By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Etihad Stadium
Liverpool hold the advantage and have a first Wembley appearance since 1996 in their sights after a Carling Cup semi-final first-leg victory at Manchester City.
Steven Gerrard's early penalty, awarded when Stefan Savic fouled Daniel Agger, condemned City to a second successive home defeat after their FA Cup exit against Manchester United on Sunday.
It was the first time City have suffered such a fate since February 2008 and they now face a tough task to turn the tie around at Anfield in a fortnight.
Gerrard not getting carried away
There was controversy in the closing stages when Glen Johnson caught Joleon Lescott with a two-footed challenge which City manager Roberto Mancini claimed was worthy of a red card.
Gerrard's goal was fully deserved after Liverpool forced a succession of outstanding early saves from Manchester City keeper Joe Hart as Mancini's side struggled to hit their rhythm.
And when City did finally exert pressure and dominate possession after the break, Liverpool were in resilient mood at the back and rarely looked like conceding the lead their inspirational captain had given them.
City were without the two major influences of their 3-0 Premier League victory against Liverpool last week, with Kompany suspended and Yaya Toure with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Did you know?
Only two of the 25 teams to have won away in the first leg of a League Cup semi-final have failed to reach the final
And how they missed their power and leadership with David Silva also out injured and the out-of-sorts Mario Balotelli taken off before half-time.
Liverpool, in contrast, stood firm throughout and manager Kenny Dalglish's only complaint may be that they failed to add further goals in that impressive opening burst.
They were without their own suspended spearhead Luis Suarez, but Liverpool compensated for their key absentee with greater success than City did with their missing stars.
Kompany's four-game ban for his contentious red card against United meant a place for Savic in central defence and Liverpool, with Gerrard setting the tempo, played on the Montenegrin's uncertainty to exert total superiority early on.
First-half display was poor - Mancini
Only Hart stood between Liverpool and an emphatic early advantage. He plunged at Andy Carroll's feet after he turned Savic, then saved low to his left from Gerrard's skidding 25-yard shot.
He produced his best from Stewart Downing's deflected shot - but Liverpool got the lead their supremacy merited from the penalty spot after 13 minutes.
Savic was again involved with an injudicious lunge at Agger, Gerrard drilling the resulting spot-kick low into Hart's bottom right-hand corner.
Liverpool's control was complete, especially in midfield, but they lost Jay Spearing to injury when he pulled up suddenly and had to be replaced by Charlie Adam.
Liverpool have been beaten only once in 22 games at Anfield since Kenny Dalglish's return as manager a year ago
City, without the magical influence of Silva, were making no impression on Liverpool's defence, with Balotelli in indifferent mood and form.
He had been carrying an injury prior to kick-off and looked listless throughout, getting involved in a needless spat with Adam and looking unhappy with life in general.
Mancini had finally seen enough after 38 minutes, removing Balotelli from the action and sending on Samir Nasri, who promptly gave Pepe Reina his first anxious moment with a dipping shot that the Liverpool keeper turned to safety.
As City finally showed signs of life, Micah Richards set up James Milner in the area but his shot was high and wide.
City gained momentum from their improvement and carried the attack to Liverpool after the restart. Martin Kelly's poor back pass almost let in Sergio Aguero but the striker was driven too wide by Reina.
There is a long way to go - Dalglish
Reina was in action again on the hour, blocking Richards' header from Nasri's corner, prompting a change from Dalglish as he introduced defender Jose Enrique for Downing.
City made a change of their own with 24 minutes left, sending on striker Edin Dzeko for Adam Johnson, who endured a frustrating night.
The Premier League leaders continued to monopolise possession but, with Jamie Carragher on as a central midfielder to bolster Liverpool's defensive resources, City never looked like breaking through.
City were furious at Johnson's late challenge on Lescott, which was not even deemed worthy of a free-kick by referee Lee Mason.
Mancini considered the challenge worse than the Kompany tackle on Nani that earned the City captain a red card in the 3-2 defeat to United and a four-match ban.
Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
Andy Carroll concedes a free kick for a foul on James Milner. Free kick crossed right-footed by James Milner from left channel, Andy Carroll makes a clearance.
James Milner fouled by Charlie Adam, the ref awards a free kick. Aleksandar Kolarov restarts play with the free kick. The ball is swung over by Samir Nasri, Close range headed effort by Sergio Aguero clears the crossbar.
The ball is sent over by Gael Clichy, save made by Jose Reina.
Sergio Aguero takes a shot. Martin Skrtel gets a block in.
Booking Jamie Carragher is cautioned by the ref for dissent.
Booking Samir Nasri is given a yellow card.
Corner from right by-line crossed in by Aleksandar Kolarov.
A cross is delivered by Gareth Barry, Daniel Agger makes a clearance.
James Milner has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box which goes wide right of the target.
Jordan Henderson challenges Edin Dzeko unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Aleksandar Kolarov.
Gael Clichy delivers the ball, clearance by Martin Kelly.
Jose Reina takes the free kick.
Substitution Jamie Carragher on for Craig Bellamy.
Foul by Gareth Barry on Jose Reina, free kick awarded.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Martin Skrtel on Edin Dzeko. Free kick taken by Gareth Barry.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Andy Carroll by Micah Richards. Charlie Adam takes the free kick.
Effort on goal by Aleksandar Kolarov from outside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the bar.
The ball is sent over by Aleksandar Kolarov, comfortable save by Jose Reina.
Sergio Aguero challenges Martin Skrtel unfairly and gives away a free kick. Martin Skrtel takes the free kick.
Foul by Sanchez Jose Enrique on Gael Clichy, free kick awarded. Aleksandar Kolarov delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing.
Substitution Aleksandar Kolarov is brought on as a substitute for Nigel De Jong.
Effort on goal by Samir Nasri from just outside the area goes harmlessly over the target.
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Blocked by Daniel Agger.
Daniel Agger takes the direct free kick.
Substitution Adam Johnson leaves the field to be replaced by Edin Dzeko.
Unfair challenge on Glen Johnson by Gareth Barry results in a free kick.
Shot by Sergio Aguero. Save made by Jose Reina.
Gael Clichy produces a cross, save by Jose Reina.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Charlie Adam on Micah Richards. James Milner takes the direct free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Adam Johnson on Sanchez Jose Enrique. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Sergio Aguero. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
Substitution Sanchez Jose Enrique is brought on as a substitute for Stewart Downing.
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Samir Nasri, Micah Richards takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
A cross is delivered by Gareth Barry, Daniel Agger makes a clearance.
Sergio Aguero has an effort at goal from close in which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
Charlie Adam delivers the ball, clearance by Stefan Savic.
Jordan Henderson sends in a cross, Gael Clichy makes a clearance.
Corner taken by James Milner from the left by-line, save by Jose Reina.
Adam Johnson is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Jose Reina.
Adam Johnson sends in a cross.
James Milner takes the inswinging corner, clearance by Daniel Agger.
The referee starts the second half.
45:00 +4:02 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven Gerrard on Adam Johnson. Strike on goal comes in from Adam Johnson from the free kick.
Corner taken by James Milner, Martin Kelly manages to make a clearance.
James Milner produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.
Micah Richards delivers the ball, blocked by Glen Johnson.
Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
The ball is swung over by Jordan Henderson, clearance made by Stefan Savic.
The ball is sent over by Jordan Henderson, clearance by Gael Clichy.
Substitution Samir Nasri replaces Mario Balotelli.
James Milner produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.
Steven Gerrard concedes a free kick for a foul on James Milner. Nigel De Jong takes the free kick.
The ball is swung over by Stewart Downing, Gael Clichy manages to make a clearance.
Charlie Adam fouled by Mario Balotelli, the ref awards a free kick. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
Martin Kelly delivers the ball, Header by Andy Carroll from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
The ball is delivered by Craig Bellamy, clearance by Joleon Lescott.
Foul by Micah Richards on Glen Johnson, free kick awarded. Jose Reina takes the direct free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Charlie Adam by James Milner. Glen Johnson takes the free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Glen Johnson on Adam Johnson. Adam Johnson delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, Martin Kelly manages to make a clearance.
Mario Balotelli fouled by Charlie Adam, the ref awards a free kick. Direct strike on goal from the free kick comes in from Mario Balotelli.
The ball is swung over by Gael Clichy, clearance by Glen Johnson.
Jordan Henderson concedes a free kick for a foul on Micah Richards. Free kick taken by Nigel De Jong.
Andy Carroll is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Gael Clichy restarts play with the free kick.
Substitution Jay Spearing goes off and Charlie Adam comes on.
Shot from just outside the box by Sergio Aguero misses to the left of the target.
Assist on the goal came from Daniel Agger.
12:30 Goal scored
Goal! - Steven Gerrard - Man City 0 - 1 Liverpool Penalty taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard and scored. Man City 0-1 Liverpool.
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard, Penalty awarded for an unfair challenge on Daniel Agger by Stefan Savic.
Corner taken by Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing has an effort at goal. Save by Joe Hart.
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.
Centre by Glen Johnson, Adam Johnson gets a block in.
Sergio Aguero concedes a free kick for a foul on Daniel Agger. Daniel Agger takes the free kick.
Andy Carroll takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.
Stewart Downing takes a shot. Blocked by Nigel De Jong.
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