This was the game every Liverpool fan had been looking forward to for weeks after our brilliant to leg tie with Manchester City where we emerged victorious and booked our first Wembley appearance since it was rebuilt.
I was only one player wrong with the starting lineup, so I was quite pleased with the team Kenny put out and with myself for understanding and agreeing with the managers selection. I was not very familiar with Cardiffs selection so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but every team should play their own way so I suppose it shouldn’t make a difference, plus I’m not the manager so it isn’t my job to worry about that!
As the game started I was enjoying it, I was in a pub with my girlfriend and it was a good atmosphere with about 50% Liverpool fans and 50% mixed of Man United mostly and other fans, I could probably have counted the Cardiff fans on one hand.
It started quite well, both teams attacking and it looked like it could be an enjoyable match, I’d say we were marginally on top at 0-0, then Cardiff scored a well taken finish and all of a sudden I thought this could end up badly.
Although I enjoyed it at 0-0 when both teams were doing OK, I would have said it was a poor performance so far from Liverpool if this was a premier league game, but it was a final and 0-0 so it didn’t bother me. When that first goal went in I really did think the worst. The half continued like it started, attacking play but no final ball, no really spark to test their keeper. I was looking forward to half time thinking Kenny will have a word and the lads would sort themselves out.
I really wasn’t enjoying the game at the time. I thought there would be more goals, but I thought it would be them getting one first, we had nothing much in the final third, Suarez was being marked brilliantly and Carroll wasn’t having his best day, Downing was doing ok, Gerrard and Henderson being borderline average.
Second half started the same, both teams going at it, pretty good game for a neutral I’d imagine. Skrtel got a goal to make things level and I started being hopeful again, I bloody love Skrtel this season, he has been outstanding, he should be at least a nominee for this seasons player of the year. The whole pub got noisier after, it was game on, and we just needed another and we can forget about the horrible start and go home after 90 as winners.
But no, Cardiff struck again and at this point I thought well done Cardiff, enjoy the win and hope they get a good run in Europe. Liverpool hadn’t lifted all that much after the equaliser as they really should have. Cardiff were giving us a right go and deserved to be ahead, probably deserved the trophy, too.
Kuyt came on in the late stages and I did know he has a knack for big goals in big games, and that’s exactly what he did, gave Liverpool a right lifeline there with a shot that looked like a scuffed slice, but as the commentary in Football Manager goes “it doesn’t matter how they get there, they still count!” and that was the end of a horrible, horrible 90 minutes as a Liverpool fan.
Extra time was even worse at 2-2, I don’t think I enjoyed it at all, I was just waiting for them to score so I can just finish my pint and go home and forget all about football for a week, I really couldnt concentrate on players performance or anything, I was just agonisingly watching the scrappy play of both teams, which is understandable, it was a tense contest of who wants it more, and you could see the nerves out there, they both wanted it just as much but they just didn’t want to make a mistake more than try to go for a goal, and it ended the same as regular time at 2-2, and it was time for every player and supporters nightmare, the penalty shoot out.
I don’t like penalties even if I’m watching a game as a neutral, it’s heartbreaking and I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone, but there had to be a winner and this was the final stage.
We missed our first one and once again, I thought we were about to lose, but they kept missing as well, it was a shocking display of penalty taking on both sides, Cardiff were just unfortunate that they missed the most, and to make it even worse Anthony Gerrard was the taker to give us the trophy, Steven Gerrards own cousin.
Although we had won and I was over the moon, I couldn’t help but feel very sorry for the bluebirds, they’d gone that far and lost it like that, It wasn’t nice to watch. It was good to see some of our players shaking with Cardiff players hands before celebrating, showed some class and that we were good winners. I felt both teams deserved the trophy that night for going at it for that long.
However, the win means we are in Europe next season for sure, so that’s one less worry for us, even though we would obviously prefer to not go in through the back door, and rather with 4th spot for the Champion’s League. But we have a trophy already this season and still in a very good position in the FA cup and good shout for 4th place, so it is the perfect start to what could be a fantastic season.
We’ve just got to concentrate and work on this victory, it felt great to be in the final and the players should remember what it felt like to win a trophy to spur them on to win more!