Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard lifts the Carling Cup, the club's first major trophy in six years (Reuters)

Liverpool’s long wait for a trophy is over following a 3-2 penalty shoot-out triumph over a battling Cardiff City, after the game finished 2-2 following extra time.

After the first three takers – Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam for Liverpool, and Cardiff’s Kenny Miller – had missed, Don Cowie gave Cardiff the advantage. Dirk Kuyt hit back for Liverpool, and after Rudy Gestede struck the post, Stewart Downing put Liverpool ahead. Peter Whittingham levelled the scores, but with Glen Johnson having beaten Tom Heaton, Anthony Gerrard missed the crucial kick.

It was a devastating end for Cardiff’s cup adventure. The Welsh side punched above their weight throughout the game and pushed Liverpool until the final whistle.

A jubilant Kenny Dalglish stressed in his post-match press conference that he hopes the trophy will inspire his club onto greater things in months and years to come.

“Although we have won something today, that is not us finished,” promised the Glaswegian. “We don’t want to stop here.”

“We’ve won it and we are going to really enjoy it. I know how much the players have enjoyed it and it gives you a wee flavour to come back and do it again.”

It hadn’t seemed that the Merseyside giants would need penalties to win, when Kuyt, only just on as a substitute, put a low shot beyond Heaton two minutes after the break in extra time. With the final minutes ticking away, Cardiff’s Aron Gunnarsson and Gestede having almost succumbed to injuries, the Bluebirds won a corner. Ben Turner’s header was cleared spectacularly off the line by Kuyt, but the resulting corner, Turner pounced on a loose ball and poked it over the line for a 118th minute equaliser.

Cardiff centre-back Ben Turner celebrates his last-gasp equaliser with Filip Kiss (Sky Sports)

Turner was ecstatic, sprinting towards the Cardiff fans behind the goal with his shirt removed. It was well deserved, too, for one half of a central defensive partnership (Mark Hudson, who was substituted early in extra time, the other) which had delivered a titanic performance for Cardiff. In normal time, Hudson was everywhere – making every tackle and every header – and once cramp caught up with him, Turner stepped into the breach.

Dalglish was effusive in his praise of the Welsh side. “We have come through some hard games and we came through another tough one today”, said the 60-year-old. “I feel for Anthony Gerrard after he missed his penalty but, for us, we are delighted to have won the trophy.

Cardiff had led 1-0 at half-time through Joe Mason’s goal, but Liverpool equalised on the hour-mark when Martin Skrtel picked up a rebounded from a Luis Suarez header and stabbed it home. Having come out at full speed since half-time, though, Liverpool then slipped back into their early inconsistency and the final 20 minutes were end-to-end.

Both sides created chances – Liverpool seemed to blaze endless chances high or wide while Kenny Miller arguably should have won Cardiff the game with a golden chance two minutes from time. His first-time shot skimmed the top of the bar.

Suarez and Andy Carroll had limited impact on the event, marshalled as they were by Turner and Hudson. Much of the creativity Liverpool demonstrated came from the midfield, particularly Adam and Downing, but the Premier League side were exceptionally inaccurate. Kuyt’s goal was their 42nd shot of the game.

Over the course of the game, however, there can be little doubt that Liverpool were the better side. They seemed more potent, more creative and – as should be expected – fresher in the extra periods. What Cardiff lacked in energy, they made up in determination, but created few goal-scoring chances after regular time.

Cardiff chief Malky Mackay refused to let the bitterness of defeat sour his view of the game. “We wanted to come here and win today but the players have done the club proud,” he said.

“I think today we were playing against a top team and I think we have got a lot to be proud of. You have seen two teams who have put everything into that game.”

The two sides both face an important end to their season from here. Cardiff, once again, are in the hunt for promotion to the Premier League and will surely look to use their excellent performance today as a springboard. Liverpool, meanwhile, continue to battle with Tottenham, Newcastle, Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for the final Champions’ League and Europa League places. In the greater scheme of things, these two clubs reside in different worlds – but for one exhilerating day, they came together to deliver the 89,000 packed into Wembley a game to remember.

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