Liverpool heading for Wembley

PA Sport
Craig Bellamy (centre)

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Craig Bellamy (centre)

Striker Craig Bellamy scored the crucial goal against former club Manchester City to put Liverpool into their first Wembley final for 16 years.

The Wales international scored with 16 minutes remaining to make it 2-2 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

City took the lead through Nigel de Jong's long-range effort but Steven Gerrard equalised with a generously-awarded penalty and although Edin Dzeko gave his side a sight of extra-time, those hopes were extinguished by Bellamy.

Aleksandar Kolarov almost gifted Jose Enrique an opener in the fourth minute from a sliced clearance back across goal but Joe Hart's outstretched foot blocked the left-back's shot and Stewart Downing screwed his follow-up volley wide.

The home side dominated the opening half-hour but they were hit with a career-best goal from De Jong. Having collected a square pass from David Silva 30 yards out the trajectory of his sweetly-struck shot started outside Jose Reina's left-hand post but curled back enough to brilliantly beat the goalkeeper.

Liverpool were level as Phil Dowd generously decided Daniel Agger's shot which deflected up off Micah Richards and on to his arm was a penalty and Gerrard, scorer from the spot in the first encounter, fired home to make it four consecutive goals in league cup semi-finals, having scored in both legs against Watford in 2005.

Stefan Savic was replaced by Sergio Aguero for the second half as City reverted to a flat back four but Liverpool were first to threaten again as Gerrard whipped in a free-kick from the left and Hart half-punched only to redeem himself by tipping over Martin Skrtel's goalbound shot.

The England goalkeeper, as he had done in November's league draw at Anfield, superbly kept the Reds at bay again when he tipped over Downing's downward volley from Dirk Kuyt's cross.

Silva wasted a free-kick from the right after the Spaniard was booked for fouling Pablo Zabaleta but there could not have been a greater contrast with Kolarov's cross in the 67th minute. The Russian drilled a low ball from wide on the left across Liverpool's six-yard box for Dzeko, who had lost Agger, to tap in at the far post.

Liverpool have a habit of producing fairytale finishes under the Anfield floodlights and so it proved. Kuyt's pass in from the right to Bellamy was laid off to Glen Johnson who immediately bounced the ball back to the Welshman who curled home with his left foot.

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