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Liverpool 2-1 Cardiff

Gerrard's winner for Liverpool spoiled Fowler's Anfield return
Gerrard's winner for Liverpool spoiled Fowler's Anfield return

Steven Gerrard spoiled former team-mate Robbie Fowler's Anfield homecoming with Liverpool's winner to end Cardiff City's Carling Cup hopes.

Nabil El Zhar gave Liverpool the lead in this fourth-round tie with a long-range thunderbolt on 48 minutes.

Cardiff captain Darren Purse equalised, heading home Paul Parry's free-kick.

But within 46 seconds Liverpool retook the lead as Yossi Benayoun raced clear on the left and laid the ball into Gerrard's path to strike home.

Fowler, still a favourite with the Liverpool fans, returned to Anfield in the blue of Cardiff after leaving for the second time last summer.

The 32-year-old's name echoed around the stadium before the start, and four minutes into the match Fowler had a great chance to score.

Fabio Aurelio tripped the striker just outside the box in front of the Kop and Fowler, with a two pace angled run-up, sent a curling free-kick towards the top corner.


But French goalkeeper Charles Itandje flung himself to his left to claw the ball away to deny Fowler a dream return.

Liverpool responded with a Ryan Babel effort - clipped over the bar as he fell - before a clever, nimble turn from Peter Crouch ended with a low drive which fizzed wide.

Aurelio was next to try his luck with a bending drive that Bluebirds goalkeeper Michael Oakes comfortably turned round a post.

Lucas Leiva and Sebastian Leto also both went close for the home side, while at the other end Itandje turned away a dangerous Parry header, but the match remained goalless at the break.

Three minutes after the restart El Zhar remedied that, with a wonderful 30-yard strike to record his first Liverpool goal.

Gerrard made the early inroads with a typical driving run, before picking out El Zhar in space.

The 21-year-old Moroccan international, bought from St Etienne, came inside onto his right foot and unleashed a pile-driver that fizzed past Oakes and went in off the inside of the post.

Joe Ledley, who had been bright all night, almost pulled Cardiff level but the Wales international saw his goal-bound shot picked off by Itandje.

On 65 minutes Parry then sent across a fine bending free-kick that Cardiff skipper Purse honoured with an equally good header to level the score.

But Liverpool restored their lead within a minute as Gerrard swapped passes with Benayoun before burying the ball in the net from 15 yards.

Crouch nearly gave the Reds the comfort of a cushion but Oakes was again alert to palm the towering striker's header away.

Fowler nearly wrote himself a story-book ending with a vintage turn and snap-shot, only for the ball to ricochet off a Liverpool defender.

Then in the last minute Parry found space for a goal-bound effort, but again desperate defending saw the shot blocked and with it went Cardiff's last chance of forcing extra time.

Liverpool could even have finished with a flourish as Harry Kewell broke away on a swift counter-attack in injury time, only for Benayoun to blaze wide.

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
    "I would have wanted really to leave Steven out of the match.

    "But we have too many injuries and Mohamed Sissoko was sick again, so Steven had to play and in the end he was the one who scored the vital goal.

    "Cardiff worked very hard and were always dangerous, but then Steven got through to score a typical goal."

  • Cardiff manager Dave Jones:
    "We've come to Anfield and given them a bit of a fright.

    "You're at your most vulnerable when you're in possession and unfortunately we lost the ball on the halfway line.

    "But of all the players for the ball to break to, who can do that damage, it had to fall to the player I consider the best in that position - Gerrard."

    Liverpool: Itandje, Arbeloa, Hobbs, Carragher, Aurelio, El Zhar (Kewell 71), Lucas (Mascherano 87), Gerrard, Leto (Benayoun 63), Crouch, Babel.
    Subs Not Used: Martin, Riise.

    Booked: Lucas, Babel.

    Goals: El Zhar 48, Gerrard 66.

    Cardiff: Oakes, McNaughton (Gunter 84), Purse, Johnson, Capaldi, Ledley, Rae, McPhail (Whittingham 89), Parry, Fowler, Hasselbaink (Thompson 75).
    Subs Not Used: Magennis, Loovens.

    Booked: McNaughton.

    Goals: Purse 65.

    Att: 41,780

    Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

  • see also
    League Cup as it happened
    31 Oct 07 |  League Cup
    Carling Cup photos
    31 Oct 07 |  Football

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