Carling Cup commitment key to Liverpool longevity

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Liverpool edged a step closer to their first Wembley final for 16 years after last night's 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Steven Gerrard's 13th minute penalty was enough to give the Reds a slight advantage when they head back to Anfield for the second leg in a fortnight's time, after condemning the Citizens to back-to-back home defeats for the first time since February 2008.

The match itself marked an impressive response to the 3-0 reverse suffered in the Barclays Premier League match-up just over a week ago, and also represents the progress that Liverpool have made under the stewardship of Kenny Dalglish, who recently celebrated his 12 month anniversary following his second spell in charge.

'King' Kenny has overseen a rollercoaster year, with a mix of highs and lows at Anfield, but the overriding focus has been based very much on restoring the club's pride, and looking forward to an exciting, prosperous future.

Twelve months ago, Fernando Torres was still a Liverpool player, and Luis Suarez was nothing more than a transfer rumour. But Dalglish has successfully invested money in the spine of a new team, instilling confidence in a side that is now given the freedom and artistic license to express itself, with an attacking philosophy at the forefront of those plans.

The club's standing in the Barclays Premier League would suggest that on the pitch it hasn't quite clicked yet, but patience is a virtue. Amidst the signings of Suarez, Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, Liverpool have also spent big on securing young talent.

When building a team from the foundations of youth it is unrealistic to expect instant success, so it is important to take a step back and look at the club's, and Dalglish's long-term vision.

This year the aim is for Liverpool to regain its place in Europe, with a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League important for the club's continued progression.

The Carling Cup will provide Dalglish and Co. with a much needed confidence boost, and present one of England's most illustrious sides an opportunity to add another trophy to their cabinet.

However, as it stands only one half of the job is done as Liverpool look ahead to the semi-final second leg at Anfield - a game which Pepe Reina is confident that the home crowd can play a major role in helping roar the side on to victory.

"We are pleased, we are halfway through but we now have another hard job with the 90 minutes for the second leg," he said. "Anfield is going to be rocking and that is guaranteed for any second leg of a semi-final.

"Our fans will be massively important and they are always with us. I've no doubt they will be with us in the second leg and it will be one of those magical nights at Anfield. Hopefully they can help us get through to the final."

Reflecting on last night's tightly-contested encounter, the Spanish stopper was proud of the resolute display shown by his teammates, and insists the players will give their all to confirm their place in the final.

"We have got to finish the job now after doing the most difficult part which is winning away from home at City," added Reina. "We knew it was going to be tough but we felt if we could start with a high tempo and take the game to them we could cause them some problems.

"We started very well and could have scored before we got the penalty when Joe Hart made some great saves.

"I thought we handled them well in the second half because we know how much quality City have got, especially at home, but we got the result to keep us alive for the second leg."

Premier League

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