was a constant danger throughout and was deservedly afforded a standing ovation when he was substituted in the dying moments.
Mancini decided to leave Sergio Aguero and James Milner on the bench and started with three at the back - a system that allowed Liverpool to play on the nerves of centre-back Stefan Savic.
The Montenegrin endured a nightmare 45 minutes before being removed almost as a merciful release.
Liverpool, the victims of rare public criticism from Dalglish after last Saturday's loss at Bolton, opened in the manner of a side wounded by those harsh words and could have taken an early lead.
Jose Enrique capitalised on careless work by Aleksandar Kolarov, but his shot was blocked by the legs of Hart and Downing lashed the rebound wildly off target.
Charlie Adam and Bellamy - who was Liverpool's main attacking threat with £35m Andy Carroll dropped to the bench - also tested Hart as City struggled to find any rhythm early on.
It was against the run of play, then, when they took the lead just after the half-hour with something of a rarity, a rising 25-yard shot on the slide from De Jong that curled into the top corner beyond the stretching Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
Anfield was suddenly a worried place, but the concerns of Liverpool's supporters were eased when they drew level on the night and moved back ahead on aggregate four minutes before half-time.
Richards blocked Agger's shot with his foot only for the ball to ricochet up and strike his hand. Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and Gerrard, as he had in the first leg, beat Hart with power and placement.
Mancini relieved Savic of his duties at half-time and sent on Aguero, but it was Liverpool who made all the early running after the restart and only the brilliance of Hart prevented them putting the tie to bed.
He dived athletically to his right to make a magnificent one-handed stop from Skrtel after 53 minutes and was City's saviour again seconds later when he blocked Downing at the far post as he tried to turn in Dirk Kuyt's cross.
City, as they did in the first half, then scored while Liverpool were exerting supremacy.
Kolarov's low cross was allowed to flash across the six-yard box and Dzeko arrived with perfect timing to convert a simple chance.
Their lead on the night only lasted seven minutes before Liverpool scored again to put themselves back on the road to Wembley. Bellamy, who will now face the club he played for last season in the final, worked his way into the area after a slick exchange with Glen Johnson and passed in a precision finish that even Hart was powerless to stop.
There was no coming back this time for City, leaving Liverpool and their supporters planning what they will regard as a long-overdue return to Wembley for the seven-times League Cup winners.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bolton 3 - 1 Liverpool

A wasted result again!! Bolton moved out of the bottom three after taking full advantage of some slack defending to sink Liverpool.
Mark Davies opened the scoring early on when he drifted through the centre and found the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Nigel Reo-Coker added a second when he chested down and slotted in, but Craig Bellamy gave the Reds hope as he lifted the ball over goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
However, Gretar Steinsson's volley ensured that Bolton picked up their first points over Liverpool since 2006.
Much of the pre-match talk had surrounded Liverpool's lack of goals, their lowest at this stage of the season since the inception of the Premier League 20 years ago.
It was not expected that their defence would come under the same scrutiny, against a Bolton side with the worst record in English senior football, who had won only one of their 10 home games, kept only two clean sheets and lost their last 10 matches against the Reds.
Only Manchester City had conceded fewer goals than Kenny Dalglish's side, but that was scarcely believable in a shaky opening few minutes.
Davies was first to pierce the Liverpool backline. He was allowed to drift through the heart of the defence from midway inside the Liverpool half, and with three players delaying making a challenge, he fired home clinically.
Moments later, Liverpool full-back Jose Enrique dwelt on the ball for too long on the touchline and was dispossessed by the intrepid Chris Eagles who jinked along the byeline, but his prod across goal failed to find a team-mate.
Liverpool's main hope was an appeal for a penalty after the ball brushed Zat Knight's hand in the area, but referee Kevin Friend was unimpressed with their impassioned pleas.
A lack of midfield cover was evident again when Eagles was allowed to ghost through a gap and find Reo-Coker, who controlled the chip and tucked the ball away from six yards.
Striker Andy Carroll, without a goal in his last 10 appearances for Liverpool, was proving more effective as a contributor than a finisher. First, he sent in a dangerous cross from the left, then a neat right-footed pass freed Bellamy whose first-time shot was straight at Bogdan.
However, the same combination gave their team a lifeline. Carroll flicked on and Bellamy raced clear before delicately chipping in his seventh goal of the season.
It seemed the momentum was with Dalglish's side and that they would gain the upper hand in the second-half, but soon after the interval their defensive frailties were exposed again.
There were question marks about whether Martin Petrov's corner had gone out of play before curling into the six-yard box, but no debate over Steinsson's clinical finish after Trotters defender David Wheater had outjumped a static Liverpool defence at the far post.
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger hit the top of the bar with a rasping 25-yard effort and Bellamy, who was involved in a continual spat with Reo-Coker, tested Bogdan with a low shot.
However, the visitors could not find sufficient quality to salvage something from the trip and now face a critical week to keep their season alive with cup ties against the two Manchester giants.