Roberto Mancini was left nursing a "sense of injustice" at Anfield after the Manchester City old boy Craig Bellamy inspired Liverpool to victory in the Carling Cup semi-final and their first appearance at Wembley stadium for 16 years.
For Kenny Dalglish Liverpool's passage was the perfect response to his outspoken attack on the team after the defeat at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and further evidence of progress in his first full season in charge before the watching John W Henry, the club's principal owner, and the chairman, Tom Werner.
"It's great for the people who have stood by us because it's not been too easy a time for Liverpool Football Club over the last couple of years or so and it is fantastic for the new owners," Dalglish said. "I've said many times before, if we all stick together, we'll be a stronger force – and this is huge reward for everybody that's got any affiliation to Liverpool Football Club."
His City counterpart, however, was left aggrieved by two penalty decisions from the referee, Phil Dowd, that went against the Premier League leaders. Dowd refused to award a spot-kick when Charlie Adam kicked Edin Dzeko from behind with the game goalless but penalised Micah Richards when Daniel Agger's shot struck the City captain on the leg before hitting his arm. Steven Gerrard repeated his penalty success from the first leg to equalise Nigel de Jong's stunning opening goal.
Mancini said: "It was a good performance. We made some mistakes, like for the second goal. A team like us should not concede a goal like that. But their first goal was not a penalty and we should have had a penalty ourselves. I do feel a sense of injustice.
"We lost the first game at home and that made it difficult but we scored two goals. Our target was this; to score one goal in the first half and try not to concede. It was a stupid penalty and in the second half we changed because we needed to score.
"In the last two months we have been very unlucky with referees. It was no penalty because the ball touched his leg before his hands. He cannot cut his arm off. I don't know how it is possible to concede a penalty like this and not get a penalty for the foul on Dzeko.
"I don't think this defeat will have any effect on our title hopes because it is a different competition. However, it was important that the team put in a good performance because it is not easy to score at Anfield."
Bellamy spent last season on loan at Cardiff City, having fallen out of favour once Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as City manager, and signed on a free transfer last summer. He was outstanding here as he knocked one former club out of the Carling Cup to face another at Wembley. "Last night I saw Cardiff go through and I was pleased for them," said Bellamy. "It couldn't be a better final for me. It's funny how football can work out at times. To get to the final is big for us."
Mancini said Bellamy's pivotal role did not make the semi-final exit harder to take. The City manager said: "It doesn't make it more difficult for me that Craig scored the winner. I am happy for Craig. Of course I am disappointed we didn't reach the final but I am happy for Craig. What difference does it make if Bellamy scored or Gerrard scored?"
Dalglish, by contrast, was effusive in his praise of the 32-year-old Wales international. "Craig was unbelievable. If Manchester City have anyone else that they don't want they know where we are," he said. "But all the players were magnificent. Everything we thought was lacking on Saturday [against Bolton] was there in abundance tonight, so they deserve great credit for the performance and result."
Liverpool enjoyed great success in Cardiff – where they defeated West Ham United to win the FA Cup in 2006 – but they have not played at Wembley since it was rebuilt. Their last appearance was the 1996 FA Cup final defeat by Manchester United. "We've maybe forgotten the route because we've not been there for a while but I'm sure the driver will remember," said Dalglish.
"It's a great feeling, it's been a while," Gerrard told Sky Sports 1. "Since playing at Cardiff in 2006 it's been too long for this club. I'm delighted for everyone, especially the fans."
Gerrard was in no doubt who his side's star man was. "Craig was the difference," the Liverpool captain said. "His pace was always a threat and we know that, if a chance falls to him, he can finish. It's a big thanks to him."