Liverpool meet Cardiff in final while Mancini fumes at ref
Questionable handball decision gives Liverpool the penalty that takes them to Wembley
Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2 (Liverpool win 3-2 on aggregate. Roberto Mancini's strained relationship with referees took another turn for the worse on Wednesday as a controversial decision by Phil Dowd proved costly for Manchester City against Liverpool.
Having gone into the Carling Cup semi-final second leg a goal down from the first leg at the Etihad Stadium, City were soon back on level terms after Nigel De Jong's stunning 30-yard effort. But four minutes before half-time the Reds equalised from the penalty spot as Dowd judged Micah Richards to have used his hand to block a shot from Daniel Agger.
It was a tough call by Dowd. Agger's well struck shot ricocheted off Richards's boot up into his arm, giving the City defender no chance of avoiding contact with the ball. Dowd waved away protests and Steven Gerrard despatched his spot kick with clinical precision.
"It was impossible that it was a penalty," fumed Mancini later. "I don't know how it is possible to concede a penalty like this... Micah can't cut off his arm because the ball touched his leg before."
Despite the setback, and despite being dominated by their hosts for much of the match, City took the lead on 67 minutes when Edin Dzeko fired home from close range. But seven minutes later former City striker Craig Bellamy swapped passes with Glen Johnson before beating Joe Hart for the decisive goal.
Bellamy's strike sealed Liverpool's place at Wembley on 26 February against Cardiff City, their first appearance in the league cup final since losing 3-2 to Chelsea in 2005. "It's great for the people who have stood by us because it has not been great for Liverpool over the last few years," said Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, who had berated his players at the weekend after a 3-1 defeat to Bolton. "I've said before if we stick together we can get our reward."
Mancini ended the evening even more convinced that his side get the rough end of refereeing decisions. Earlier in the month City captain Vincent Kompany was controversially sent off as the Sky Blues lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup, while Liverpool's Glen Johnson escaped a booking in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final for a similar challenge on Joleon Lescott.
"I do feel a sense of injustice," Mancini admitted. "In the last two months we have been very unlucky with referees. I haven't spoken to the referee - it's impossible to speak to him."
Given Mancini's mood it was perhaps crass of one reporter to enquire if he found it ironic that Liverpool's winning goal was scored by one of his former players. "What difference does it make if Bellamy scored or Gerrard scored?" snapped the City manager.