Liverpool: Reaction to Carling Cup Final Win, Dirk Kuyt, Kenny Dalglish, Others
The game itself was a spectacular affair which had all the classic cut-throat pitfalls and excitement of your average David vs. Goliath encounter, with the added spice of a trophy at the end of it all.
Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, won the trophy four times as a player during the 1980s but had yet to win it during his management career. The Reds' latest victory at Wembley, in their first visit since 1996, ensured he became only the seventh manager in history to have claimed the domestic trinity of League, FA Cup and League Cup as boss.
Dalglish won plenty of plaudits for fielding strong sides in the competition from the outset. Though Liverpool made it hard for themselves—being taken to extra time and penalties by Championship side Cardiff—seeing Liverpool's name engraved onto the three-handled trophy will be the ultimate vindication of his team selections throughout the Carling Cup campaign.
"King" Kenny himself led the calls for Liverpool to not rest on their laurels following their return to cup-winning ways:
Although we have won something today, that is not us finished. We don't want to stop here. We want to keep going.
We've won it and we are going to really enjoy it. I know how much the players have enjoyed it and it gives you a wee flavour to come back and do it again.
What will Liverpool achieve over the rest of the season?
These words echo the popular opinion that winning this title would give Liverpool the belief and impetus to go on and finish the season strongly, with FA Cup glory still a possibility along with the financial and professional rewards that a fourth-place Premier League finish can bring.
Striker and former Cardiff City loanee Craig Bellamy had similar sentiments to his manager, though his words should also be heeded that the Reds' success of this week does not necessarily imply that the remainder of the season will be a stroll to achieve the rest of the club's objectives.
It's not the end of the season for us now we've won a trophy.
The pressure is on the players at this club to perform day in and day out to the highest level, and that's what we have to continue to do. Champions League football is what every footballer at every club wants.
We will have to wait and see on that [if the trophy win will spur Liverpool on to a higher League placing]. Some thought Birmingham's [Carling Cup victory] last year was a platform for that and it certainly wasn't.
True words, as Birmingham went on to be relegated.
The same fate is in no danger of befalling Liverpool—not now that Roy Hodgson is a year and more departed, at least—but the sentiment remains the same. Liverpool must push on from this win and play with authority, confidence and consistency over what remains of the season if they are to make up enough ground on Newcastle United, Arsenal and Chelsea above them to clinch that vital fourth spot.
Confidence has its own issues of course.
The Carling Cup win will be a boost to the egos of those Reds who have been written off at different times this season, but a defeat in the coming Anfield fixture against Arsenal—a direct rival for fourth place—could just as quickly deflate those in Red again.
Never more so than in a penalty shootout are nerves and confidence such big factor in football.
Right-back Glen Johnson, something of a surprise choice to be Liverpool's all-important fifth penalty taker, highlights his thoughts on the matter:
Clarkey [Steve Clarke, assistant manager] asked me and I said yes.
I just tried to blank out as much as possible and it was just me against the 'keeper. So I tried to get my head down and just put it in the net - that's all.
Words from the England international as admirable as his actual penalty, but in stark contrast to those of Jordan Henderson. Already substituted, the midfielder had no chance of taking one, but seemingly remained too nervous during the shootout to watch.
I couldn't watch the penalties being taken. I was that nervous.
I have to say it was great bottle from all the lads who went up and took a penalty, because I was nervous just watching them! I can't imagine what they were feeling, but each and every one of them showed brilliant character.
I would have wanted to take one, but it's easy for me to say that now I suppose! It takes real bottle to step up, and the lads all deserve great credit for doing so. It was a great end to the day.
Again, Henderson highlights something important—it was a great end to the day, even for himself who didn't have a particularly inspiring game. Could that medal around his neck be the catalyst for an improved showing over the remainder of the season?
Stewart Downing, another who has failed to shine on a regular enough basis this season, delivered his finest performance to date in a Red shirt and also hit one of Liverpool's successful penalties.
When we missed the first two penalties I thought maybe it wasn't going to be our day, especially because they are our main two penalty takers. But we got there in the end.
It means something. I wanted to come here and perform well. I'm pleased with my performance, I'm pleased the team has won. It's onwards and upwards for us now.
Downing did indeed perform well, and Reds fans will hope he delivers on his promise to continue playing well and improving.
One man who will be vying for a first-team spot in the forthcoming fixtures, either alongside or instead of Downing, is Dirk Kuyt.
Left on the bench and not called upon until past the 100th minute of the final, Kuyt made himself something of a hero by scoring a goal, clearing an effort off the line and dispatching a successful penalty in a busy cameo appearance.
Kuyt has long been the epitome of the selfless footballer, even in the face of personal disappointment, and his comments after the game reflected just this.
It was incredible, an incredible day.
I was very disappointed not to play longer than 15 minutes but I have to put that aside. I'm so happy to have scored the goal. The most important thing was we kept believing and, in the end, I think we deserved this trophy.
I said to Steven [Gerrard] after he missed, there's a few more to take and others can miss and they did.
I knew I had to score my penalty or else it was all over and that's what I did.
I have lots of respect for the manager, the team, the supporters. Cardiff deserved more but we wanted this trophy so desperately.
Those words from Kuyt are exactly what Liverpool need to remember over the remainder of the season.
It is the team glory, the collective effort, which will result in success over the rest of this campaign—whether that be another Wembley appearance or two, or a Champions League place in the Premier League.
Kuyt continues to be a vital cog in the Liverpool machine for many reasons.
And wouldn't it be fitting for the man who has just won his first Liverpool trophy, after six empty seasons, to notch yet another vital strike before the season is out to give Liverpool an even bigger prize?
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