HT Cardiff 1-0 Liverpool: Mason stuns Reds
Published 16:52 26/02/12 By MirrorFootball
Cardiff stunned seven-time winners Liverpool by taking a first-half lead in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
The Reds may have dominated possession but Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Joe Mason's 19th-minute goal ensured the npower Championship side had the most important statistic in the opening 45 minutes.
Liverpool's Wales international Craig Bellamy was left on the bench for the Carling Cup final against hometown club Cardiff at Wembley.
The 32-year-old and Dirk Kuyt were the two players to be left out of the side which played the second leg of the semi-final against Manchester City as Luis Suarez, who was banned at the time, and Andy Carroll came in.
Cardiff made four changes from their semi-final win over Crystal Palace, with Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Rudy Gestede and Joe Mason all coming in - meaning Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's cousin Anthony had to be satisfied with a place on the Bluebirds' bench.
It took less than two minutes for the first threat on goal as Gerrard charged 60 yards on a quick counter-attack which saw Glen Johnson's curling shot from just outside the penalty area bounce down off the crossbar with goalkeeper Tom Heaton beaten.
Gerrard was first to the rebound but blazed over an angled drive before Jordan Henderson's cross picked out Carroll, only for referee Mark Clattenburg's whistle to blow for a foul even before his header had sailed over.
But Cardiff responded with an even better chance from Don Cowie's clever backheel, but Kenny Miller, in space in the penalty area, snatched at his left-footed shot and failed to trouble Jose Reina.
With 15 minutes gone Liverpool had settled into their controlled possession game, but the Bluebirds were making them work hard to find a way through by crowding midfield.
The Reds' right side seemed the most profitable avenue of attack and when Luis Suarez crossed to the far post Carroll's header was easily saved by Heaton.
It was the left of Liverpool's defence which was vulnerable, though, and Cardiff exposed it clinically in the 19th minute when Miller was given far too much time and space outside the penalty area.
His slide-rule pass put in Joe Mason and he slotted home the opening goal against the run of play.
Stewart Downing responded by flashing a cross through Cardiff's six-yard box but Carroll was well short of reaching it while Jose Enrique's shot with his weaker right foot never looked like troubling Heaton.
Charlie Adam's low drive from 25 yards did, however, whistle a foot past the goalkeeper's left-hand post.
Liverpool's dominance was growing but so, it appeared, was their frustration as their npower Championship opponents held firm.
Late in the half Cardiff captain Mark Hudson's outstretched leg hooked the ball away from Carroll just as he was about to pull the trigger from close range from Suarez's pass while Henderson miskicked and Gerrard could not keep his shot down from the same Downing cross.
Seconds before the interval Daniel Agger planted a header from Gerrard's free-kick straight at Heaton but the flag had already gone up for a foul by Martin Skrtel.