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Gerrard Strike Leads Liverpool Past Cardiff

Liverpool 2-1 Cardiff City Liverpool took their time to kill off a solid Cardiff City side in a game that was always going to be eclipsed by the return to Anfield of former Kop legend Robbie Fowler...
Gerrard Strike Leads Liverpool Past Cardiff

Liverpool eventually proved too strong for Championship outfit Cardiff City in this Carling Cup clash at Anfield.

An early second-half goal from Nabil El Zhar (47) settled the Kop's nerves following a tense, goalless first half. However, Darren Purse pulled a goal back for the Welsh side after initially winning a free-kick and then scoring from it with a header (63).

But Liverpool weren't to be drawn level for long: skipper Steven Gerrard quickly regained the advantage for the Reds (65).

Cardiff sent men forward late on, but after spending much of the game employing spoiling tactics, the Championship side couldn't quite carve out a clear opening, leaving a strong Liverpool side to stroll into the next round.

First Half

A humourous moment in the 3rd minute lightened the mood, and showed just how much Robbie Fowler is loved by the fans. With the ball played into Fowler down the left channel, Liverpool’s Fabio Aurelio quickly came across and brought the striker down.

The foul sparked a chorus of light-hearted boos from the Kopites to their own man for fouling the ‘living legend’, leaving many at Anfield chortling into their Bovril as Fowler returned to his feet with a cheeky grin across his face.

The genuine action soon started four minutes later as Ryan Babel forced his way into the box and, from 12 yards out, managed to blast the ball well over the bar. To be fair to the Dutchman he was forced to hit it quickly by the alert Cardiff defence.

In the 11th minute Peter Crouch, making a rare start, flashed a right-footed shot from 20 yards, but it swerved wide to the left.

Aurelio followed Crouch’s lead with a 30 yard drive only a minute later, but Michael Oakes in the Cardiff goal was more than up to the challenge as he tipped the left-footed shot around the post.

Steven Gerrard swung in the resulting corner but Paul Parry moved across to clear.

Babel attempted a shot from outside of the area mid-way through, after again drifting in unchecked from the left-flank, but unfortunately for the animated Rafael Benitez the shot flew over.

The youngster’s shot seemed to waken the away side as soon enough Cardiff got in amongst the comfortable home team, effectively slowing the pace of the game down with some midfield containing. Indeed, the game soon got caught up in niggling fouls and was constantly stop-start for the rest of the half.

With the onus on Liverpool to stretch Cardiff and open the game up, Benitez led the Reds inside at the half-time whistle with plenty of things to change.

Second Half

Change wasn't long in coming. The game exploded into life a minute after the restart as highly-rated young striker Nabil El Zhar stroked a right-footed shot from 25-yards past Oakes and straight into the top left hand corner.

The youth player’s captain, Gerrard, had fed him the ball from the left and it was a fine contribution from probably the best-performing player on the pitch over the course of the match.

Regrettably, the rest of the second-half soon followed on from where the first left off.

Liverpool showed plenty of purpose and intent, but Cardiff performed extremely well to limit Liverpool’s attacks to a solitary Gerrard drive from the left-hand side of the box.

Fouls and constant stoppages of play held the game up, but that all changed as Lucas Leiva fouled Darren Purse.

Cardiff’s Joe Ledley swung in a teasing in-swinging left-footed free-kick, from which Darren Purse rose highest to head the ball into the net.

An unexpected set-back for Liverpool was quickly remedied by Gerrard.

Picked out at by Lucas on the left side of the area, Yossi Benayoun twisted inside and out before laying a ball into the path of his captain, who couldn’t miss from 12 yards out.

Harry Kewell came on for goalscorer Zahar on the 70th minute to clock up his first appearance of the season.

And the Australian flung himself straight into the action as he manoeuvred the ball onto this left-foot before letting a shot fly that would have seriously tested Oakes had Gavin Rae not blocked it for a corner.

With ten minutes left on the clock, Oakes kept revival hopes alive by preventing his side from going three-one down via two consecutive saves.

First the gangly keeper saved from equally gangly forward Crouch, athletically tipping the England international’s header over the bar.

Then he pulled off an even better save off a Gerrard drive from the resultant corner.

Cardiff tried to switch their tactics and throw bodies forward, but apart from a long-range shot from the impressive Parry, they simply couldn’t break through a resolute Liverpool side.

The full-time whistle blew to the cheers of a packed Anfield. Soon after though, the timeless chants in the name of Robbie Fowler reverberated around the stadium, adding a touching end to a hard fought game.

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