Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United
Liverpool win 3-1 on penaltiesThe FA Cup Final
Saturday 13 May 2006
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Liverpool sealed a dramatic FA Cup Final thanks to the heroics of Jose Reina and the determination of Steven Gerrard.
In one of the most exciting Finals in recent years Liverpool emerged triumphant after a brave display from Alan Pardew's West Ham that almost led to a thrilling upset.
Liverpool came from behind twice to take the game into extra-time and penalties in a game that will be remembered for years to come.
Showing spirit and courage the Hammers surged into a two-goal lead but failed to resist the drive of Liverpool with Steven Gerrard the fulcrum of their defiant recovery.
The Hammers got the start they had been dreaming of taking the lead after twenty minutes with Jamie Carragher putting through his own goal.
Dean Ashton played a superb through ball to the overlapping full-back Scaloni who drove the ball across the face of goal. Carragher couldn't decide how to divert the ball from goal and ended up playing the ball past Reina to the delight of the Hammers' fans.
Eight minutes later Ashton seized on a sloppy save by the Spanish goalkeeper to double their lead. From Matthew Etherington's firm shot, Reina couldn't hold the ball and Ashton was there to poke home the second goal of the game.
Just when you thought that Liverpool would be swept aside by Pardew's men they hit back immediately. West Ham held their two-goal advantage for less than three minutes before Djibril Cisse ignited the Red revival with a brilliantly guided volley past Hislop.
Steven Gerrard took control of the ball and delivered an inch-perfect lofted pass for the elusive French striker, it was a sublime creation from Gerrard but the finish still required great technique and confidence and Cisse was not found wanting.
There was an incredible goalmouth scramble at the start of the second-half that nearly saw West Ham notch a third. Ashton was again the provider for Etherington on the left flank and his cross gave Marlon Harewood an excellent chance.
Reina was the saviour for Liverpool with a point blank save, the chance had not completely gone though and Reina had to deny Yossi Benayoun with another fine piece of positioning.
Liverpool made their intentions clear moments later when they replaced Harry Kewell with Fernando Morientes, with Rafa Benitez pushing three out-and-out strikers on in search of an equaliser.
It paid off when Crouch and Morientes combined to cause confusion in the West Ham penalty area and provide Gerrard with a golden opportunity to level the scores and from ten yards out he made no mistake.
Slamming the ball past Hislop Gerrard's Liverpool were back on level terms and proved once again that you can never write off the team from Merseyside. After a slow start that threatened to spoil their chances of glory, the Reds were now beginning to open up space behind Ferdinand and Gabbidon and cause problems.
Despite being forced to cope with increasing pressure from a refreshed Liverpool team, amazingly it was West Ham who took the lead again after 64 minutes through the most unlikely source. Seemingly attempting a deep cross toward Harewood, Paul Konchesky looped the ball over Reina to the delight of the buoyant Londoners.
Soaking up all the Liverpool pressure West Ham seemed to be on course for a fairytale victory but like all good stories there was another twist in the tail.
Steven Gerrard was again the hero for the Reds when he sent the game into extra-time with an incredible 30-yard strike in the last minute of the game.
It was heartbreak for West Ham who were so close to an incredible triumph, but the influence of Gerrard on the game was plain for all to see as he pulled his team back from the brink yet again.
Just as it did last season, The FA Cup Final went to extra-time as the script awaited a final flourish to seal a classic game. Unfortunately both sides suffered from understandable fatigue, with Cisse and Harewood also sustaining injuries that they were unable to fully recover from.
Nigel Reo-Coker nearly clinched the game in the closing moments of extra-time after guiding Benayoun's free-kick towards the top corner, but Reina was the hero once more with a breathtaking stop to deny the 21-year-old West Ham skipper.
After The FA Cup Final went to penalties for the very first time a season ago so it would for a second successive year, and just as they did in Istanbul last season they emerged victorious.
The game is already being talked about as one of the greatest FA Cup Finals ever played. Well, can you remember a better one?Liverpool:
Jose Reina, Steve Finnan, Sami Hyypia, John Arne Riise, Harry Kewell (Fernando Morientes 58), Steven Gerrard, Djibril Cisse, Xabi Alonso (Jan Kromkamp 67), Peter Crouch (Dietmar Hamman 71), Mohamed Sissoko, Jamie Carragher.Subs not used:
Jerzy Dudek, Djimi Traore.
Goals: Cisse 32, Gerrard 54, 90+1
West Ham United: Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Carl Fletcher (Christian Dailly 76), Dean Ashton (Bobby Zamora 71), Marlon Harewood, Matthew Etherington (Teddy Sheringham 84), Yossi Benayoun, Nigel Reo-Coker.
Subs not used: James Walker, James Collins.
Goals: Carragher (og) 21, Ashton 28, Konchesky 64