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Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

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Triumphant: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lifts the English League Cup after the Reds' win over Cardiff. AP

Liverpool beats Cardiff to capture League Cup


LONDON — Liverpool won its first piece of silverware in six years on Sunday, beating Cardiff 3-2 in a penalty shootout to lift the League Cup while Manchester United kept the Premier League title race bubbling with a last-gasp victory.

It was a bittersweet day for Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard, who collected the club's eighth League Cup title after seeing his cousin, Anthony, miss the decisive spot kick for second-tier Cardiff at Wembley Stadium.

"It's not a nice way to win a cup but we'll take it," said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who delivered a trophy 13 months after returning to arguably England's most successful club for a second spell in charge.

The match had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes and 2-2 after extra time, with Cardiff defender Ben Turner taking the match to penalties with a dramatic 118th-minute goal.

Ryan Giggs marked his 900th game for United by scoring a stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 win at Norwich, restoring the two-point gap to leader Manchester City, but Tottenham's title hopes were damaged after losing 5-2 to Arsenal in a thrilling north London derby.

Third-place Tottenham is eight points adrift of United and seven clear of Arsenal, which climbed back above Chelsea to fourth place by virtue of its goals-for record.

Arsenal's season had been in danger of falling apart before the derby, with silverware unlikely for a seventh straight season after losing 4-0 to AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match last week.

With five European Cup/Champions League titles and 18 English championships to its name, a League Cup would normally be considered small change to a club the size of Liverpool.

Yet after a barren spell going back to 2006, Liverpool will be hoping this will herald the start of a fresh era of success. In the short term, the victory ensured a return to the Europa League next season.

"We won't accept just this, we need more, we want more," said Gerrard, who missed his penalty in the shootout.

Liverpool bounced back after Joe Mason gave Cardiff the lead in the 19th minute, with Martin Skrtel equalizing on the hour mark.

Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt, on as a substitute, put Liverpool ahead in the 108th minute but Turner forced penalties by bundling in from close range with seconds remaining.

"It's been too long," veteran Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said. "Hopefully this will be the first of many to come."

A dramatic day in the Premier League looks to have left a two-horse race for the title between the two Manchester clubs.

United had its old guard to thank for keeping the team in touch with City, with 37-year-old Paul Scholes opening the scoring against Norwich in the seventh minute and Giggs, 38, having the last laugh in the second minute of stoppage time.

"An amazing career and an amazing man," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "It's incredible for Ryan to mark his 900th game with the winning goal with the last kick of the ball — he deserves it for his service to the club."

Grant Holt had equalized for Norwich in the 83rd, swiveling just inside the area and smashing a rising shot past United goalkeeper David De Gea.

In the day's other match, Stoke beat Swansea 2-0.

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