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    Liverpool edge battling Cardiff to win League Cup

    Wembley, London: Liverpool's six-year trophy drought ended on Sunday by winning the League Cup final after beating Cardiff 3-2 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out when captain Steven Gerrard's cousin, Anthony Gerrard, missed the final spot-kick.

    "I've got mixed emotions," Steven Gerrard said. "Obviously I'm delighted to win the cup for our supporters, but I feel for Anthony and Cardiff. It doesn't matter what I say to him, he's going to be down."

    The match at Wembley Stadium finished at 1-1 after 90 minutes and 2-2 after extra time, with Cardiff defender Ben Turner scrambling the ball over the line in the 118th minute from a corner to ensure the match would be settled by spot-kicks.

    Liverpool's record eighth League Cup is Kenny Dalglish's first trophy since returning to Liverpool 13 months ago after a 20-year absence and completes his collection of domestic honours as a manager.

    "It's not a nice way to win a cup but we'll take it," the 60-year-old Dalglish said.

    Liverpool had to fight back after Joe Mason gave second-tier club Cardiff a shock lead in the 19th minute, with Martin Skrtel making it 1-1 on the hour and forcing the game into extra time.

    Liverpool took until the 108th minute to hit the front, with Dirk Kuyt smashing in the rebound after his initial effort was blocked by Anthony Gerrard.

    Despite Kuyt making an initial goal-line clearance from Filip Kiss, the Netherlands international couldn't prevent Turner from leveling.

    "This is what I came to Liverpool for, and to win a first trophy is excellent. Hopefully we can add another later in the season," Kuyt said, with his team in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

    While Dalglish won the competition four times as a player, this was his first triumph as manager, joining Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho as the only winners of English football's three domestic prizes.

    Cardiff have visited Wembley four times in the past five seasons, but the venue has been demolished and rebuilt in the 16 years it has taken for Liverpool to return to England's national stadium, an eternity for a club that dominated English football throughout the 1980s.

    The Reds started with the intent of a side determined to win a trophy for the first time since the 2006 FA Cup.

    Glen Johnson sent a swerving shot against the crossbar and Andy Carroll headed over before five minutes had elapsed, but Liverpool couldn't assert themselves consistently despite dominating possession.

    After a tame Liverpool attack ended in Tom Heaton comfortably saving from Carroll, Cardiff, without a major title in 85 years, took a shock lead. After Skrtel's wayward headed clearance, Kevin McNaughton picked up possession and squared the ball to Kenny Miller, who fed it through for Mason to slot between goalkeeper Pepe Reina's legs.

    "We were always going to be under pressure," Dalglish said. "They have very good delivery from set plays and they were never going to lie down."

    Dalglish's side struggled to break down their resilient opponents and squandered the rare chances that came their way, as Charlie Adam's low shot floated wide of the post.

    Stewart Downing's form has come under scrutiny in recent weeks but, while unspectacular, he offered an improved display here. With half-time approaching and Liverpool searching for some sort of inspiration, he gave the Reds' support a glimpse of what he is capable of by turning Kevin McNaughton inside out before seeing his cross missed by Jordan Henderson and sent flying into the stands by Gerrard, who fluffed his shot after making a poor connection.

    Liverpool were gradually finding their stride, Daniel Agger heading straight at goalkeeper Tom Heaton from Gerrard's free kick at the end of the half.

    The 18-time English champions maintained a level of superiority after the break, Luis Suarez testing Heaton from a tight angle with Cardiff appearing to be tire.

    Cardiff continued to defend bravely in the second half, surviving a couple of minor appeals for handball in the penalty area along the way, while Dalglish opted to introduce Craig Bellamy - the Welshman who spent last season on loan with the Bluebirds - who entered the fray to applause from both sets of supporters, just before the hour mark.

    Liverpool's perseverance paid off on the hour, finally finding a way through Cardiff's resilient defence.

    Downing's corner was headed by Carroll to Suarez, who nodded against the post, and Skrtel slotted the ball through Heaton's legs.

    Cardiff manager Malky Mackay will have been desperately disappointed to see his side's lead slip away at a set piece, as Liverpool continued to struggle with their approach in open play. They might have been better off playing for corners, as Skrtel again latched on to a loose ball from a Downing delivery to force a superb save from Heaton.

    But Cardiff had two chances in the last 10 minutes of normal time to win the cup, with Don Cowie setting up both: Turner sent a downward header wide and the unmarked Miller controlled the ball with a brilliant spin only to then smash the ball over the crossbar.

    Adam and Suarez also squandered late chances for Liverpool, who managed to control the extra 30 minutes despite failing to kill off the match.

    With Aron Gunnarsson barely able to walk, Mark Hudson already withdrawn with cramp and Rudy Gestede also struggling, Cardiff somehow summoned the energy to push back.

    "In extra time, the way we came back... I'm so proud of them. So very, very proud of them," Mackay said. "For most of them it's the first time they've been anywhere near something like this. They are very young. The emotions are running through them."

    After Steven Gerrard and Miller both missed their opening penalties, Gestede and then, crucially and cruelly, Anthony Gerrard could not hit the target as Liverpool earned their first trophy since 2006.