On Sunday, Liverpool edged Cardiff in a Carling Cup thriller 3-2 on penalties following a 2-2 lock after an exciting extra time period.
The victory ended a silverware drought that dated back to the club’s FA Cup triumph in 2006. On paper, the Premier League club was vastly superior to their Championship opponents. When the two clubs entered their respective locker rooms at the half, however, it was quite clear that Cardiff had an x-factor on that day that had given them an early lead: their heart. In order for Liverpool to hoist the trophy, they would have to not only match the heart of Cardiff, but they were going to have to surpass it. And surpass it they did. If there was any more of an unprecedented, unorthodox goal that could truly symbolize such heart, it was Dirk Kuyt’s sliding goal that somehow garnered enough power to squirt past Cardiff keeper Tom Heaton to give the Reds the lead late in extra time. Not to be outdone, Cardiff fought back to send the match to penalties, and the rest is history.
This display of heart, this x-factor that was present at Wembley, hasn’t always been a consistent element this season at Anfield. In Cup play, we’ve witnessed the Reds send the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United (thanks again, Kuyt) home packing. Yet in Premier League play, Liverpool has dropped points on their home pitch to the likes of Norwich City, Swansea City, Blackburn, and Stoke City. These were matches in which Liverpool appeared lifeless, flat, and in the case of the Norwich draw, it was as if the Reds were more concerned on upcoming League Cup matches than getting a full three points.
So with the Carling Cup behind us, what now? Two obvious goals would be continue our hot streak in the FA Cup and to attempt to crack the top four in the Premier League. If Liverpool fail to take anything away from that Cardiff victory – whether it be the taste of silverware or the implementation of heart into their play – we may see ourselves quickly eliminated from the FA Cup and watch ourselves drift from top four competition.
Most importantly, this source of heart, guts, and passion needs to be on display in front of the home crowd. Anfield must be protected. Looking ahead to the remaining Premier League matches at Anfield which include the likes of Everton, Wigan, Aston Villa, Fulham, and West Brom., there will be very little chance of missing out on the full three points if the Reds storm out the gates with the type of heart that was displayed at Wembley.
Looking more towards the near future, Liverpool’s Premier League campaign resumes on March 3rd as we welcome the ever inconsistent Arsenal to Anfield. Although Arsenal were recently eliminated from the FA Cup and currently see their Champions League dreams dwindling away, the Gunners are fresh off a comeback victory over Tottenham that reminded the league that they still have a pulse. However, with a refreshed taste of League Cup glory and players like Andy Carroll finally fit, Liverpool can remind Arsenal that a heart bleeds Red.