Liverpool booked their first Wembley appearance since 1996 as they edged out Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield.
City - trying to overturn Liverpool's one-goal advantage from the first leg at Etihad Stadium - took the lead twice on the night to revive their hopes of joining Cardiff City in the final.
Liverpool, however, were determined not to let the prize slip from their grasp, responding with spirit to earn the aggregate victory that their performance on the night deserved.
Nigel de Jong's spectacular goal for City - only his second for the club - put them ahead but Liverpool drew level before the interval through Steven Gerrard's hotly-contested penalty, awarded after Micah Richards deflected Daniel Agger's shot onto his own arm.
Edin Dzeko's close-range strike once again sparked anxiety around Anfield, but the outstanding Craig Bellamy had the last word against his former club, sliding home a cleverly crafted strike with 16 minutes left.
Liverpool's late nerves could have been settled earlier but for a superb display from City keeper Joe Hart, who produced a string of top-class saves, particularly from Martin Skrtel and Stewart Downing in the second half.
For delighted Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, it marks a return to the stadium that was a familiar scene of triumph during his first spell as player and manager at Anfield and he will now set his sights on Liverpool's first piece of silverware since their FA Cup win against West Ham United in Cardiff in 2006.
City boss Roberto Mancini, who will now turn his attention back to claiming the Premier League title, found a former star returning to haunt him in the shape of Bellamy, who was a constant danger throughout and was deservedly afforded a standing ovation when he was substituted in the dying moments.
City were without suspended striker Mario Balotelli after deciding earlier on Wednesday not to appeal his four-match ban for violent conduct after his apparent stamp on Tottenham's Scott Parker.
Mancini decided to leave Sergio Aguero and James Milner on the bench and started with three at the back - a system that allowed Liverpool to play on the nerves of centre-back Stefan Savic.
LIVERPOOL'S LEAGUE CUP FINAL APPEARANCES
- 1978 Lost to Nottingham Forest 0-1 in replay, Old Trafford
- 1981 Beat West Ham United 2-1 in replay, Villa Park
- 1982 Beat Spurs 3-1, Wembley
- 1983 Beat Man Utd 2-1, Wembley
- 1984 Beat Everton 1-0 in replay, Maine Road
- 1987 Lost to Arsenal 1-2, Wembley
- 1995 Beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1, Wembley
- 2001 Beat Birmingham City on pens, Millennium Stadium (1-1 aet)
- 2003 Beat Manchester United 2-0, Millennium Stadium
- 2005 Lost to Chelsea 2-3, Millennium Stadium (aet)
The Montenegrin endured a nightmare 45 minutes before being removed almost as a merciful release.
Liverpool, the victims of rare public criticism from Dalglish after last Saturday's loss at Bolton, opened in the manner of a side wounded by those harsh words and could have taken an early lead.
Jose Enrique capitalised on careless work by Aleksandar Kolarov, but his shot was blocked by the legs of Hart and Downing lashed the rebound wildly off target.
Charlie Adam and Bellamy - who was Liverpool's main attacking threat with £35m Andy Carroll dropped to the bench - also tested Hart as City struggled to find any rhythm early on.
It was against the run of play, then, when they took the lead just after the half-hour with something of a rarity, a rising 25-yard shot on the slide from De Jong that curled into the top corner beyond the stretching Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
Anfield was suddenly a worried place, but the concerns of Liverpool's supporters were eased when they drew level on the night and moved back ahead on aggregate four minutes before half-time.
Richards blocked Agger's shot with his foot only for the ball to ricochet up and strike his hand. Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and Gerrard, as he had in the first leg, beat Hart with power and placement.
Mancini relieved Savic of his duties at half-time and sent on Aguero, but it was Liverpool who made all the early running after the restart and only the brilliance of Hart prevented them putting the tie to bed.
He dived athletically to his right to make a magnificent one-handed stop from Skrtel after 53 minutes and was City's saviour again seconds later when he blocked Downing at the far post as he tried to turn in Dirk Kuyt's cross.
City, as they did in the first half, then scored while Liverpool were exerting supremacy.
Kolarov's low cross was allowed to flash across the six-yard box and Dzeko arrived with perfect timing to convert a simple chance.
Their lead on the night only lasted seven minutes before Liverpool scored again to put themselves back on the road to Wembley. Bellamy, who will now face the club he played for last season in the final, worked his way into the area after a slick exchange with Glen Johnson and passed in a precision finish that even Hart was powerless to stop.
There was no coming back this time for City, leaving Liverpool and their supporters planning what they will regard as a long-overdue return to Wembley for the seven-times League Cup winners.
- 25 Reina
- 02 Johnson
- 03 Jose Enrique Booked
- 05 Agger
- 37 Skrtel
- 08 Gerrard Booked
- 14 Henderson
- 19 Downing
- 26 Adam
- 18 Kuyt (Carroll - 90' )
- 39 Bellamy (Kelly - 88' )
- 32 Doni
- 16 Coates
- 23 Carragher
- 34 Kelly
- 11 Maxi
- 33 Shelvey
- 09 Carroll
- 25 Hart
- 02 Richards
- 05 Zabaleta
- 06 Lescott
- 13 Kolarov Booked
- 15 Savic (Aguero - 46' )
- 18 Barry
- 19 Nasri
- 21 Silva
- 34 De Jong (Johnson - 78' )
- 10 Dzeko
- 30 Pantilimon
- 22 Clichy
- 44 Rekik
- 07 Milner
- 11 Johnson
- 20 Hargreaves
- 16 Aguero
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.90:00 +3:34
Foul by Joleon Lescott on Glen Johnson, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Glen Johnson.90:00 +2:40
Sergio Aguero takes a shot from 12 yards. Jose Reina makes a save.90:00 +1:24
Stewart Downing concedes a free kick for a foul on Pablo Zabaleta. Free kick taken by Joe Hart.90:00 +0:21 Substitution
Substitution Andy Carroll comes on in place of Dirk Kuyt.88:25
The ball is crossed by Aleksandar Kolarov, Martin Skrtel makes a clearance. The ball is crossed by Aleksandar Kolarov.87:02 Substitution
Substitution Martin Kelly is brought on as a substitute for Craig Bellamy.86:30
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Blocked by Daniel Agger.84:45
The ball is delivered by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Joleon Lescott.83:31
The ball is sent over by Adam Johnson, clearance made by Glen Johnson. Edin Dzeko is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.83:04
Corner taken by Samir Nasri from the left by-line, clearance made by Daniel Agger.82:59
Aleksandar Kolarov crosses the ball, clearance by Steven Gerrard.82:23
Jordan Henderson crosses the ball, clearance by Pablo Zabaleta.80:38
Adam Johnson takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina.79:42
Handball decision goes against Edin Dzeko. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.79:02
The offside flag is raised against Dirk Kuyt. Joe Hart takes the indirect free kick.77:22 Substitution
Substitution Adam Johnson is brought on as a substitute for Nigel De Jong.77:09
The ball is swung over by Samir Nasri, save by Jose Reina.75:43
Charlie Adam delivers the ball, clearance made by Gareth Barry.75:30
Charlie Adam decides to take a short corner.
A cross is delivered by Craig Bellamy, blocked by Joleon Lescott.74:50
The ball is crossed by Jordan Henderson, Close range header by Dirk Kuyt goes wide of the left-hand upright.73:39
The assist for the goal came from Glen Johnson.73:39 Goal scored
Goal! - Craig Bellamy - Liverpool 2 - 2 Man City Goal scored by Craig Bellamy from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Liverpool 2 (3)-(2) 2 Man City.72:09
Glen Johnson fouled by Edin Dzeko, the ref awards a free kick. Glen Johnson restarts play with the free kick.71:22
Centre by Craig Bellamy.69:55
Stewart Downing delivers the ball, Joleon Lescott makes a clearance.66:40
Assist on the goal came from Aleksandar Kolarov.66:40 Goal scored
Goal! - Edin Dzeko - Liverpool 1 - 2 Man City Edin Dzeko gets on the score sheet with a goal from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Liverpool 1 (2)-(2) 2 Man City.66:37
A cross is delivered by Aleksandar Kolarov,65:28
Unfair challenge on Nigel De Jong by Craig Bellamy results in a free kick. Joe Hart takes the free kick.63:37
David Silva delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing.63:37 Booking
Booking Booking for Sanchez Jose Enrique for unsporting behaviour.63:23
Sanchez Jose Enrique gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Pablo Zabaleta.61:25
Pablo Zabaleta concedes a free kick for a foul on Sanchez Jose Enrique. Free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.61:01
A cross is delivered by Sanchez Jose Enrique, clearance by Aleksandar Kolarov.59:57
Sergio Aguero delivers the ball, clearance made by Steven Gerrard.58:31
Pablo Zabaleta sends in a cross, save made by Jose Reina.57:39
Charlie Adam takes a shot. Gareth Barry gets a block in.57:30
The ball is sent over by Stewart Downing.56:51
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line, clearance made by Joleon Lescott.56:45
The ball is sent over by Craig Bellamy, Micah Richards gets a block in.55:16 Booking
Booking The referee shows Aleksandar Kolarov a yellow card.54:51
Dirk Kuyt delivers the ball, Pablo Zabaleta makes a clearance.54:01
Corner taken by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line, Edin Dzeko manages to make a clearance.53:42
Centre by Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.53:22
Samir Nasri delivers the ball, clearance by Martin Skrtel.52:34
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard to the near post.51:33
Sanchez Jose Enrique fouled by Samir Nasri, the ref awards a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Steven Gerrard from left wing, save by Joe Hart. Martin Skrtel takes a shot. Joe Hart makes a save.51:18
Sanchez Jose Enrique delivers the ball, Joleon Lescott makes a clearance.49:18
Shot from just outside the penalty area by Gareth Barry misses to the left of the target.49:12
Aleksandar Kolarov delivers the ball, clearance by Sanchez Jose Enrique.48:33
The referee penalises Jordan Henderson for handball. Pablo Zabaleta takes the free kick.47:24
Centre by Craig Bellamy, Micah Richards manages to make a clearance. Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.46:53
Free kick awarded for a foul by Aleksandar Kolarov on Glen Johnson. Free kick taken by Glen Johnson.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Sergio Aguero on for Stefan Savic.45:00 +2:16 Half time
Half Time The match has reached half-time.44:11
The referee blows for offside against Craig Bellamy. Joleon Lescott takes the indirect free kick.41:48
Corner taken by Craig Bellamy.41:42
Centre by Stewart Downing, Aleksandar Kolarov makes a clearance.40:42
Craig Bellamy gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stefan Savic. Stefan Savic restarts play with the free kick.40:01
The assist for the goal came from Daniel Agger.40:01 Goal scored
Goal! - Steven Gerrard - Liverpool 1 - 1 Man City Steven Gerrard scores a power penalty. Liverpool 1 (2)-(1) 1 Man City.39:20
Micah Richards handles the ball and concedes a .38:46
Charlie Adam sends in a cross, Joleon Lescott makes a clearance. Daniel Agger takes a shot. Micah Richards gets a block in.38:08
Charlie Adam takes a inswinging corner.38:04
Charlie Adam delivers the ball, Joleon Lescott makes a clearance.37:19
Short corner worked by Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt delivers the ball, Micah Richards manages to make a clearance.37:07
Sanchez Jose Enrique has an effort at goal from 30 yards. Blocked by Pablo Zabaleta.36:48
The ball is crossed by Stewart Downing, clearance made by Stefan Savic.36:32
The ball is crossed by Stewart Downing, Stefan Savic makes a clearance. Sanchez Jose Enrique sends in a cross, clearance by Pablo Zabaleta.35:21
Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Bellamy on Pablo Zabaleta. Direct free kick taken by Joe Hart.34:25
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on David Silva by Charlie Adam. Free kick crossed by Aleksandar Kolarov, clearance made by Dirk Kuyt.33:55
The ball is sent over by Steven Gerrard, clearance by Pablo Zabaleta.33:06
The ball is swung over by Stewart Downing, save by Joe Hart.32:51
Outswinging corner taken by Charlie Adam, clearance made by Edin Dzeko.32:39
Charlie Adam takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save made by Joe Hart.32:30
Dirk Kuyt crosses the ball, Pablo Zabaleta manages to make a clearance.30:55
The assist for the goal came from David Silva.30:55 Goal scored
Goal! - Nigel De Jong - Liverpool 0 - 1 Man City Nigel De Jong fires in a goal from outside the area to the top right corner of the goal. Liverpool 0 (1)-(1) 1 Man City.30:10
The ball is sent over by Steven Gerrard.28:04
Outswinging corner taken by Charlie Adam, clearance by Micah Richards.27:25
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Blocked by Martin Skrtel.26:07
The official flags Stewart Downing offside. Joe Hart takes the indirect free kick.23:48
The offside flag is raised against Craig Bellamy. Free kick taken by Joe Hart.22:48
The ball is swung over by Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Skrtel makes a clearance.21:37
Aleksandar Kolarov delivers the ball, clearance made by Steven Gerrard.20:07
Craig Bellamy takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.18:32
The official flags Jordan Henderson offside. Free kick taken by Joleon Lescott.18:00
Unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Joleon Lescott results in a free kick. Glen Johnson takes the direct free kick.17:17
Sanchez Jose Enrique takes a shot. Blocked by Micah Richards. Effort on goal by Craig Bellamy from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.16:58
Craig Bellamy fouled by Stefan Savic, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Gerrard restarts play with the free kick.15:21
Corner taken left-footed by David Silva from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Jordan Henderson.15:16
The ball is delivered by Aleksandar Kolarov, Daniel Agger manages to make a clearance.15:02
Craig Bellamy delivers the ball, clearance by Gareth Barry.12:58
The referee blows for offside against Craig Bellamy. Joe Hart takes the indirect free kick.12:28
Craig Bellamy takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Gareth Barry.12:22
The ball is sent over by Dirk Kuyt, blocked by Aleksandar Kolarov.10:35
Drilled right-footed shot by Charlie Adam. Joe Hart makes a save.10:02
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard played to the near post, Gareth Barry manages to make a clearance.8:09
Long range effort by Samir Nasri goes wide right of the net.6:50
Glen Johnson takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.6:34
The referee gives a free kick against Pablo Zabaleta for handball. Free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.5:31
The ball is delivered by Jordan Henderson.4:58
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Micah Richards.4:50
Craig Bellamy crosses the ball, blocked by Stefan Savic.4:26 Booking
Booking Steven Gerrard goes into the book.3:50
The ball is delivered by Stewart Downing, Aleksandar Kolarov manages to make a clearance. Sanchez Jose Enrique takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart. Effort from inside the area by Stewart Downing misses to the left of the goal.1:54
Foul by Daniel Agger on Edin Dzeko, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Samir Nasri.0:00
The referee gets the match started.
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