It was intense, it was dramatic, and at times it was downright ugly. But Liverpool won the Carling Cup. Here are five things we learned.
Liverpool have the second best defense in the league behind Manchester City and a big part of that is the presence of Martin Skrtel. Once deemed the softest hard man in football Skrtel is now a dominate force who rarely lets opposition strikers get the better of him, and is almost always available for selection.
His partnership with Agger is a manager’s dream. Agger has license to take the ball forward and Skrtel is strong and fast enough to cover the space in behind. If Skrtel’s defensive game wasn’t enough, he showed Liverpool’s profligate strikers how to score last night with a well-taken, albeit scrappy goal.
How many important goals can one man score in his career? Dirk Kuyt has consistently grabbed late match winners throughout his time at Anfield and he thought he’d grabbed another when he put Liverpool ahead in extra time.
His replacement of a pretty quiet Jordan Henderson instantly bought new energy to the side and at the end of the day, there aren’t many players in that Liverpool dressing room who deserved a trophy more than ‘Mr Duracell’ himself. It’s hard to believe a player who’s given as much as he has hasn’t won one sooner and it was intensely satisfying to see him slot his penalty and jump up and down like a little child.
Cardiff gave it everything last night. You won’t see a performance with that much heart for a long time. Completely dominated for 120 minutes, they defended like Champions and in the rare moments they held on to possession looked like a fairly good side.
Miller created one goal and had a glorious chance to win it just before the death. That miss along with his miss in the shoot out will long haunt his memory.
Nonetheless, the way they fought back from 2-1 down in extra time to draw level just before the end is the stuff people play and watch sports for. They took a team that spent £100 million plus in 2011 to penalties and nearly won. They can all hold their heads up high.
Dalglish knows a thing or two about trophies. He knows a thing or five about the League Cup too. This win makes it five times he’s won it as player or manager. That is an amazing stat.
It’s good to see a manager taking the Carling Cup seriously, because it’s a worthy prize and the first trophy Liverpool has one in six years. It also puts us in the Europa League next season.
Even if Dalglish hasn’t got the side playing stellar football at least Liverpool supporters know what it feels like to win something again. Which brings me to our last point.
45 shots on goal and 11 on target. Those are the statistics from last night from the Guardian and the story of Liverpool’s season. In reality, Liverpool should’ve put the game to bed, like they should’ve so many times before.
Charlie Adam was again inconsistent with his passing (What was he thinking when he hit that penalty?), Henderson was completely overcome by the occasion and the play was just so predictable. There were way too many crosses and it played right into Cardiff’s hands.
Bar Stewart Downing, who has been pretty ordinary but had one of his best games last night, Enrique and Bellamy, the best players on the field last night were all pre-Kenny signings. Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Kuyt and Reina were immense. They’ve been immense all season. But Liverpool are still the worst finishers in the Premier League and that could continue to harm them.
They’re currently seven points off fourth place and should they lose to a resurgent Arsenal they’ll be 10 points off and Champions League will almost certainly be gone for another season.
No one can say this trophy doesn’t matter, though. It’s the biggest day in Jose Enrique’s career and it’s a long time coming for Kuyt, Agger, Skrtel and Pepe. It’s Liverpool’s first trophy in six years and even if all it does is give us another taste of success, that’s got to count for something. Liverpool need to remember what this feels like and do everything in their power to feel it twice more this season.