London: Liverpool came from behind to secure their place in the FA Cup final after beating Everton 2-1 at Wembley thanks to a Luis Suarez strike and a late Andy Carroll header.
The Toffees opened the scoring when Jamie Carragher’s nervy clearance ricocheted off Tim Cahill and fell into the path of the Nikica Jelavic, who slotted the ball past Brad Jones in the 24th minute. Liverpool, however, responded in the second-half after the Uruguayan striker capitalised on a mistake by Sylvain Distin to coolly poke the ball past Tim Howard to get his side back in the game. Kenny Dalglish’s side took the lead with just four minutes to go as Carroll leaped the highest in the area to head Steven Gerrard’s free-kick past Howard to send Liverpool to the final.
The Reds made six changes to the team that beat Blackburn on Tuesday. Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Stewart Downing were all recalled to the starting line-up. Brad Jones started his first game, replacing the suspended Alexander Doni. David Moyes made five changes to his Everton side that comfortably beat Sunderland on Monday. Tim Cahill, Nikica Jelavic, Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin and Darron Gibson all came into the line-up after missing the victory over the Black Cats.
Dalglish’s side started the game well and had the first real opportunity as Carroll was put behind the Toffees defence by Glen Johnson. The striker cut the ball back to Jay Spearing on the edge of the area, who shot first time, but his effort went just over the bar.
The game was scrappy in the early stages as both teams looked nervy, this showed when Agger smashed his free-kick into the wall and the Toffees failed to clear. As a result the ball was knocked back into the area for Martin Skrtel, but he could only shoot straight at Tim Howard.
Despite no side dominating it was the Blues who took the lead when they launched the ball long to Cahill as Carragher and Agger failed to clear the danger when the ball bounced around in the box. The former England international’s panicked clearance was charged down by the Australian and fell into the path of Jelavic, who poked the ball past Jones into the net, making no mistake from six yards.
Liverpool tried to get back into the game and enjoyed lengthy spells of possession in the latter stages of the half, but due to some resilient defending from the Toffees and poor quality, especially in the wide areas, they couldn’t force Howard into action before half-time.
The Reds came out strongly after the break and should have been level within a minute as Downing put a wonderful cross towards the back-post where Carroll was unmarked. However, the £35 million-man unbelievably headed wide from two yards out, much to the frustration of his manager.
Everton appeared comfortable to sit on their lead and looked to hit Liverpool on the counter-attack. This tactic invited pressure on the Toffees defence, which began to show as the Reds began to raid deeper and deeper into Blues territory.
Dalglish’s side got their equaliser through Suarez, who calmly poked the ball past Howard after capitalising on a mistake by Distin, whose pass-back to the American was weak, allowing the striker to nip in and get the Reds back into the game.
Everton came close to regaining the lead as Leon Osman cut in from the left and fired a vicious shot which was well-saved by Jones. At the other end Carroll pounced on a loose ball outside the area but put his left-footed shot wide of the post as the game began to open up.
Both teams had half-chances but were unable to carve a clear-cut opening as Carroll and Jelavic were unable to hit the target after getting free in the box.
After missing a host of chances in the game Carroll finally got on the scoresheet as he rose highest in the area to head home Gerrard’s free-kick past Howard from close range to give Liverpool the lead in the 86th minute, sending the Reds supporters into raptures and his club into the final.