Anthony Gerrard had all the pressure in the world at his feet on 26 February 2012. He stepped up last to take a penalty in the League Cup Final, then marketed as the Carling Cup Final. The match saw Cardiff City, in the first League Cup final in their history, taking on the giants of English Football in Liverpool FC.
It was a great time for Cardiff City. It was their second cup final in 4 years, after they had been to Wembley in 2008 in the FA Cup Final, losing to Portsmouth 1-0 in a heart-breaking final. It was their chance to avenge the loss but they had much tougher opposition in their way.
Liverpool were not at the peak of their powers but had a good team lead by a legend of the game. Kenny Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson as manager of The Reds, and moulded the team into a fast paced attacking side who could hit even the best teams for a number of goals. With top-class players like Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in the team, Cardiff had to be incredibly weary of their opponents – they even had former Cardiff City player and Wales legend Craig Bellamy on their team.
Meanwhile, Cardiff City had much less star power on their side. While Liverpool were challenging for the top four in the Premier League, The Bluebirds were trying their best to make it into the division. They sat in the Championship, battling for the play-off places as they dreamed of reaching the Premier League for the first time in their history (although they had previously competed in the old First Division many years ago). The team featured many modern legends for the club – the late Peter Whittingham spearheading a team that included Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson and Kenny Miller.
One man who became infamous on that team was Irish Under-18 International Anthony Gerrard. The now-retired centre half made over 500 appearances in the Football League over a 15 year career. He was a good hand from the Championship-downwards but is most remembered from his spell with Cardiff City. While he never managed to earn a starting spot in the team after Dave Jones was replaced by Malky Mackay, being behind Ben Turner and Mark Hudson (now Cardiff City manager, after the sacking of Steve Morison) for the centre back position.
As his name would suggest, Anthony Gerrard is the cousin of former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. Unlike the former England International, Anthony Gerrard came through the Everton Academy but never managed to force his way into the Toffees team. He was mainly a bench player for Cardiff City and that continued as they made their way toward the League Cup Final in 2012.
Cardiff’s League Cup Final Journey
Cardiff City’s League Cup Final run saw them facing six teams in seven electrifying matches. They started their journey away at Oxford, where they were forced to extra time before scoring three times to beat The U’s 3-1. This would become a habit for the Bluebirds, who would go to extra time in four of their seven matches. They won in extra time against Leicester in the next round, before defeating Leicester City on penalties to book their next match up against Burnley.
Cardiff were drawn at home against Burnley in the fourth round and won thanks to a Joe Mason finish in the first half. It was the first time they had managed to avoid going to extra time, which didn’t bode well for the leaky Cardiff defence. However, the defence managed to hold up, only conceding once in the remaining three matches en route to the final.
They beat Blackburn 2-0 in the quarter finals, setting up a semi-final double header against fellow championship side Crystal Palace. Both teams were lucky to get each other in the draw, with the other semi final being contested between Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester City. This was the chance for a lower-league club to lift the trophy for the first time in the cup’s long history.
The first leg of the tie took place at Selhurst Park. In a tense game that The Bluebirds were the better of the two sides, Anthony Gardner headed home from a Darren Ambrose cross to give the Eagles a slender lead heading into the second leg at the Cardiff City Stadium (still the laziest named stadium in the football league).
The second leg at home started well for Cardiff when they went ahead in the seventh minute after an own-goal from Palace defender Gardner, and things went even better when Palace defender Paddy McCarthy was sent off. They failed to make the most of the extra man, and the match stayed 1-1 on aggregate and was down to penalty kicks – for the second time in Cardiff’s campaign.
It would be Tom Heaton, the former Manchester United keeper who had been first choice in the cup for Cardiff City, who would be the hero of the day. Heaton was stuck being City legend David Marshall in the league, but was given the number 1 shirt for the duration of the cup and made the most of his opportunity. He became a hero to the Bluebirds fans as he saved two penalties to send City into the final.
They had done it. Cardiff City were in the League Cup final and set up a huge confrontation with Liverpool FC. Cousins Steven and Anthony Gerrard would battle it out to be crowned the League Cup champion and the game would change one man’s career forever (and not for the better).
Anthony Gerrard’s Penalty Miss
The League Cup Final between Cardiff City and Liverpool was a thriller and, if you could believe it after City’s run to the final, ended up going to extra time. Cardiff City opened the scoring after 19 minutes when Joe Mason fired home through the legs of keeper Pepe Reina.
Martin Skrtel then equalised in the second half, with Liverpool dominating as Cardiff held on to dear life. After a number of great saves by Tom Heaton, who battled injury to be fit for the final, the game remained level after 90 minutes and the two teams went into extra time.
Liverpool continued their dominance into extra time with substitute Dirk Kuyt giving Liverpool the lead for the first time after 108 minutes. All looked lost for City, until towering Centre Back Ben Turner scrambled home from a corner just before the final whistle and sent the fans into raptures. It was one of the most exciting goals in the clubs history and sent the teams into the dreaded penalty shootout to decide the cup winner.
The kick off started well for Cardiff. Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam both missed their kicks, as did City striker Kenny Miller. Luckily, fellow Scot Don Cowie fired home to put the Bluebirds in the driving seat, although it would go downhill from there.
Rudy Gestede, the former Gabon International, missed his kick while two of the red’s stars (Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt) scored theirs. Peter Whittingham fired his penalty home, but that still left one man with the unenviable fifth penalty. If he missed, Liverpool just needed to score and they win the cup. The pressure was immense and the ball fell to Anthony Gerrard.
His cousin Steven had already missed his spot kick, so the pressure was on Anthony even more. He stepped up with the hope of the city of Cardiff on his shoulders, and millions watched across the country. He ran up uncomfortably looking and scuffed the penalty wide, as Pepe Reina jumped for joy. Glen Johnson then slotted home the winner and result was confirmed – the cup was not coming to Wales.
The Cardiff team was distraught, but nobody felt the sting as bad as Anthony Gerrard. The Irishman was in tears and could not be consoled. Despite rumours that he went out that night to celebrate with his cousin and the Liverpool squad, he confirmed himself that he went home that night early and lay awake in bed. He claimed that every time he closed his eyes he could see his penalty miss that cost his side the cup and it was something that he held with him for the rest of his career.
When he couldn’t sleep that night, he took to Twitter to apologise to the Cardiff City fans he let down, Tweeting out, “”Sorry to everyone! I can’t close my eyes without seeing that penalty! It’s going to haunt me for the rest of my days! Head is mashed!”
Anthony Gerrard’s career would take a downturn after the penalty miss. He never played a minute for Cardiff City after that moment, indicating that some form of bust up with Malky Mackay after the game. He moved to Hull on load next season before eventually joining Huddersfield and Oldham Atlhetlic.
He never won any trophies or reached the level of Cardiff City after leaving the club. He became a regular at Oldham Athletic, but was sacked by the club after some social media posts “brought the club into disrepute” as the official statement from Oldham stated.
“His contract was terminated for gross misconduct arising from certain social media posts which brought the club into disrepute.”
It has been reported that the Irish Under-18 International engaged in a Twitter row with several supporters and after calling one a “weirdo”, he is alleged to have told another to “throw sh*** at yourself”. He joined Chesterfield after being fired, but only played 10 games before retiring from football in 2020.
Anthony Gerrard’s penalty miss clearly haunted him and he never reached the level that he had played in after it. Whether there is truth behind him partying with Liverpool after the game or not, the fact he never played for Cardiff City again does infer that something happened between him and club in the aftermath of the loss.
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