by Glenn Lavery at Wembley Stadium
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
The FA Cup with Budweiser
12.30pm, Saturday 14 April 2012
Live on ESPN
Winning clubs receive £900,000 and losers £450,000 from The FA's prize fund
Andy Carroll headed Liverpool into their first FA Cup Final since 2006 as the Reds came from 1-0 down to beat Merseyside rivals Everton 2-1 in the Semi-Final.
Nikica Jelavic capitalised on confusion inside the Liverpool box to put the Toffees ahead in the 24th minute. Eventual Budweiser Man of the Match Luis Suarez equalised in the 62nd minute after pouncing on a weak back pass from Sylvain Distin.
And, after missing two wonderful second-half chances, with just three minutes remaining, Carroll headed Liverpool into The Final where they will take on either Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur.
Kenny Dalglish’s side will now have their sights set on a second trophy of the season, following their League Cup victory in February.
The first chance of the game fell to Liverpool in just the third minute when Jay Spearing fired over the bar from inside the area, a feat matched by a Leighton Baines free-kick moments later.
A fairly quiet period in terms of chances then ensued, but both goalkeepers were called into action midway through the half as Martin Skrtel shot straight at Tim Howard and Jelavic, the latest winner of the Budweiser Player of the Round award, forced Brad Jones to save from an overhead kick.
Everton then took the lead courtesy of hesitancy in the Liverpool backline. Jelavic flicked a ball into the Reds’ box and Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher left the clearance to each other. Carragher eventually tried to clean up but smashed the ball against Tim Cahill and it rebounded nicely for Jelavic who tucked home the opening goal to send the Toffee fans wild.
Liverpool perhaps shaded the first half in terms of possession but they created very little in the way of clear goal chances, save from a Steven Gerrard shot that flew over the bar.
But just seconds after the restart, Carroll wasted a glorious opportunity to level matters. He was picked out at the far post by a Stewart Downing cross and, unmarked, the big No.9 managed to head the ball wide of the post from less than five yards out.
Everton then looked to give themselves some breathing space, but Jelavic could only fire a shot over the bar and Leon Osman failed to trouble Jones with a left-foot effort from inside the area.
Just after the hour mark, though, and Liverpool were level – and just as their defence had gifted Everton the opening goal, the Reds had Distin to thank for his part in the equaliser. The centre back under hit a back pass to his goalkeeper and Suarez capitalised, picking up the loose ball, bursting into the box and finishing calmly.
Chances were at a premium following the equaliser, but as the game approached its final ten minutes Carroll had another opportunity to grab himself a piece of Wembley glory. He picked the ball up on the 18-yard line and dragged his shot wide of Howard’s far post.
Jelavic was the next player to have a sight at goal when he was played in by Marouane Fellaini but the Croat could only find the side netting.
Carroll may have been guilty of missing two decent chances earlier in the game, but it turned out to be third time lucky for the striker as he nodded home the winner in the 87th minute. Craig Bellamy, on for Downing, delivered an in-swinging free-kick into the six yard box and Carroll met the ball in the air to head Liverpool into their first FA Cup Final at the new Wembley Stadium.
Maxi Rodriguez could have sealed the win late on, only to see his shot from close range hit the post. But it mattered not as Liverpool held on for a big Merseyside derby victory.
1 Brad Jones, 2 Glen Johnson, 5 Daniel Agger, 7 Luis Suarez, 8 Steven Gerrard (C), 9 Andy Carroll, 14 Jordan Henderson (11 Maxi Rodriguez, 75), 19 Stewart Downing (39 Craig Bellamy, 84), 20 Jay Spearing, 23 Jamie Carragher, 37 Martin Skrtel
Substitutes not used 3 Jose Enrique, 18 Dirk Kuyt, 33 Jonjo Shelvey, 34 Martin Kelly, 42 Peter Gulasci
Manager Kenny Dalglish
24 Tim Howard, 3 Leighton Baines (28 Victor Anichebe, 88), 4 Darron Gibson, 5 John Heitinga, 7 Nikica Jelavic, 15 Sylvain Distin, 17 Tim Cahill, 18 Phil Neville (C), 19 Magaye Gueye (23 Seamus Coleman, 68), 21 Leon Osman, 25 Marouane Fellaini
Substitutes not used 2 Tony Hibbert, 6 Phil Jagielka, 11 Denis Stracqualursi, 12 Marcus Hahnemann, 14 James McFadden
Manager David Moyes
Referee Howard Webb