A Joe Mason goal has put underdogs Cardiff City ahead 1-0 at half time of the 2012 Carling Cup final at Wembley, putting in jeopardy favourites Liverpool’s hopes of ending their seven-year trophy drought.

Liverpool had controlled the early stages without really offering a consistent threat. Glen Johnson cracked a long-range drive off the bar inside two minutes; an Andy Carroll flick-on briefly set Luis Suarez away before he was tracked down by the impressive Mark Hudson.

Then, after a Carroll header had failed to test Tom Heaton, the pace of the Cardiff break caught the red defence off guard. After the initial cross from Kevin McNaughton was cleared back to him, a neat pass from the industrious Kenny Miller found Mason unmarked at the back post, and the winger kept his cool to slot a low shot underneath Pepe Reina.

In the last quarter of an hour, the Merseyside club began to turn the screw – Charlie Adam put a long drive narrowly wide, and only Hudson’s outstretched leg prevented Carroll from going through – but the defences remain on top and the two keepers have seldom been truly tested, apart from Heaton holding another tame Carroll header about two minutes before the break.

Malky Mackay’s 4-3-2-1 formation is giving Cardiff too much depth for Liverpool to pass their way through, and there is still not enough cut-and-thrust on the break to get around the Bluebirds’ back four.

But as the first half wore on, Liverpool seemed to get themselves into gear for the first time. Thanks largely due to the strong performances of Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique down the left flank, Liverpool have a reliable outlet for their counter-attacks. On the other side, Jordan Henderson – not for the first time – has not been a significant presence.

It seems unlikely that Cardiff have the tools to come out and boss the second half. Their midfield quintet have often struggled to maintain possession against Liverpool’s pressure and frontman Rudy Gestede, however hard he has worked without the ball, has seen little of it when his side are in possession.

That said, the pressure on Liverpool has now been ratcheted up. Their uncharacteristically quiet – nervous? – fans will no doubt find voice in the next 45 minutes. But can Kenny Dalglish light the fire under his stunned superstars?

Memories of last year’s final, of Obafemi Martins and another giant of the game whose trophy drought drags on, are coming flooding back to me.

Full report will follow at full time. You can stay up to date with all the second-half action by following @armchairpundit2 on Twitter.

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