Reds beat Birmingham in Cardiff

25 February 2001

Liverpool survived an extra-time scare to overcome First Division Birmingham City on penalties after an epic Worthington Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Gerard Houllier's side went into the match as overwhelming favourites to clinch their first trophy since 1995 and got off to the perfect start when Robbie Fowler smashed home a stunning 25-yard volley on 30 minutes.

It was a fitting way to mark the first final in the Welsh capital, a venue given the temporary prestige of hosting English domestic cup finals following the FA's decision to re-build Wembley.

As Reds coach Phil Thompson later commented: "Only Robbie could score a goal like that on such a big occasion."

A strike of such brilliance would have been worthy of winning any football match but as the game wore on Birmingham began to turn the screw.

A late siege on the Liverpool goal looked like going unrewarded until three minutes into injury-time when Stephane Henchoz brought down City's Martin O'Connor in the penalty area.

Blues captain Darren Purse stepped up and duly buried the spot-kick to put Liverpool's celebrations on the backburner and send the match into extra-time.

It can often be the case that the 30 minutes of extended play passes without incident but it wasn't the way here.

Didi Hamann saw a 30-yard piledriver crash back off the woodwork while Henchoz was fortunate not to concede a second penalty when the referee failed to punish his late tackle on Andy Johnson.

And so after much incident and 120 minutes of football the identity of the 2001 Worthington Cup winners was all set to be decided on penalties.

Veteran midfielder Gary McAllister was first up for the Reds and he made no mistake in front of the Liverpool supporters behind the goal.

Birmingham's Martin Grainger then fluffed his kick to give Liverpool the initiative and Barmby and Ziege both ensured Houllier's men maintained their advantage at 3-2.

However, the normally reliable Didi Hamann was next up and saw his effort well stopped by Ian Bennett to allow Birmingham to level the scores at 3-3 through Stan Lazaridis.

Fowler's cheeky chip made it 4-3 but Hughes took the shoot-out to sudden death with a well-taken pressure kick.

It was nail-biting stuff and the sight of Jamie Carragher, hardly the most prolific of goalscorers, stepping up to take the next penalty had Reds fans looking towards the heavens.

They needn't have worried as Carra smashed a superb effort into the top right hand corner to make it 5-4 Liverpool.

Future Everton forward Andy Johnson was the man tasked with pulling City level once again, but this time Sander Westerveld read his kick and produced a superb stop to ensure the cup would be on its way to what would become a very congested Anfield trophy cabinet by the end of the season.