LONDON: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has challenged his team-mates to use their dramatic League Cup final win over Cardiff as a springboard to restore the club to former glories.
Gerrard lifted Liverpool’s first silverware for six years at Wembley on Sunday as the Reds held their nerve to win 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
It was hardly a vintage performance from Kenny Dalglish’s side, who fell behind to their Championship opponents in the first half and then failed to close out the victory after taking the lead through Martin Skrtel and Dirk Kuyt.
The penalty shoot-out was equally nerve-shredding for Liverpool as Gerrard and Charlie Adam missed the first two spot-kicks. But Cardiff fared even worse and a miss from Gerrard’s cousin — Bluebirds defender Anthony Gerrard — finally brought relief to 30,000 Liverpool fans packed into one end of Wembley.
The first trophy of Dalglish’s second spell as Liverpool manager is arguably the least significant of the prizes on offer to England’s top clubs, but Gerrard and team-mate Craig Bellamy both believe the sweet taste of victory should leave the squad hungry for more.
“We won’t accept just this, we need more, we want more,” Gerrard said.
Welsh forward Bellamy, who delivered an impressive performance after coming off the bench, knows the club’s main aim this season is to qualify for the Champions League and he reckons that target is still achievable.
“That is the aim because the Champions League is the place where every footballer and every club wants to be,” he said.
“It is where this club deserves to be, but we have got to go out and prove that on a weekly basis. Hopefully we can.”
The Reds are currently seven points behind fourth placed Arsenal with a game in hand and also have an FA Cup quarter-final against Stoke to come, so Bellamy is determined to ensure his team-mates don’t rest on their laurels.
“It’s not the end of the season for us even though we’ve got a trophy,” he said.
“The simple fact is there is pressure on the players at this club to perform at the highest level in every game and that is what we have to try and achieve.
“We will have to wait if it is a springboard. Just off the top of my head, it wasn’t much of a platform for Birmingham when they won the League Cup last season.”
Cardiff-born Bellamy spent last season on loan with his hometown club in an unsuccessful attempt to fire the team into the Premier League and he was quick to express his sympathy for their painful defeat.
He made a point of shaking hands with every Cardiff player after the shoot-out and said: “It was a little bit emotional. I can only imagine the disappointment they felt.
“I do feel a bit sorry for them, but they have to hold their heads up high. They have done a lot for the whole of Wales.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game. Finals usually are very difficult and that just proved it.
“We thought we were going to win it towards the end but they fought back. Credit to Cardiff, they were outstanding.
“Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for us, everyone will remember this as another trophy for Liverpool’s great history.” — AFP