Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2: Road to Wembley still open to end long wait for Liverpool

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(Liverpool win 3-2 on aggregate)

Liverpool ended a 16-year wait for a return to Wembley as they held off Manchester City to set up a Carling Cup final against Cardiff City next month.

Former City striker Craig Bellamy was the hero for the team he rejoined in August, scoring the decisive goal 16 minutes from time.

The Wales international played a pivotal role throughout and will now face another former club – and city of his birth – as the Reds seek to end a trophy drought dating back to 2006.

Watching Liverpool owner John Henry will hope it is the start of a revival at the club he bought almost 18 months ago.

Roberto Mancini’s City may have loftier ambitions as they currently top the Premier League but their approach to overturning a 1-0 first-leg deficit could have been more emphatic.

They scored twice at Anfield but they were far from at their best and Liverpool created more chances and could have won by a more convincing margin.

However, had it not been for referee Phil Dowd generously awarding a penalty to allow Steven Gerrard to equalise late in the first half, the course of the match could have been different.

Nigel de Jong had put his side ahead on the night, and even after Gerrard’s strike Edin Dzeko’s goal looked like taking the second leg into extra time before Bellamy’s intervention.

Gerrard led the celebrations as his side ended a near six-year wait to qualify for a major domestic final.

“It’s a great feeling, it’s been a while,” said Gerrard. “Since playing at Cardiff in 2006, it’s been too long for this club. I’m delighted for everyone, especially the fans.

“Craig (Bellamy) was the difference. His pace was always a threat and we know that if a chance falls to him he can finish. It’s a big thanks to him.”

Bellamy added: “The omens were looking good going into (last night) after I saw Cardiff go through.

“I was delighted for them and this couldn’t be a better final for me. Cardiff means so much to me. It’s funny how football can work out at times.”