Manchester City’s month of January continued to drop like a lead balloon. Craig Bellamy stuffed home the decisive goal at Anfield with just over 15 minutes remaining, and Liverpool set up a Wembley date with Cardiff City in the Carling League Cup Final.
City was playing for yet another game without their standout central defender, Vincent Kompany. The backline proved to be an issue on the decisive goal, as Bellamy worked a give-and-go with Glen Johnson near the penalty spot. Bellamy’s left foot beat Joe Hart, his former teammate at the Manchester club.
Until then, it looked like the Blues would be willing to play a more defensive approach. If Manchester City could have held onto a 2-2 aggregate score until the 120 minute mark, they would have escaped the round on away goal total. Roberto Mancini waited too long to bring on defensive support, and Bellamy took City out of yet another competition.
In the past two months, Manchester City has bowed out of three competitions – the League Cup, the FA Cup (the match against Manchester United where Kompany drew red on a tackle of Nani), and the Champions League. Aside from the Premier League, the only other competition that City can vie for will be the UEFA Europa League.
The match started well for the Reds. They dominated much of the possession early, but the first goal came to the Blues from an unlikely source. Holding midfielder Samuel de Jong took a shot from 22 yards after accepting a pass from David Silva in the 31st minute. The Dutchman’s strike wasn’t completely clean, but it had a hard bend to the left. It eluded Pepe Reina’s reach to the upper right 90 to level the tie on aggregate.
Nine minutes later, Liverpool reacquired the lead on their second penalty of the round. A shot from Daniel Agger deflected off Micah Richard’s extended leg and onto his arm. Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot, a call which seemed very unfair since Richards had no time to react and because the deflection would have likely struck his head had his arm been elsewhere. Steven Gerrard’s low penalty to his left left Joe Hart no chance to stop, and the Reds were back up, 2-1.
The score remained 2-1 until City found a way level again in the 67th minute, this time on a low, bending cross from left fullback Aleksandar Kolarov. Silva couldn’t reach the ball on the near post, but Edin Dzeko was attacking from the far side and took care of the chance. That could have been enough to send Manchester City through, but former Blue Bellamy decided the result for the home club.
The Final of the League Cup will occur on February 26th.