A SEMI-FINAL second-leg clash against Stoke City with the Reds leading 1-0 gives Liverpool the chance to book their place in the League Cup final for the fifth time in 15 years, writes JACK WHITEHEAD.
It’s not the trophy that’s coveted by all and it’s probably not the piece of silverware managers, players, or even the fans dream about in their sleep. It is, however, a competition that as well as providing a trip to Wembley has brought some of the sweetest victories and greatest moments of our recent history.
Here are five of them to get your League Cup tails wagging for the Anfield showdown with Mark Hughes’ side.
Liverpool 5-0 Crystal Palace, January 2001
Gerard Houllier’s Reds were 2-1 down going into the Anfield semi-final second leg, but early goals from Vladimir Smicer, Danny Murphy and Igor Biscan in a six-minute blitz all but settled the tie in front of a 41,000-strong crowd. After the break, Murphy got his second, Robbie Fowler got the fifth, and cocky Clinton Morrison — who had publicly taunted Liverpool’s forwards after the first leg defeat — missed the ball from four yards. Priceless.
Liverpool 1-1 Birmingham City (February 2001)
A Robbie Fowler wonder strike got Liverpool off to a great start, but a rash Stephane Henchoz tackle gifted Birmingham a penalty equaliser in the second minute of injury time to force the final at the Milllennium Stadium into extra time then a penalty shoot-out.
Gary McAllister, Nick Barmby, Christian Ziege, Robbie Fowler and, famously, Jamie Carragher converted for the Reds, with Ian Bennett in the Blues’ goal saving from Didi Hamann. Martin Grainger and a certain Andy Johnson failed to convert for Birmingham with Sander Westerveld saving both efforts and a 5-4 shoot-out triumph meant the first cup of a historic trophy treble was found a home at Anfield.
Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United (March 2003)
One of the sweetest. The final itself in front of 75,000 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was nervy and high pressured.
Steven Gerrard’s deflected shot gave the Reds a half-time lead and after the break Liverpool found themselves under siege with Jerzy Dudek making some key saves. Michael Owen then sent our end into chaos, wrapping it up in the 86th minute. Try saying the League Cup didn’t matter on that day.
Liverpool 2-2 Cardiff City (February 2012)
Memorable because the cup came home to the right place in the end, but also remembered as one of the more uncomfortable games of football.
Cardiff played their part, as did their keeper Tom Heaton. Joe Mason put the Welshmen in front on 19, and it took until the hour-mark for Liverpool to find an equaliser through Martin Skrtel.
The energy-packed substitute Dirk Kuyt thought he had won it in extra time only for the Bluebirds’ Ben Turner to cancel it out two minutes from the end.
The penalty shoot-out finished 3-2 to the Reds but it wasn’t for the faint-hearted.
Charlie Adam’s spot-kick is probably still orbiting the earth somewhere but despite the Liverpool performance being far from convincing it was still special for the fans, especially the young ones, to see Kenny Dalglish lift another cup at Wembley.
Liverpool 6-1 Southampton (December 2015)
How opinions can change over the course of 86 minutes.
After 40 seconds and a Sadio Mane goal for The Saints most would have struggled to see how this year’s League Cup run could continue. But the Reds stepped up and then some and here we find ourselves with another chance to get down to Wembley.
It really was six of the best from the Mighty Reds with Daniel Sturridge showing why his injuries hurt Liverpool so much, Divock Origi displaying his potential and Jordon Ibe getting in on the act, too.
A repeat of that showing in front of goal wouldn’t go amiss right now, not least when Stoke come to town.