Home > Soccer/ Football > Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City: Bellamy fires Reds to Wembley

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City: Bellamy fires Reds to Wembley

It’s been 16 years since Liverpool last visited Wembley, but a 2-2 draw with Manchester City in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield was enough to send the Reds south to the capital, advancing on aggregate 3-2.

Former City player Craig Bellamy proved to be the decisive thorn in the side of his former club, netting 16 minutes from time on a touch-and-go play with Glen Johnson inside the City box. Dirk Kuyt controlled the ball outside the area, slipped his defender and played the ball to Bellamy, who played a quick one-timed pass to Johnson. Johnson played Bellamy through and the Welshman sent a slightly bending effort past keeper Joe Hart.

The goal was Bellamy’s eighth in all competitions, putting him level with the suspended Luis Suarez for Liverpool’s top scorer this season.

City got the scoring off in the 31st minute after a bright Liverpool start rattled the visitors. Against the run of play, Nigel de Jong scored a beauty of a 25-yard bender past Pepe Reina’s far post. Perhaps an unlikely goal-scorer for the Citizens, de Jong, who slipped on his shot, has only netted twice in three seasons with the current league leaders.

Liverpool had a quick answer for de Jong’s strike, however, when they were awarded a controversial penalty in the 40th minute.

Micah Richards, City’s captain in the absence of Vincent Kompany, was called for a handball by official Phil Dowd when his arm made contact with a shot from Daniel Agger. Agger’s shot ricocheted off of Richards’ leg and hit his outstretched arms, with Dowd signaling to the spot straight away.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard stepped up to the spot, and, in a rematch with Hart from the first leg, went 2-0 up against his international teammate when he fired the ball low into the bottom left corner.

Gerrard has found the net now 5 times in just 11 appearances for the Reds.

After the match, both managers disagreed over Dowd’s decision to award the Merseyside club the PK.

According to City boss Roberto Mancini, the play was “not a penalty.”

“We did a good performance, scored two goals,” the Italian told Sky Sports. “I think it was not a penalty for Liverpool and was for us. This changed the game. [Richards] touched the ball on his leg, for this reason [it was not a penalty].”

Kenny Dalglish, however, opted to poke fun at reporters when asked his thoughts on the decision.

Reporter: “What did you think of the penalty decision?”

Dalglish: “What do you mean?”

Reporter: “The handball.”

Dalglish: “Exactly.”

Mancini also felt aggreavied his side were not awarded a penalty of their own in the 15th minute when Charlie Adam kicked the outstretched leg of Edin Dzeko. Both the Scot and the Bosnian stuck their feet out on a ball played into the box, however Adam kicked the back of Dzeko’s leg. Dowd, however, signaled for the game to play on.

Dzeko would, though, score for the visitors in the 67th minute to give them both the lead  in the match and the advantage on aggregate. The Bosnian tapped in a low cross from Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serb had beaten Johnson out wide before playing the ball in.

But the last laugh would belong to Craig Bellamy, who wrecked havoc on his old side in a performance that saw him leave the Anfield pitch to a standing ovation. Bellamy was deemed surplus to Mancini’s plans this season and allowed the Welshman to rejoin Liverpool on a free transfer on Aug. 31.

Overall, City had the leg up on possession, restricting the home side to just 44 percent. However, Liverpool were the better side on the night and over the two legs, leaving the 2-2 encounter with 13 shots on goal and forcing Hart into making 10 quality saves. The Reds also forced 12 corners, while City could only muster two.

Liverpool, coming off a poor 3-1 defeat to Bolton which resulted in Dalglish criticizing his side, will now head into their first cup final since the 2007 Champions League defeat to AC Milan, and their first visit to Wembley since 1996. The Reds take on Cardiff – Bellamy’s home club and the side he was loaned out to last season – in the Carling Cup final on Feb. 26, 2012.

Dalglish was full of praise for his side, telling Sky Sports, “The boys were magnificent tonight and deserve a great deal of credit, and everybody in the squad has helped us get through.

“The supporters were magnificent and it is a great reward for them and the loyalty they have shown us, so for everybody at Liverpool it has been a fantastic evening,” he said.

Dalglish also spoke highly of Bellamy, a player he called “quality,” and took a sly dig at City.

“He was unbelievable,” Dalglish said. “If Man City have anyone else like Craig that they don’t want to keep, they know where we are. He’s been like that since he came in the door and it is fantastic to have him here.”

Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy. Bellamy was a tour de force at Anfield, constantly posing a threat to the City back line. His movement was top notch, his pace – even at the age of 32 – is still menacing, and his work rate exceptional. He was rightly rewarded with the goal and has shown himself to be the best of business done by the club in the summer.

Needs to do better: No one. It’s hard to single out a player when the collective team effort was fantastic and Liverpool, who have only played one Carling Cup match at home in their run to the final, earned a place in the final.

Side note: With the 2-2 draw, Liverpool remain the only unbeaten side at home in England.

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