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Page last updated at 18:47 GMT, Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Wednesday football as it happened - League Cup & El Clasico


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By Tom Rostance

2300: Copa del Rey then eh? That was almost as good as an FA Cup fourth-round tie. Which luckily for you lot are here with us on Friday. Join Chris Bevan for live commentary on Watford v Spurs and Everton v Fulham. Until then, adios.

2254: Histrionics galore at the end of a captivating game in Barcelona. Pepe leads the sarcastic applause of the referee - but Real know they could, and should have won that one. Make sure you see Mezut Oezil's shot against the crossbar in the first half. Incredible hit.

2253: FULL-TIME Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid (Barcelona win 4-3 on aggregate)

kkvek on Twitter: "El Clasico has everything: storyline, drama, suspense and even great football!"

Yellow card
2251: Pedro could wrap the win up for Barca but he heads straight at Iker Casillas. Esetban Granero and Pepe are both booked in a few seconds. Just the eight cautions for Real so far then...

Red card
Real Madrid red card: It was almost inevitable that someone would get sent-off, and it's Sergio Ramos who sees red. He has now been sent off the most times in Real Madrid history! But he doesn't do much here, slightly raises his arm in a challenge with Sergio Busquets, but it's soft for a second yellow card. Ramos shakes the referee's hand on his way off.

Red card for Real Madrid (Sergio Ramos)

2246: Real come forward again, and Cristiano Ronaldo gets up well to flick a header on from a corner but it runs out of play. Four minutes left - what a game.

2244: Get a brew on Gav, we're all parched after tonight. Lionel Messi twice goes on ridiculous dribbles through the middle, first he can't quite find Gerard Pique with a pass, and then he shoots wide from 20 yards. What centre-half Pique was doing overlapping Messi with seven minutes left is anyone's guess.

Gavin Magee on Twitter: "Dying to go and make a cup of tea but afraid I'm going to miss the complete comeback, Benzema is on fire since coming on!!"

Yellow card
2241: As cynical as it gets from Real defender Fabio Coentrao, and he rightfully booked. He is sucked into a challenge by Lionel Messi, who spins him and is away. Coentrao brings him down with a rugby tackle. Messi takes the free-kick and it is six inches over the top. This is exhausting viewing.

2237: Pepe is involved in another penalty shout as he levers Alexis Sanchez out of the way inside the box, but the ref waves play on. Karim Benzema is then in behind Carlos Puyol again but is foiled by keeper Jose Manuel Pinto. End-to-end stuff.

2234: Cristiano Ronaldo misses the ball totally after great work from Mezut Oezil. It's not often you see Barcelona this rattled, but they are hanging on now here. What a night of football. Oezil then sends in another shot which is blocked by the desperate looking Carlos Puyol.

Real Madrid goal: Hold the phone! The comeback is on. This is as route one as Real Madrid get as a long ball is pumped forward for substitute Karim Benzema. He flicks the ball over Carlos Puyol's head before controlling the half-volley into the corner. One more goal will put Real through on away goals.

2231: GOALFLASH Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid (Barcelona lead 4-3 on aggregate) - Karim Benzema

andyvwatson on Twitter: "Messi hasn't been very influential tonight and Madrid should have taken their chances, but Barca still look the superior team."

Real Madrid goal: He can't do it in the big games can he? What composure from Cristiano Ronaldo as he gives Real a sniff of a chance. Mezut Oezil releases him with a lovely through ball, Ronaldo does Carlos Puyol with a burst of pace, sits keeper Jose Manuel Pinto down with a drop of the shoulder and rolls the ball in. Great finish.

2228: GOALFLASH Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid (Barcelona lead 4-2 on aggregate) - Cristiano Ronaldo

2227: Alvaro Arbeloa involved again as he combines with Esetban Granero, but the midfielder shoots wildly over the bar.

2223: Gonzalo Higuain will want to stay out of Jose Mourinho's way after this one. He missed a hatful of chances when the scores were level at 0-0 and they look very costly now. Substitute Jose Callejon almost gets on the end of a run and cross from Alvaro Arbeloa but can't get over it and heads it softly into the air. Real needed Ronaldo on that one.

2221: Jose Callejon and Karim Benzema are both on for Real who are going for this. They're 4-1 down on aggregate with half an hour to go though. At Barcelona.

Robert Kostur on Twitter: "With all the card waving and play acting I wonder what would happen if the #elclasico was played in England with an English ref."

2216: Classic tantrum from Cristiano Ronaldo in the aftermath of that disallowed goal, truly worthy of the El Clasico. On the toys-out-the-pram scale, that was a solid 8.5

2215: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini on Liverpool's penalty: "It was impossible that it was penalty. Micah can't cut off his arm because the ball touched his leg before. It's impossible to concede a penalty like this and not give one with Edin Dzeko. For Edin, I am 200% sure it was a penalty."

Yellow card
2213: Goal disallowed for Real Madrid! Xabi Alonso sends in a free-kick and Sergio Ramos thumps in the header. The referee whistles for a foul on Dani Alves though. Was that a foul? Very tight call. Cristiano Ronaldo is booked for his arguments.

2211: Xavi pings a free-kick just over the top from the edge of the box, as Jose Mourinho makes a change. It's Esteban Granero - who has been linked with a move to Liverpool - on for Lassana Diarra. Who was a walking red card waiting to happen.

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Anonymous on text: "Diarra should have been sent off, but from the resulting free kick he ends up deflecting the ball to Alves for the goal. Irony?"

2205: Real Madrid kick off the second half of this Copa del Rey clash. Where it will probably kick off repeatedly. I've got the handbags graphic on standby.

2204: Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish: "It's not been the best times for the football club and it's a fantastic reward for the supporters who have stood by us and for the owners it's a first final."

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany on Twitter: "The guys did well but unfortunately it wasn't to be. Focus is on Everton now, we move on!"

2201: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: "I'm delighted for everyone connected with the club, especially the fans. Craig Bellamy was the difference tonight. His pace is always a threat and when a chance falls to him we know he can finish it. I think Arsenal underestimated Birmingham last year so we need to show Cardiff respect, show up like we did tonight and I'm sure we can pick up that trophy."

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "If you are going to be a big club, you start by winning your domestic league. People talk about the money Manchester City have spent, but it's the Premier League that should be top of their list. City started with three at the back, and dispensed with that at half-time, and they have given the impression that competitions other than Premier League are all secondary to the club."

2157: Having seen a replay, those of you questioning my description of Dani Alves' goal are bang on. It wasn't 30 yards out at all - 20 tops. I was blinded by the brilliance of the strike. Mind you, Mezut Oezil's hit was even better. Off the underside of the crossbar from a mile out.

Ten_Hi on Twitter: "Liverpool more vulnerable to the Cupset, so the final looks promising. Cardiff should be pleased with the result."

2155: Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy: "The omens were not looking good going into tonight. Last night I saw Cardiff go through and I was pleased for them. It couldn't be a better final for me. It's funny how football can work out at times. To get to the final is big for us."

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "The Liverpool that you saw today was a little bit like the team Kenny Daglish played in. Back then, the first defender was Ian Rush, or the player nearest to the ball and Bellamy gives them that."

2150: HALF-TIME Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid (Barcelona lead 4-1 on aggregate)

Barcelona goal: Oh my word - what a goal! After Lassana Diarra should have been sent off for a crude challenge on Lionel Messi, Xavi takes the free-kick. It hits the wall and flies out to Dani Alves 30 yards from goal - the Brazilian doesn't break stride to lash it high into the top corner. Sensational.

2150: GOALFLASH Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid (Barcelona lead 4-1 on aggregate) - Dani Alves

Barcelona goal: I was just about to tell you that I'll keep you up to speed with events in Barcelona and bring you all the reaction from Anfield, when Barcelona score. Real have had five good chances to level the tie on aggregate but it's the hosts who stretch their advantage. Lionel Messi runs at the defence and unsurpsisingly causes chaos, before scooping a pass into the path of Pedro - he strokes it into the corner. Cool as you like.

2146: GOALFLASH Barcelona 1-0 Real Madrid (Barcelona lead 3-1 on aggregate) - Pedro

2138: Kenny Dalglish punches the air, and why not? A great cup tie, and Liverpool will now return to Wembley after 16 years and take on Championship side Cardiff. Great game.

2138: FULL-TIME Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City (Liverpool win 3-2 on aggregate)

AKBudge on Twitter: "Bellamy has been one of the signings of the season. Don't know why Mancini let him go."

2136: Great technique from Sergio Aguero as he launches into an overhead kick - but it's straight at Pepe Reina!

Someone has struck the woodwork
2135: Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain is at the centre of the action for Real Madrid, going close three times to drawing the sides level on aggregate, but Barcelona keeper Jose Manuel Pinto is having a stormer. Mesut Ozil also gets in on the act, but his brilliant 25-yard drive strikes the bar. Still 0-0 on the night with 30 minutes gone.

2134: Andy Carroll will play his part - he's on in stoppage time for his 35th game for Liverpool. Can he add to his six goals so far?

2132: We are into the final minute.

2131: Aleksandar Kolarov lines up a bouncing ball and thumps it right across goal and out for a throw-in. It would take a brave striker to get a head on that one. Right out of the sweet spot.

2130: Fantastic defending from Daniel Agger denies City! Edin Dzeko swivels eight yards from goal to fire in a shot but Agger throws himself in the way of it. Liverpool get it out and then bring on Martin Kelly in place of Craig Bellamy. Potential match-winner?

2129: Adam Johnson is seeing a lot of the ball but Jose Enrique is defending very well against him. It looks like my prediction of another goal isn't going to happen.

2126: Steven Gerrard looks shattered at the moment as City push on in search of an equaliser. The visitors force a couple of corners but Liverpool defend stoutly to get it clear. Approaching the final five.

cazzycal on Twitter: "Xavi is 32 today, playing in his 32rd Clasico for Barca. A new record."

2123: And there immediately is Adam Johnson, he is found by a gem of a pass from Edin Dzeko but he loses steam after cutting inside onto his left foot and his shot is easily saved. Nine minutes left and I reckon one more goal to come...

2121: Nigel de Jong comes off for City, as Roberto Mancini turns to winger Adam Johnson. One more goal would put City back on track to go through.

2120: What a game this has been. Superb. Over in Spain, Real Madrid have started brightly and should really be ahead. Cristiano Ronaldo goes close as Jose Mourinho's side break at pace, but his shot is straight at the keeper.

Liverpool goal: This is a cracking goal. Dirk Kuyt finds Craig Bellamy inside the area, he plays a super-fast one-two with Glen Johnson and slips the ball beyond Joe Hart with his left foot. Move of the match, and what could be a match-winner. Just over 15 minutes remain.

2117: GOALFLASH Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City (Liverpool lead 3-2 on aggregate) - Craig Bellamy

2116: Joe Hart had some 10 minutes after the break didn't he? Save after save.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Manchester City fans very buoyant inside Anfield now. Edin Dzeko may be the goalscorer but the brilliance of Joe Hart has allowed them to be in this position."

BBC Radio 5 live football commentator Jacqui Oatley on Twitter: "I've just spoken to ex-top ref Alan Wiley. Says it should NOT have been a pen as Micah Richards couldn't have known the ball would pop up and hit his arm. But Wiley thinks Dowd gave it because he didn't see the ball hit Richards' leg as it happened so quickly."

2114: So how will City play this now? Shut up shop? It's been so open since the break that you feel there has to be more goals if it stays that way.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "You can see Daniel Agger looking at himself for that goal, he just lost Edin Dzeko at the back post. A good finish, but Agger lost concentration."

Manchester City goal: He's done nothing all game, but Edin Dzeko comes up with the goods to level the tie - and put City ahead on away goals. It is a peach of a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, whipped right across the face of goal, and Dzeko taps it in at the back post. He couldn't miss. So City ahead on a way goals - but only after extra time.

2110: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-2 Manchester City (2-2 on aggregate) - Edin Dzeko

2105: Craig Bellamy has scored in Barcelona, but he can't score at Anfield as he takes a total air shot from 12 yards. Both sides are piling men forward here.

2103: Half an hour to go in Liverpool in what has been a cracker so far. Sergio Aguero has looked a threat every time he gets the ball but he hasn't made anything stick as yet. And El Clasico is go at Camp Nou.

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Pete B on text: "If I accidentally bring someone down in the penalty area, it's a penalty. If I accidentally get caught offside, it's an offside. If I accidentally score a goal, it's a goal. Why should it be different if I accidentally stop the ball with my hand in the penalty area?"

Official_JackO on Twitter: "Joe Hart will win us the World Cup one day. He's pure class!"

2100: Now then, there is some game or another kicking-off about now over in Spain. Barcelona v Real Madrid. It is my intention to keep you good people across the best of it, but this game very much remains the focus. Ok?

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "Liverpool have always looked to go forward when they get the ball, and they are always prepared to have a shot, compared to Manchester City, who I think have scored with their only shot."

2057: Joe Hart again! Liverpool break clear as the game opens up, Dirk Kuyt digs out a cracking cross to the back post for Stewart Downing, whose volley is kicked clear by the sprawling Hart. Two fine saves in a matter of minutes.

2055: And that is nearly it! Joe Hart makes a hash of punching away a Steven Gerrard free-kick, but then totally redeems himself by somehow getting up to turn Martin Skrtel's toe-poke over the top. What a save.

2054: Gareth Barry flashes a shot over the top as City break clear, but it's Liverpool who continue to control the game. A third goal for the hosts may just seal this.

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Ben on text: "Graham is wrong. The law is wrong. You can't legislate against an involuntary reflex. The ball flies towards his face, at close range, he protects himself."

2051: That substitution means a reshuffle in the City defence, and they look all at sea as Liverpool threaten from the off. Dirk Kuyt blasts in an effort from the edge of the box which Joe Hart spills, but he manages to get it away. Micah Richards is now in the middle with Joleon Lescott, with Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov at full-back.

2048: Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score the winner at Arsenal remember. And that's the second half under way.

2047: How's this for a substitution - Stefan Savic is coming off for Sergio Aguero. Sets up this second half very nicely...

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Anonymous on text: "If the ref calls it it's a pen. Now lets enjoy the rest of the game!!"

2043: Phil McNulty isn't sat at Stamford Bridge on his own watching this game on TV by the way - he is at Anfield. Honest. A slip of the fingers there from me.

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Stu in Southampton on text: "Sorry Tom, have to agree with Graham. His arms were up, and unlucky though the deflection was, it struck them. Thus, handball, pen."

2040: A great response from Graham Taylor. First class. What do you think? Penalty or not? Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, Tweet me @TJRostance or text in via 81111 (UK)

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "I'm not being unkind to those that Tweet, but when do professional footballers ever read laws of the game? Never. The hands are in action so you could argue when it went to his hands it stopped the ball going through to a Liverpool player."

Half time
HALF-TIME Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City (Liverpool lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Chief football writer Phil McNulty's HT snapshot from Anfield:
"Manchester City will be bitterly disappointed not to take their lead into half-time. Anfield was just starting to show signs of anxiety after Nigel de Jong's goal. Steven Gerrard's contentious penalty gives Liverpool the ascendancy but still plenty on offer here."

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville on Twitter: "A deflection to your arm cannot be a penalty!"

2033: The City players surrounded Phil Dowd as they left the field there, with Nigel de Jong rather politely asking if the referee was sure he'd got that right. Dowd clearly indicated that Micah Richards' arms were up - so it's a penalty. We haven't heard the last of this one.

2033: HALF-TIME Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City (Liverpool lead 2-1 on aggregate)

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Smithers in Ilkley on text: "Liverpool scoring makes no difference to us - City had to score 2 before, we have to score 2 now."

2028: Not for the first time, I'm going to have to disagree with Graham Taylor. And not just about taking Gary Lineker off in Sweden. I don't think that was a penalty, but what is not in doubt is that Liverpool have been the better side since going behind. At least we can't have a penalty shoot-out now anyway. Sergio Aguero to play a part sooner rather than later?

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "You cannot put your hands in the air. If the ball strikes them it's going to be a penalty. You can appeal forever. That's handball, that's a penalty."

Liverpool goal: Let's pick the bones out of this one. It's a fine turn from Charlie Adam inside the area, he drives in a low ball which Joleon Lescott kicks clear but straight to Daniel Agger. Agger lets fly and Micah Richards throws himself to make the block. It strikes his foot and up onto his hand, and Phil Dowd points to the spot. Not sure he could do a lot about that one, but Steven Gerrard makes no mistake to strike into the bottom corner. Liverpool lead on aggregate.

2025: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City (Liverpool lead 2-1 on aggregate) - Steven Gerrard penalty


2023: Vincent Kompany is telling us on Twitter that Nigel de Jong was 'scoring for fun' in training this week. Got to be nonsense. It's Liverpool pushing now though.

kmaps_official on Twitter: "Great goal! It was a Jong time coming…"

2019: Liverpool have every right to be stunned by that Nigel de Jong special, but they respond immediately to threaten and Charlie Adam sends in a low shot which Joe Hart parries out. That was de Jong's second goal in England - and one to remember.

Manchester City goal: Well, well, well - would you believe me if I told you that Nigel de Jong has just curled in a 25-yard beauty at the Kop end? You'd better believe it. David Silva plays a short pass into the Dutchman's path in the middle of the pitch, he slips as he takes aim but still sends in a looping shot which curls right into the top corner. It was going five yards wide when it set off but comes back in beautifully to level the tie. Game on.

2016: GOALFLASH Liverpool 0-1 Manchester City (1-1 on aggregate) - Nigel de Jong

2014: What a messy pattern of play here. Steven Gerrard plays the ball down the line, Joleon Lescott catches the ball but Liverpool think that it stayed in. Dirk Kuyt and Lescott then have a wrestle for the ball before Phil Dowd decides that it is a City throw. Stefan Savic then looks dodgy again as he fails to deal with a routine ball and Micah Richards has to put in some overtime to get across and cover.

2012: The Anfield crowd grow frustrated as a the hosts attempt to pump a series of long balls over the top for Craig Bellamy to chase - it calls for a bit more guile than that. David Silva is again at the heart of a City attack but when he finds Edin Dzeko the striker is easily crowded out.

Vincent Kompany on Twitter: "Clear penalty. Let's hope it's not going to cost us."

2009: The ball's in the net - and it is a lovely finish from an offside Craig Bellamy. Fine move from Liverpool as Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt combine to free the striker - but the pass was delayed and he is clearly offside. Dangerous for the visitors though, who look slow in attack at the moment.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Anfield: "Liverpool look like a side stung by the public criticism from manager Kenny Dalglish. Their high tempo approach is testing Manchester City in the opening stages. City are struggling to find any rhythm - a fact reflected in some frantic body language from manager Roberto Mancini in his technical area."

2005: Craig Bellamy is looking a menace, and he bursts between two defenders to fire in a shot from the edge of the box but again Joe Hart is in the right place to beat the ball out.

DolfiThomas on Twitter: "For all City's superstars and really expensive players, Joe Hart is in the best form so far! Sensational save with his foot!"

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Anonymous on text: "I've been watching Savic over the last few weeks and he does not look settled, on the weekend he misjudged that header to set up Defoe, it will be good to see how he copes tonight."

2003: Edin Dzeko goes down from the following corner - and Charlie Adam does catch him as he clears the ball away. Not a lot of appealing from the visitors though, and referee Phil Dowd is uninterested.

2000: First time David Silva gets the ball in space, and the first moment of danger for City. Silva spreads a lovely ball out wide to Aleksandar Kolarov bursting down the left, but he can't pick out Samir Nasri in the middle and Liverpool scramble it clear. That's the first time City have got their wing backs into the game, and Dirk Kuyt did not track his man at all.

1958: I couldn't have said it better Graham. Craig Bellamy, by the way, is looking as fit as ever now. Stand down Andy Carroll.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "In terms of the Manchester City formation, many people will be surprised they are playing three centre-backs, with a midfield four with two outer ones in Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov. Samir Nasri and David Silva are supporting Edin Dzeko up front."

1956: Liverpool win a corner which is cleared out to Charlie Adam, and just when I was thinking that he'll never take it on on his right foot, the Scot fires in a perfectly presentable effort with his swinger which Joe Hart has to save. It's a very decent start to this game.

Manchester City club captain and absentee this evening, Vincent Kompany, on Twitter: "Watching our game v Liverpool! Come on boys! #ComeonCity!"

1953: Samir Nasri has City's first effort which he fires over the top from 25 yards, and there are worrying signs for Liverpool as Craig Bellamy looks like he may have an injury niggle. Andy Carroll may have a part to play in this one yet.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "Manchester City have had lots of possession but the chances have gone to Liverpool and Jose Enrique should have scored, it was a poor effort by him."

Yellow card
1951: Craig Bellamy is almost in behind as Liverpool step it up a gear, but there's confirmation that Steven Gerrard was shown a very early booking for that foul on Gareth Barry. He'll have to be on his best behaviour from now on. Glen Johnson's shot is easily held by Joe Hart - who was furious with his defence for gifting that early chance.

1949: Shocking defending from Aleksandar Kolarov, and Liverpool should be ahead on the night. Kolarov makes a total hash of dealing with a cross at the back post and plays it straight to Jose Enrique, but the Liverpool left-back sees his close-range shot well saved by Joe Hart. Stewart Downing slashes the rebound high and wide. Massive chance.

1948: Gareth Barry is clattered by his good mate Steven Gerrard in midfield but is soon back on his feet as City recycle possession from flank to flank - positive start from the visitors.

1946: The first thing to note is that City have lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott either side of Stefan Savic, which is a decent insurance policy if you ask me given Savic's recent displays. That leaves Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov as wing-backs. Just adds to our 1996-style evening.

1945: It's a cracking atmosphere at Anfield, and we are off in this semi-final second leg.

1942: For Delboy (below) and everyone else asking, away goals only count after extra time has been completed. Why? Who knows? A quirk of this competition.

1941: Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish: "We've dealt with the weekend, we didn't need to prolong it. It's amazing when you have a poor performance how long the conversation lasts. It's a big game tonight and we're looking forward to it. Who is playing was a big consideration because there have been a lot of bodies who have played a part in this competition. The hardest part of the week is picking a team. More important than patience, is that we perform to the standards we are capable of doing. We won't be defensive, because we are Liverpool."

DelboyJH on Twitter: "Would love another semi-final penalty shootout tonight as a neutral. Do away goals count towards the aggregate?"

1937: Hard to argue that the Spurs game was more important for Manchester City, but I'm sure Roberto Mancini really wants to win this trophy - especially now City are out of the FA Cup. As ever, David Silva looks the key man for their hopes.

1935: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini: "Our gameplan is to try to score two goals and not concede any goals but I don't think Liverpool will agree with this! It will be difficult but we have nothing to lose. It's important the players go on the pitch and can put everything into it and try to fight for every ball. I think that we deserved to win the game against Tottenham and it was the more important game against Tottenham [than Liverpool]."

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Anonymous on text: "I can't work Kuyt why Dirk is playing."

1925: Do we think Mario Balotelli really understood 'everything' Roberto Mancini said to him? I doubt it. I hope not anyway. He will certainly be missed for these next four games and, as the Tweet below said, City do look light on firepower at the moment. If only they could get a striker of the calibre of Carlos Tevez back on board...

1923: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini: "I don't agree with this decision [to ban Mario Balotelli], we accept it, but we cannot do anything. I explained it to Mario and he understood everything."

ArthurOzols on Twitter: "City limping in terms of firepower. Aguero absent, Balotelli suspended, Tevez rejected and Dzeko highly questionable."

1920: Let's not have any chat of extra-time and penalties please lads. I want this one wrapped up early doors. Anfield pumping out some classic A-ha by the way. "The Sun Always Shines On TV" - Indeed Morten - but not at Anfield.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live summariser Graham Taylor: "After the last performance at Bolton, I think Liverpool quite honestly will be up for this. I think it will be tight and may go to extra-time and penalties and I have sneaky feeling they will hang on."

Liverpool v Man City
Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Anfield:
"Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish delivered scathing public criticism of his players after Saturday's defeat at Bolton - and he feels he can do without £35m striker Andy Carroll in his starting line-up to face Manchester City. The main attacking threat will be provided by one of the few successes from the Reebok, Craig Bellamy. Manchester City have been deprived of Mario Balotelli as he starts a four-match ban, which makes it all the more surprising that Sergio Aguero is on the bench as Edin Dzeko leads the attack. No starting place for James Milner, who was so impressive in the win against Tottenham. He joins Aguero on the bench."

Liverpool v Man City
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Downing, Gerrard, Bellamy, Kuyt. Subs: Doni, Carroll, Maxi, Coates, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly.
Man City: Hart, Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov, De Jong, Barry, Zabaleta, Silva, Nasri, Dzeko. Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Johnson, Aguero, Hargreaves, Clichy, Rekik.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

1915: City had Madly Brilliant Mario Balotelli to thank for their win over Spurs on Sunday but the enigmatic Italian is out tonight as he starts a four-match ban for appearing to stamp on Scott Parker. I had loads of 1996 puns to throw Mario's way as well. Gutted.

Liverpool v Man City
Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Anfield:
"Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was keen to warn against complacency, despite his side's 1-0 lead from the Carling Cup semi-final first leg. He said: "Let's not be running away with ourselves, let's make sure we get the hard work done first. We have a slight advantage, we just need to go into the game and compete." Manchester City coach David Platt knows the size of the task they face. He said: "We understand the difficulty of going to Anfield and getting any kind of result. The size of the game - there is no second bite of the cherry. We have to win. We get nothing for a draw."

1913: The two sides come into this one in contrasting form. For City, a last-gasp win over Spurs at the weekend kept them top of the table, while Liverpool were dismal in defeat at Bolton which brought strong words from captain Steven Gerrard . "The fans won't accept it, they don't deserve it," he said. "It's not allowed. If we perform like that against Manchester City, there will be no Wembley trip." Chin up Stevie lad, it could be worse...

Liverpool v Man City
Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Anfield:
"Liverpool have not been to Wembley since the FA Cup Final defeat against Manchester United in 1996 - but a one goal advantage from the Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Manchester City gives them a real chance of putting that right at Anfield tonight. City, however, will represent a real threat and manager Roberto Mancini has the attacking riches with the capability to overturn that advantage."

AndyWilson32 on Twitter: "Sick with nerves, shaking like a leaf. We all know Liverpool do things the hard way..."

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Ed in London on text, via 81111: "The way I see it Dalglish needs to: a) start Carroll in every game, or b) buy a new striker. Doing neither is incomprehensible."

1907: Cardiff took us to the wire with their penalty shoot-out win over Crystal Palace last night, but surely there's enough goal threat on display tonight for there not to be a repeat at Anfield? Please - let's not have another late one...

1905: So who do we fancy to make it through to play Cardiff in the final then? Can Liverpool hold on at Anfield? Or will City make their first League Cup final since they beat Newcastle in 1976? We want to hear from you. Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, Tweet me @TJRostance or text in via 81111 (UK).

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: But City will have to break through without Sergio Aguero, who does not start tonight. It looks like Samir Nasri and David Silva will operate behind lone striker Edin Dzeko, with Nigel de Jong starting alongside Gareth Barry in midfield.

1858: Liverpool may have longer to wait of course - first of all they have to see off this Manchester City side. Steven Gerrard - who else? - scored the penalty in the first leg which gives them a narrow 1-0 lead heading into the second leg, but Roberto Mancini's men will be keen to strike back.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt start in attack for Liverpool, with £35m striker Andy Carroll left on the bench.

1850: Of course, before you all start, Liverpool have reached many a final since that crushing day in the mid 90s. Mainly in Cardiff, with a smattering of Istanbul-based glory and the odd Greek tragedy thrown in. But let's not let facts get in the way of a good story. It's still a long time since the Reds were down Wembley way.

1845: Cast your minds back to that golden summer of 1996. Just weeks before the nation fell back in love with Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer cemented his place as the most feared striker in Europe and Gareth Southgate secured a lucrative pizza advertising deal at Euro 96, another pivotal day in the footballing calendar took place. Eric Cantona's volley guided Manchester United to the Double with the winner in the FA Cup final over a Liverpool side packed full of Spice Boys - and John Scales (remember the cream suits?) Why do I mention that final tonight, I hear you ask? Because, friends, that was the last time Liverpool played at Wembley. They are 90 minutes away from a return after 16 long years - if they can beat Manchester City tonight. In the words of another 1996 gem, Say You'll Be There...

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League Cup results

25 Jan 2012 23:59 UK

see also
Wednesday's football photos
25 Jan 12 |  Football

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