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Carabao Cup

Dalglish’s day: A decade on

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Liverpool’s 2012 League Cup Final triumph.

25 February 2022

A chorus of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ echoed around Wembley Stadium as a sea of red sung along to Liverpool’s synonymic anthem, marking the Club's 2012 League Cup triumph over Cardiff City in the Final.

Kenny Dalglish took a moment to catch his breath after rediscovering a fleeting burst of his youth to sprint out of his technical area before quickly composing himself to double back and graciously shake the hand of his opposing number and deflated then-Bluebirds boss Malky Mackay.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Liverpool’s League Cup success, which – incidentally – was also the last time the Reds had sight of the silverware. Dalglish’s Reds secured a record eighth triumph in the competition and, a decade on, the Merseysiders have their hearts set on a ninth title.

It was a day that the Scotsman might have thought would never come – leading Liverpool out at Wembley in his second spell at the helm.

And it all started at St James Park, of all places. The Reds drew Exeter City in Round Two of the League Cup, but little did manager Dalglish know where it would lead them: to their first trophy since 2006.

Liverpool made light work of the Grecians, courtesy of goals from Luis Suárez, Maxi Rodríguez, Andy Carroll on a Wednesday evening in Devon, 250 miles from home. The victory meant much more to Dalglish, who secured his 200th win as Reds boss across two separate stints as Liverpool booked their place in Round Three of the competition. And the milestone was just the beginning.

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Captain Steven Gerrard made his comeback after six months on the sidelines due to injury as the Reds hit the road once more in the competition – a name which would play a big part further down the line.

Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion stood in the way of Liverpool and Round Four, but with the skipper back on their side, Dalglish made a statement of intent by insisting that the Reds were in it to win it, whilst Gus Poyet reaffirmed that his players needed no motivating against the Premier League heavyweights.

It was the Reds who edged the Seagulls in a hard-fought victory. The visitors struck either side of the break as Craig Bellamy opened Liverpool’s account inside the first seven minutes, before Dirk Kuyt doubled their advantage 10 minutes from time. Ashley Barnes gave Liverpool a late scare when he slotted away his spot kick in the dying moments, but the Reds clung on for the victory on the South Coast as it finished 2-1 to the visitors.

An identical scoreline saw the Reds through to the Quarter-Final. Dalglish’s men came from behind against top-flight opponents Stoke City to complete a Round Four win over the Potters. Suárez was at the double for the Reds, levelling proceedings in spectacular style. The attacker left Ryan Shotton red-faced, sending the ball through the legs of the defender and curling in the equaliser, before notching the match-winner with five minutes left on the watch, to make it three goals in three League Cup outings for the Uruguayan.

Next up was Chelsea and a place in the Semi-Final for the first time since 2005 was up for grabs for the Reds when the two teams met at Stamford Bridge in November 2011.

Carroll’s first-half penalty miss looked like it might be costly for Liverpool, but Rodríguez and Martin Kelly had Liverpool in the driving seat within five minutes following the break, as Dalglish’s side cruised to a 2-0 win.

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Liverpool didn’t tread an easy route to the Final, either. Manchester City awaited in the Semi-Final, just one step away from the Wembley arch. City, who went on to take the Premier League that season, recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over the Reds at the Etihad Stadium just a week prior. However, Liverpool saved their ammunition for the League Cup and with Gerrard on target in the first leg, the Reds took a 1-0 lead into the second leg.

With one foot in the Final, although it was a slender lead, it proved to be a vital one. Roberto Mancini's City fought back stirringly at Anfield and the hosts had to come from losing positions twice to settle for a 2-2 thriller, which saw the Reds come out on top 3-2 on aggregate.

Gerrard slotted home from the spot and Bellamy netted against his ex-employers as Liverpool pencilled a first visit to the new Wembley in the 2011/12 calendar.

Dalglish, who was part of the monopolistic Liverpool team that won the League Cup a record four times on the bounce between 1981 and 1984, led out the Reds at Wembley against Championship outfit Cardiff City on 26 February 2012.

It was the Bluebirds who drew first blood. Joe Mason handed Cardiff the lead in the 19th minute to see Mackay’s side take a 1-0 lead into the interval, before Martin Škrtel restored parity. Continuing into extra-time, with the two teams unable to be separated in 90 minutes, Kuyt turned the score-line on its head, but Cardiff City defender Ben Turner forced the Final to a penalty shoot-out in dramatic fashion, finishing 2-2.

A family affair was on the cards as the showcase went down to the wire. Liverpool captain Gerrard felt the pressure, missing the first spot-kick for the Reds, but it was cousin Anthony Gerrard who spurned the deciding penalty to crown the Merseysiders the League Cup 2012 winners, as Dalglish became the seventh manager to win all of England’s three major competitions at the time.

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