Over 100.000 celebrated Liverpool after their
seventh FA Cup win. (Photo: AP)
Stevie can hit even greater heights, Dalglish warns Reds'
By John Thompson - Liverpool Echo
Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish today hailed the heroics
of Reds captain Steven Gerrard - and uttered a chilling
prediction for teams who come up against him in future.
"He's unbelievable - and he will get even better," declared
Dalglish, after seeing Gerrard drag Liverpool off the canvas
with his two Cardiff wonder goals.
Dalglish has for 20 years been widely regarded as the best
player ever to have worn the red shirt but that reputation
now has competition from Gerrard, according to some fans and
Last week Jamie Carragher proclaimed his team-mate as the
second-best player in Anfield history but insisted Gerrard
has the time on his side and the potential to perhaps
eclipse even Dalglish.
Some feel that after Saturday's glorious win Gerrard has
already done enough to deserve or share the mantle.
Dalglish, who was in the Cardiff stadium with wife Marina to
watch the virtual re-run of last season's European Cup
final, is as big an admirer of Gerrard's as anyone.
He said: "Irrespective of his position, Steven has done more
for Liverpool in the past few seasons than any other player
has done anywhere.
"Never mind Ronaldhino for Barcelona or Thierry Henry for
Arsenal, Steven has done more for his team and contributed
more than anyone else.
"When you have got fantastic ability and you ally that with
his courage and belief, that is one hell of an ingredient.
"You talk about leading by example but that on Saturday was
over and above the call of duty. And really he's such a
young guy. It's unbelievable.
"The last time he was in Cardiff there was disappointment
for him because of the own goal against Chelsea but Saturday
was his day all right.
"I couldn't believe how far out he was when he hit his
second goal. The whole game was just like Istanbul all over
again, with Reina saving the penalties just as Dudek did."
Dalglish, 55, who ran out himself at Anfield for the last
time in a charity match two weeks ago, said he thinks
Gerrard will improve because eventually he is likely to
start more games playing in his preferred central midfield
position, rather than out wide on the right. He said: "His
two goals both came from the central area.
"I think he will get better because he is still young and
can improve in the years ahead of him.
"Also he is settled now. He's said himself he doesn't want
any more of this nonsense about him staying or leaving
"He's here for good and that is good for him and obviously
great news for Liverpool and the supporters."
claim Final as his own
By Len Capeling - Daily Post
Some years ago the loquacious Lawrie McMenemy launched
into a flight of fancy about a legendary centre-forward
of the 50s.
The last player to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup final was
Blackpool's Stan Mortensen, raved Lawrie. He was so good he
even had a final named after him - the Matthews Final.
No chance of that kind of cup confusion here, Lawrie, even
in the aftermath of the most extraordinary turnaround in
fortune since Everton came from two down against Sheffield
Wednesday, 40 years ago.
Cardiff 2006 won't lead to any mix-up between the critical
contributions of Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard.
Because without the superhuman efforts of the skipper a
Liverpool side as flat as spilled champagne would have sunk
long before Reina at last got himself together.
Without Steven Gerrard, Liverpool would almost certainly
have lost a battle in which the majority of the football was
played by a fearless West Ham side who clearly felt their
day had come.
My pre-match take on the Hammers was they were awkward
customers who would attack and risk everything to do so.
Their magnificent manager Alan Pardew said they'd got a
hitter's chance, using boxing terminology to describe his
side's refreshing approach to the game.
But for Gerrard, who was a colossus, all my fears of a
punchless Liverpool performance could have resulted in the
biggest upset since a strictly non-footballing Wimbledon
outwitted Kenny Dalglish's Double-seekers.
So many things were wrong about Liverpool on Saturday that
even with the FA Cup captured for the seventh time too much
of the first 89 minutes represented the stuff of nightmares.
On an 11-game unbeaten run that all but captured second
place in the Premiership, Anfield's born-again heroes came
to Cardiff as red-hot favourites.
And promptly proceeded to play like the most nervous of
At least one Liverpool fan quit the ground at the interval,
unable to stand the pressure of expectation, and fearing
that the 2-1 deficit was likely to get worse not better.
He left behind him a winning betting slip.
When, by the 88th minute, with Liverpool 3-2 down, another
Red gloomily pulled on his coat, preparing himself for the
dismal journey home.
Then, as the stadium announcer revealed there'd be four
minutes of precious added time, Steven Gerrard struck again
- he described it later as a dream goal - and the fan clung
to a lucky coat - truly a Jose Mourinho moment.
"I thought if I took it off again it would be bad luck," he
later said, and may now frame the garment, who knows?
Liverpool, alive again - and with the faithful singing their
famous battle hymn at last - strove to propel their battered
bodies and shattered minds through another strength-sapping
30-plus minutes and, in so doing, found an unlikely saviour
in the previously jittery Jose Reina.
As penalties loomed, he turned Nigel Reo-Coker's header on
to a post - an injured Marlon Harewood blazed the follow-up
wide - and then saved three of West Ham's spot kicks.
His final act of redemption, a stop from Anton Ferdinand,
gave Liverpool the Cup and started the carnival.
Afterwards, amid the celebration champagne, he still brooded
over the errors that gifted West Ham two of their three
"There is thin line between making a mistake and making a
save," said the Spain goalkeeper.
First of those mistakes - now history - was the fumble of
a weak shot by Matthew Etherington after an impressive Dean
Ashton too easily turned Sami Hyypia.
Ashton gleefully rolled home the loose ball. That was on 28
minutes and added to the own goal stumbled in by Jamie
Carragher at the near post after Xabi Alonso gave away
possession with a careless pass.
Almost immediately, Peter Crouch - otherwise outnumbered -
fired home an intelligent pass from who else but Steven
Gerrard, only to be ruled offside, incorrectly as it turned
Real hope of a fightback came barely two minutes later when
Gerrard found another superb assist and Djibril Cisse
volleyed home with untypical composure.
That turned out to be Cisse's first and last important
contribution as Liverpool's frontmen had another of their
less distinguished days.
Crouch did contribute a header to Steven Gerrard's first
thunderbolt which brought the scores level at 2-2 after 54
minutes, but otherwise he was always in danger of being
substituted by the seething Benitez. You cannot fault his
bravery or his work-rate, but he still faces a challenging
new season if Liverpool are seriously to challenge Chelsea.
Cisse won't be so lucky. He simply isn't good enough.
Ditto, Fernando Morientes who eventually rose from the
bench, promptly put a couple of headers wide, but yet again
failed to convince that he's worth keeping.
Before the final he made lots of promises, then failed to
This, sadly, is the story of a short, sour Liverpool career
that's just about run its full course.
Rafael Benitez will find the match tape frightening and
useful. If culling is the concern.
So many elements failed to gel. Xabi Alonso wasn't fit and,
with Harry Kewell totally anonymous and Gerrard trying to
push on wide right, Momo Sissoko found himself with the kind
of overload that a vibrant West Ham seized on, particularly
in the first half.
It is a measure of Sissoko's indomitable spirit that, though
overburdened, he was one of Liverpool's better players on a
With Kewell in dreamland, John Arne Riise suffered a torrid
time against the silkily effective Yossi Benayoun, and that
wide-open left-hand avenue enabled the likes of Reo-Coker
and Ashton to cause Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher some
Carragher, hobbling at the end of Liverpool's 63rd game,
showed his warrior heart by refusing to allow his own-goal
to destroy his concentration.
He had some tricky moments but emerged to be what he has
always been, Liverpool's most dependable defender.
West Ham, for their part, gave Liverpool as tough a
challenge as AC Milan. But, like Milan, they began to fade
at the wrong time, as Ashton and Etherington found lack of
training forcing their substitution.
A vexed Benitez eventually removed Crouch and a limping
Alonso, while Kewell effectively removed himself, making
this the third final he's failed to finish.
On came Dietmar Hamann, Morientes and Jan Kromkamp, who had
a resourceful game.
As in Istanbul, Hamann made the biggest difference; suddenly
Liverpool looked more solid, and Gerrard could do even more
foraging from central areas with Kromkamp in support
down the right. It still needed that save from Reina in
extra-time, a follow-up to an outstanding double block, just
after half-time, from Marlon Harewood and Yossi Benayoun.
The result was harsh on West Ham who helped make this a
classic game of cut and thrust.
But they could not contain Steven Gerrard, hard as they
tried. And, in the end, Liverpool's miracle man made the Cup
final his own with two goals. One elegant assist, and a
crucial penalty. Alongside that famous Stanley Matthews
final, we can now place another unforgettable encounter, the
Steven Gerrard Final.
How Bill Shankly would have loved him, this supreme
leader, this supreme player, this superman for all seasons.
Moores relief at
David Moores has hailed FA Cup hero Steven Gerrard as
irreplaceable - then admitted his relief the midfielder
didn't join Chelsea last summer.
The 25-year-old came close to moving to Stamford Bridge only
to undergo a late change of heart and stay at Liverpool.
And Liverpool chairman Moores said: "He is our talisman - I
mean you just can't replace him. Thank goodness everything
was sorted out last year!
"Everything's settled down now and I know he will be with us
for life. He's an unbelievable player and I wouldn't swap
him for anyone.
"He has got everything and never ceases to amaze. He has
been magnificent, different class."
Of Saturday's memorable final victory over West Ham United,
Moores added: "At 2-0 down I was thinking about Istanbul and
thinking 'surely it can't happen ag ain'.
"We don't make things easy for ourselves. It''s a good job I
got my heart sorted out! It was a fantastic game to go out
to millions of people worldwide - what a great advert for
Liverpool Football Club and English football.
"Top marks to West Ham as well, I don't think anyone
deserved to lose that game."
Moores believes Gerrard and manager Rafael Benitez can help
Liverpool soon end either championship drought, adding: "The
league is the one we're all striving for, and I'm convinced
we're going in the right direction with Rafa.
"I feel good, I feel it won't be long, but I don't want to
build people's expectations up. But it has been a tremendous
enjoy Liverpool parade
Liverpool's second victory parade in 12 months around the
streets of the city was warmly welcomed by tens of thousands
of fans as they celebrated Saturrday's stunning FA Cup win
over West Ham.
The entire squad, all wearing their club tracksuits, set off
aboard an open-topped bus flanked by police on horseback and
were quickly mobbed by supporters as they left the Mather
Avenue police training offices in Allerton at the start of
their 10-mile tour.
Early on the route there was enough space for youngsters to
run alongside the coach to cheer and wave at their
conquering heroes but that became increasingly difficult as
the crowds began to grow.
Although there were fewer supporters there to see the team
than had been the case when an estimated 750,000 turned out
when the Reds brought home the Champions League trophy last
May that did not affect the atmosphere.
Children were lifted on their parents' shoulders as the
crowds grew thicker with others perched on top of bus
shelters, lamp-posts and street signs.
John Arne Riise, last seen hobbling around the Millennium
Stadium with cramp, was at the front of the bus with his
video camera to record the scenes but most of the players
seemed to be taking it easy and just enjoying the ride.
Man of the match Steven Gerrard, who is due to fly out to
England's training camp in Portugal on Monday, was one of
the calmest figures on the top deck, preferring to stay
seated unlike many of the other players.
Manager Rafael Benitez, with his family beside him, looked
relaxed and happy as he waved to the crowd, which was
estimated to number 100,000 along the route.
Reina admits he was guessing
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Liverpool's penalty king Jose Reina admitted he was
reduced to just guessing as he saved three spot-kicks in the
shoot-out that won the FA Cup for the Merseysiders for the
Reina accepts that his performance in Cardiff was "bad".
The Spaniard could be blamed for two of West Ham's goals but
redeemed himself by keeping out efforts from Bobby Zamora,
Paul Konchesky and then finally, Anton Ferdinand to secure a
3-1 spot kick triumph.
Reina admitted: "I had a bad game, I know that. It wasn't my
best during the 90 minutes, there is a fine line between the
mistakes and saves, but that is a keeper's life.
"I had done some research into West Ham's penalty takers,
(Marlon) Harewood and (Teddy) Sheringham, but the others
they put up I didn't know.
"Penalties are a real lottery, and in this case we won. I
know I do well with penalties, maybe I am lucky with a
He added: "You have to be prepared, to know where people
will shoot. But if they take a good penalty to the side, no
"I had some information about their players and penalties, I
had watched Harewood and Sheringham on video. But most of
the players who took them I had not seen before.
"In the end you just guess, I knew nothing about them, we
won but in another time it could be different.
"I was told to stand on the line, maybe I came out a metre,
but it is our job to do our best. I believe I respect the
rules and there was no problem with the referee."
Reina feared his earlier howlers would cost Liverpool the
He said: "I was afraid about the result, my performance was
bad. But football can change in a minute and Steven
Gerrard's goal did that.
"It was great and I said 'thank you' to him afterwards. He
is a great player and his goals gave us life.
"I had to make a save right at the end, I got the ball on to
the post and that maybe made up for some things that
happened before. It also gave us all confidence for the
"As I say, it's a lottery but I knew I could do well in it.
As for the season, it's another trophy, we've finished third
and won the Super Cup.
"With the FA Cup it has given us a great finish. I would
have taken a penalty if needed, I knew the next person to
take one would have been Nando (Morientes) and he said
'thanks' to me. I think I would have been asked to take one
soon after that, but I was full of confidence, I could have
Gerrard hails Reina heroics
Two-goal hero Steven Gerrard paid tribute to goalkeeper
Jose Reina after Liverpool won the FA Cup on penalties
Reina was at fault for at least one of the Hammers' goals as
the game ended 3-3 after extra time, but saved three
penalties in the shoot-out.
"It's very special, the supporters are fantastic and West
Ham were brilliant, but we had the never-say-die attitude,"
"We felt our best chance was penalties because we had no
"We always knew if it went to penalties we had a really good
chance, we feel we've got the better goalkeeper on the day.
"He made a great save in the last minute and he deserves to
be the hero."
Asked about his fitness ahead of the World Cup this summer,
Gerrard added on BBC1: "I'm okay, I got a little bit of
cramp but I've got a couple of weeks' rest now and I'll be
And on his two brilliant goals, the England midfielder
added: "The second one was just a dream goal.
"It's a dream for me to score two, and a penalty, and to be
able to celebrate with all these magnificent fans."
By Jonathan Stevenson - BBC Sport Online
When England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson sat down to watch
the FA Cup final, much of his focus would have been on the
performance of Peter Crouch.
As things stand, Crouch is the only striker in his 23-man
squad who fulfils two key requirements ahead of a World Cup
One, he is not injured, and two, he has some experience of
Premiership football. Which makes him more likely to
spearhead England's bid than the walking-wounded pair of
Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney and rookie Theo Walcott.
Worryingly for the England boss, Crouch had a quiet game -
he was taken off in the second half, with the 6ft 7in
hit-man struggling to acclimatise to the ferocious pace of a
However, the inspiring performance of Liverpool captain
Steven Gerrard may have given Eriksson food for thought.
The 25-year-old put in a performance of such breath-taking
gusto it will be talked about for years, scoring two more
truly magical goals to bring his tally to 23 for the season.
When Rooney suffered his metatarsal injury, the country's
collective thoughts turned to just how Eriksson will cope
without the 20-year-old Manchester United star.
Would Crouch get the nod to partner Owen up front? Could
Walcott partner Crouch?
Or perhaps Eriksson could consider playing Gerrard in a more
On Saturday's evidence at the Millennium Stadium, the Swede
could do far worse than choose the latter.
With Liverpool 2-0 down and looking like a shadow of the
side who had thrilled on their way to the final, Gerrard
grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck like few players
in world football can.
His first moment of inspiration was to clip an inch-perfect
ball into the path of Djibril Cisse for the Frenchman to
Soon after half-time he got on the score sheet himself, with
a goal that owed everything to his wonderful technique as he
shaped his body brilliantly to slam a bouncing ball into the
He left his best until Liverpool really needed it, 3-2 down
in injury time - Gerrard, 30 yards out, pulled back that
lethal right and with the truest strike of all sent the game
into extra time.
It defied belief, and Gerrard kept his composure in the
shoot-out too as he saw his team home once again.
Since Rooney's injury, much has been made of the fact that
you cannot win a World Cup without hot-shot strikers.
Yet in Gerrard and Frank Lampard, England have arguably the
finest two central midfielders in the world at the moment
and they have 43 goals between them this season.
France started the 1998 World Cup with Stephane Guiv'arch
leading the line and they still managed to prevail - that
shows it can be done without Rooney, and even Owen, if it
comes to it.
On Saturday, in front of over 70,000 spectators and millions
more on television, Gerrard proved he has the courage, the
fight and the class to win a pressure-cooker game on his
Maybe the added responsibility he will be given when he
links up with England, minus a fit Rooney, will drive
Gerrard on to even greater feats.
He has proved he must be given greater licence to roam
instead of playing as a box-to-box central midfielder.
Gerrard is at his best when he does not have to worry about
last-ditch tackling and covering his back four - at
Liverpool he leaves that to Xabi Alonso and the workaholic
The Liverpool dynamo is at his peak and with a wave of that
magic right wand has the ability to destroy a team in a
Eriksson must now give him carte blanche to wreak havoc in
Germany just like he did so majestically in Cardiff.
Parry calls for
use of fourth sub
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry could suggest to
football's governing bodies that teams be allowed to use a
fourth substitute in extra time.
At present only three replacements are allowed during a
match - with no concession for the added-on 30 minutes.
Parry came up with the idea after Liverpool beat West Ham in
the FA Cup final after 120 minutes plus penalties.
"Here's a thought for the future, maybe a fourth substitute
to be allowed in extra time," he told Radio Five Live.
"It would make it less of a lottery."
Several Liverpool players, including captain Steven Gerrard,
were struck by cramp in extra time while West Ham striker
Marlon Harewood was injured and unable to put any weight on
"Maybe the issue should be raised with the Football
Association," said Parry.
"Poor Marlon Harewood played so well in the 90 minutes but
was a passenger at the end. That's no way to decide big
Harewood might have won the Cup for West Ham at the death
but the ball fell to his injured foot and he sliced wide.
However, Parry feels reintroducing a replay for the final is
"Looking at the calendar, I think we've gone beyond that
now," he said.
"Penalty shoot-outs are nerve-jangling and you always feel
sorry for the losers but at the end of the day, they produce
fantastic drama, talking points and entertainment.
"I think we have to accept finishing it on the day - but
it's cruel after two sides have given their all for 90
Reds drew on
spirit of Istanbul
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Jamie Carragher shrugged aside the shock of scoring am FA
Cup final own goal to insist it was the experience of
Istanbul which got Liverpool through the nail-biting Cardiff
Liverpool's tough defender recalled his team's Champions
League final comeback at the expense of AC Milan as he
reflected on a comparable success against West Ham in the
showpiece event at the Millennium Stadium.
"When it got to penalties it probably did count that we had
been through this before in the Champions League final.
Experience did come into it," he said.
"I had to get on with it after the own goal - that was the
feeling in my mind. Okay, it happened - but afterwards there
is nothing you can do about it.
"It caught my trailing leg as I tried to put it behind, but
there's no point worrying about it."
Carragher admits the physical demands were similar to that
Champions League final 12 months ago, adding: "A lot of the
lads were struggling badly with cramp.
"In extra-time it was very similar to Istanbul, with people
dropping like flies - we were that tired. We were trying to
save our legs so that we were not going to get caught on the
break by pace.
"But in the end we have a lot to thank Stevie (Gerrard) for.
I had said beforehand that he was the best in the world, and
people dismissed that as me being biased. But he just proved
it out there - he's the best English player by a mile.
"It was a great final, which is good for the competition
after the way some people have derided it. Being a defender,
I would have rather it had been 1-0 - but it was great for
everyone to watch."
Gerrard bursts Hammers' bubble
By Frank Malley - PA Chief Sports Writer
English football, dominated as it is by money and Russian
autocrats, was screaming out for an FA Cup final which
restored the romance and the drama for which the world's
most famous domestic competition is famed.
Liverpool v West Ham was that final.
A wonderfully attacking, free-flowing football match laced
with endeavour and packed with thrills. And touched with
The genius who is Steven Gerrard.
It is not a box of tricks in the mould of Maradona or
Ronaldinho, nor even of Wayne Rooney.
But it is just as effective. So much so that, just as 1953
was the Stanley Matthews final, then 2006, perhaps the
greatest FA Cup final in the competition's history, will
forever be remembered as the Steven Gerrard final.
Not just because he scored two goals, one brilliantly,
almost heroically, in the last minute of normal time to take
a compelling match into extra-time.
But because, just as he had done in the Champions League
final last season, Gerrard lifted Liverpool up by their boot
straps to snatch a victory on penalties - after a 3-3
scoreline after 120 minutes - which for so long looked
King of the comebacks. That's what they should call the man
whose peers voted him the Premiership's player of the
It was cruel, oh so cruel, on West Ham, who were the best
team for large parts of a captivating encounter.
Cruel mostly because manager Alan Pardew had not brought
them to Cardiff to play it safe or hold it tight.
He came to have a go. Backed the style and the flowing
football which is tradition at a club which had won the FA
Cup in 1964, 1975 and 1980.
What a refreshing attitude.
What a wonderful example from a man who once played in the
first qualifying round with non-league Whyteleafe and in the
final of 1990 for runners-up Crystal Palace.
He was helped, of course, by the fact that in so many ways
West Ham's season was complete even before cup final day.
Ninth place in the Premiership, a place in next season's
UEFA Cup assured and a feelgood factor in east London which
had not been rivalled since the days of Billy Bonds and
No wonder they were blowing bubbles down Cardiff's High
Street. The pressure was off and history beckoned.
And if West Ham's first goal was heavily laced with fortune,
then the approach play was full of the sweet touches for
which the London club is famed.
Yossi Benayoun played a crisp pass to Dean Ashton, who slid
it wide to Argentinian full-back Lionel Scaloni and his
cross carried precision and menace.
So much so that Jamie Carragher felt compelled to throw
himself at the ball, only to see it career off him into the
If Liverpool thought it could get no worse then they were
Seven minutes later the Liverpool net was rippling again,
this time Matthew Etherington's left-foot shot was spilled
by Jose Reina and Ashton reacted brilliantly to prod the
Two goals up, not half an hour gone and a tale of some drama
was in the making.
Except that in sport it does not always do to reveal one's
hand too early.
And Liverpool, with the events of Istanbul as evidence, do
have a history of tenacity in knock-out football.
Gerrard's raking ball over the top of the West Ham defence
was exquisite, dropping precisely in the path of Djibril
Cisse who smashed it past Shaka Hislop on the volley.
True, if Marlon Harewood and Benayoun had converted chances
seconds after the interval the game might have been beyond
They could not and there was something inevitable about Xabi
Alonso's cross, Peter Crouch's knockdown and the ferocious
volley from Gerrard which billowed Hislop's net.
We waited for Liverpool to assert their authority. Instead
we witnessed West Ham full-back Paul Konchesky float over a
deep cross which eluded the grasp of Reina and settled in
the Liverpool net.
Shades of David Seaman goalkeeping, but did West Ham fans
care? You bet they didn't.
They simply sang their hearts out and blew their bubbles.
Until, that is, they were burst, almost like the West Ham
net, by a Gerrard thunderbolt which will go down as one of
the great FA Cup final goals.
So to extra-time and dreaded penalties and even more drama.
And when Reina atoned for his earlier howlers by saving
Anton Ferdinand's spot-kick the cup was Liverpool's.
Did they deserve it? Probably not.
But then they did have Gerrard and genius has a habit of
ending in triumph.
players and supporters
Rafael Benitez praised Liverpool heroes Steven Gerrard
and Jose Reina but insisted his FA Cup triumph was a team
Benitez was proud of his weary cup winners as they ended a
marathon season by beating West Ham on penalties after a 3-3
draw, in Cardiff.
The Hammers were two-up after half an hour and seconds from
a famous win when Gerrard sent the final into extra-time
with a stunning last-gasp equaliser.
Reina made three penalty saves in the shoot-out to complete
a cup-final comeback to rival last season's Champions League
epic against AC Milan.
Benitez said: "Today was about the success of my team.
"You must give the credit to all my players. A lot of them
had cramps after 62 games this season but they kept going to
"We know about the quality of Steve. He will get lots of
credit but I prefer to talk about my team and our
supporters, who were like an extra player today.
"It is difficult to play 90 minutes and extra-time and
penalties after playing so many games in a season.
"Maybe we like to do it the difficult way but it's not good
for the heart.
"It would be better if we could start by winning and then
"Istanbul was very difficult, coming back from three down,
but in this case we had more confidence. We knew we could do
Reina made three fabulous saves during the game and stopped
three penalties in the shoot-out.
The Spanish keeper made a double save, first from Marlon
Harewood and then from Yossi Benayoun, to stop the Reds
going 3-1 down.
Then he made a fingertip save from Nigel Reo-Coker in the
final minute of extra-time.
Benitez said: "He is famous in Spain for saving penalties
and we had confidence in him.
"Our goalkeeping coach spoke to him before the penalties and
told him he had the intuition to save them.
"He has done his job today."
Benitez says Gerrard will need to rest for a week after his
long season, which started last July in the Champions League
first round qualifier against TNS.
The Kop boss said: "Maybe after a week's rest he will be fit
for the World Cup.
"It's better if you're winning games. You can be tired but
you're happier and the recovery is easier.
"Steven has won 12 games in a row if you include the win on
penalties and it will be fantastic for him if he can keep
winning in the World Cup. Maybe he can score some more
Australian Harry Kewell and Spaniard Xabi Alonso both limped
off with injuries but Benitez expects them to recover in
time for the World Cup.
The Liverpool boss has lost his grip on the Champions League
this season but is happy to end his second year at Anfield
with more silverware in the trophy room.
Benitez said: "It was a fantastic final with two teams
fighting really hard.
"I am really happy with our progression. We are closing the
gap with the teams at the top.
"The character of the team can be a key factor for the
future because we can be sure we can win these kinds of
Cup loss hard to
take for Pardew
BBC Sport Online
West Ham boss Alan Pardew said Steven Gerrard's last-gasp
equaliser for Liverpool in stoppage time had robbed his side
of FA Cup success.
Pardew said: "It felt like a defeat when the third goal went
in. We rallied and had a great chance in extra time.
"We had to dig in. This was a top team we were playing, but
I felt we were going to win. Only a 35-yard Gerrard smasher
was going to change that.
"The players have been magnificent - we are proud of the way
Pardew added: "We can take a lot from this game. The first
trophy is always the hardest to win.
"But this team will come back - we produced a performance to
show we can live with the big boys."
West Ham captain Nigel Reo-Coker was inconsolable as he
tried to come to terms with his team's FA Cup final defeat
to Liverpool on penalties after the game ended at 3-3.
Reo-Coker told BBC Sport: "I can't describe it how I feel at
the moment - gutted because I think we deserved to win this
"The players put in a fantastic effort, but it just wasn't
to be for us.
"It was a marvellous FA Cup final and we gave all we could.
I hope everyone was proud - it just wasn't our day."
West Ham were leading in stoppage time at 3-2, before Steven
Gerrard's superb equaliser - the second time the Liverpool
captain had pulled his side level.
Like Pardew, Teddy Sheringham was convinced West Ham had won
"It is a cruel game and we were outstanding. We had to dig
deep, but we just couldn't dig deep enough.
"It was a great FA Cup final and there were fantastic
moments going on all over the pitch."
Alan Hansen's Cup final verdict
By Alan Hansen - BBC Sport football expert
Liverpool won a truly great FA Cup final played in a
great spirit - but without one man West Ham would have had
the trophy in their dressing room and would have been
This was one of the classic Cup finals and it is desperately
unfortunate that they should lose on penalties.
West Ham were the better side and should have won, but
Liverpool had Steven Gerrard and that is why a very good
season is now a great one for Rafael Benitez's side.
What a man, what a player and what a captain.
Liverpool made some good signings at the start of the
season, but there was one man who was the best when they got
him to sign a new contract and his name was Steven Gerrard.
Great players give you something extra when you are down and
out and dead and buried and boy did Gerrard give Liverpool
Liverpool were a beaten side when the ball bounced out to
him in the 90th minute of normal time, but it was a quite
magnificent strike that beat Shaka Hislop and sent the game
into extra time.
Gerrard is a man who doesn't know when he's beaten and he
just scored an unbelieveable goal.
He looked like he was struggling with something, whether it
was cramp or an injury, just before the ball came to him,
and then he produced a strike like that with time running
It's what great players do and Gerrard is a great player.
It is scant consolation for Alan Pardew and his West Ham
side, but they were absolutely brilliant - players and
They had giant performances from Danny Gabbidon, Dean Ashton
and Nigel Reo-Coker, who I thought was absolutely
And I say again, if it was not for Gerrard they would have
Normal time was fantastic, but extra time was also
fascinating because I've never seen so many players go down
injured or with cramp.
And then we had the last-minute drama when Liverpool keeper
Pepe Reina turned the ball on to the post and the ball fell
to Marlon Harewood on his injured foot and he couldn't get
it in - you couldn't have written the script.
Liverpool gave the ball away too much in the first half.
Djibril Cisse's goal was vital for Benitez's side after West
Ham went two up, and to be honest in the 31 minutes before
he scored he had had a shocker.
There were individual errors for goals for Liverpool, but
Ashton was outstanding in the first half and produced a
quite magnificent pass that led to Jamie Carragher's own
In the end, it would have been tough on either side to lose
on penalties, but Reina made up for his mistake that led to
Ashton's goal by saving three penalties.
Liverpool claimed the trophy, but as I said, West Ham were
the better side and can be proud of their efforts.
But once again, it was that man Gerrard who pulled Liverpool
up when they were down and led them to the FA Cup.
Reina saves seal Reds' Cup win
By Chris Stanton - Sky Sports
Liverpool defeated West Ham 3-1 on penalties to lift the
FA Cup for a seventh time after a truly epic final at The
Millennium Stadium finished in a 3-3 draw.
Jose Reina's save from Anton Ferdinand settled an incredible
match as the 2006 final came down to a single kick after 120
minutes of compelling action which West Ham had seemed
destined to win as the 90 minutes drew to a close.
After Reina denied Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky,
John-Arne Riise earned The Reds a 3-1 lead from the spot and
Anton Ferdinand's failure to score from 12 yards sent
Liverpool into throes of ecstasy.
FA Cup finals are all too often uninspiring affairs but this
match had everything.
East London had been preparing to toast Konchesky after his
64th minute cross somehow found its way into the back of the
net but they had reckoned without Steven Gerrard who
incredibly dragged The Reds up by the bootlaces and into
In 21 pulsating first half minutes The Hammers found
themselves two goals to the good through an own goal from
Jamie Carragher and a strike from Dean Ashton which owed to
an error from Reina before Liverpool struck back.
Djibril Cisse reduced the arrears immediately and Gerrard
volleyed home emphatically in the second half to level the
scores at 2-2.
Konchesky's speculative effort appeared to have been enough
to settle an epic final but Gerrard produced a goal of
supreme quality to take the tie into extra-time.
After a tepid opening 20 minutes, where neither side were
able to find any degree of penetration, the final sprung
into life, and in unexpected fashion. The normally assured
Xabi Alonso inadvertently set up the opening by losing
possession to Yossi Benayoun and The Hammers surged forward.
The play switched to Ashton who delayed his pass before
playing a superbly weighted pass to the marauding Lionel
Scaloni and the Argentine's cross deflected off the
off-balance Carragher and into the back of the net. Marlon
Harewood was lurking with intent but Reina would have
collected the cross had it not been for Carragher's clumsy
After conceding an uncharacteristically sloppy goal, The
Reds remarkably did likewise just seven minutes later as
Ashton, integral to the creation of his side's first goal,
executed The Hammers' second himself.
Matthew Etherington wriggled around Sami Hyypia, slipping as
he shot at goal. Reina inexplicably fumbled the
straightforward shot and Ashton nipping in, contrived to
squeeze a shot in with his left foot.
The Reds - having already seen a goal disallowed for offside
against Peter Crouch - hit back immediately. Gerrard dropped
a superbly-judged 40-yard ball in to the area and Cisse
volleyed home right-footed into Shaka Hislop's near post.
The impressive Ashton shot inches wide but as Cisse again
attempted to beat Hislop first time The Reds ended the first
period on top. However, the underdogs almost caught The Reds
cold with the second half barely a minute old.
Etherington crossed for Harewood but Reina stood up and
blocked with his foot and Benayoun, displayed poise on the
rebound, but the Israeli, too, was foiled by the boot of the
Nigel Reo-Coker had been the midfield's best player in the
first half but in the second The Reds began to get a measure
of the England hopeful and Rafa Benitez's initially hesitant
side made their second half intentions plain with The Reds'
talisman coming up trumps.
Alonso's deep cross was headed back by Crouch and Gerrard
arriving late struck a superb first time shot which left
Hislop absolutely helpless and The Reds' support in
Having threatened to be overrun by Liverpool Alan Pardew's
side regained a semblance of composure as the clock ticked
past the hour but there was little forewarning that The
Hammers would regain the lead in the 64th minute.
As Etherington roamed in central midfield there seemed
little danger as the wingman played in Konchesky on the
left. The full-back's thoughts were of a cross to either
Harewood or Ashton but as the ball left his foot it sailed
over the head of Reina and into the far post to add another
chapter to the most engaging of finals.
Both managers made changes with 20 minutes to go - Bobby
Zamora replacing the tiring Ashton for West Ham, while
Benitez, in his side's need to find an equaliser, sprung a
surprise by replacing Crouch for the most defensive of
defensive-minded midfielders, Dietmar Hamann.
The Hammers, superbly marshalled by Danny Gabbidon,
continued to hold out as Liverpool failed to muster a clear
opening - substitute Fernando Morientes headed tamely over
and in the 88th minute, when Gerrard struck a free kick well
over the bar, West Ham may have sensed their name was on the
But the indomitable Gerrard was not to be denied - as the
fourth official signalled four minutes of stoppage time, the
England international latched on to a loose clearance from
West Ham to score a goal of the season contender from fully
35 yards out with the ball arrowing into the bottom left
hand corner. It was a sensational end to the 90 minutes
which took the match into extra-time.
It was almost a case of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' as
extra-time kicked off and, supporters already spoiled by
great fare, had to wait seven minutes for the first chance
of note - Riise's shot skimming the top of the crossbar.
The 90-minute exertions had clearly taken their toll on both
sets of players as cramp set in with Harewood the most
In the final minute of 30, West Ham were inches away from
claiming the most dramatic of winners. Benayoun's deflected
cross drew a fingertip save of the highest quality from
Reina who pushed the ball on to the inside of a post. Still
the danger was not cleared by Hyypia but Harewood could not
capitalise and as he screwed his attempt wide Cardiff drew a
collective breath and prepared for penalties.