*Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties
By Tony Leighton
It was Liverpool's Carling Cup, as expected, but Kenny Dalglish's hot favourites had to battle for all they were worth and needed a nervous penalty shoot-out victory to overcome resolute npower Championship opponents and so lift the trophy for a record eighth time.
Reds captain Steven Gerrard had the first of the shoot-out spot-kicks saved but crucially it was his cousin Anthony, a Cardiff substitute, who missed the last of the penalties to leave the Premier League team 3-2 penalty winners following a pulsating Final that ended 2-2 after extra time.
Malky Mackay's Cardiff did the Championship proud in an excellent contest, midfielder Joe Mason giving them a 19th minute lead that was cancelled out on the hour by Reds central defender Martin Skrtel.
Liverpool, in their 11th League Cup Final while this was Cardiff's first, took the lead through substitute Dirk Kuyt 18 minutes into extra time but central defender Ben Turner brought the Bluebirds level two minutes from time..
So on their debut appearance at the new Wembley the Reds collected their first trophy since winning the FA Cup at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2006, in the process handing the Bluebirds a third Wembley Final defeat in five seasons.
It was excitement all the way in a Final that almost had a sensational start as Liverpool went desperately close to taking the lead after barely 90 seconds.
Captain Steven Gerrard carried the ball swiftly out of defence to find left winger Stewart Downing, whose short pass inside was met by right back Glenn Johnson with a tremendous 20 yard strike that bounced back off the underside of the bar.
Cardiff were stung and it took them a little while to find their composure. But once they did so they might have gone ahead in the 10th minute, striker Kenny Miller shooting over the bar from left winger Don Cowie's neat pass.
Miller then provided the assist for Mason's 19th minute opener, the striker collecting right back Kevin McNaughton's pass to cleverly thread a pass through the Reds back line for Mason to slide an angled shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
That stunned into silence the massed ranks of Liverpool supporters behind Reina's goal, while at the other end of the stadium the Cardiff fans went wild with delight.
Now it was the turn of Dalglish's team to regain composure, and though they began once again to have most of the possession they created few first half openings as the Cardiff defence held firm whenever danger threatened.
After midfielder Charlie Adam and striker Luis Suarez had both failed to find the net with long range efforts, however, Daniel Agger forced keeper Tom Heaton into a fine goal line save a minute before the interval when the central defender met Gerrard's curling free-kick with a firm six yard header.
Heaton had to pull off another smart save five minutes after the break, diving to keep out a narrow-angled Suarez shot after the striker had taken advantage of a slip by central defender Mark Hudson.
The Bluebirds then enjoyed a good spell of possession as they looked to build on their lead, but they were pegged back on the hour through Skrtel's equaliser.
Downing swung over a corner from the right and, when Suarez's close range header came back off the post, the big central defender was quickest to react with a low shot that flew into the net from six yards.
Cardiff responded quickly, Mason forcing Reina into a 65th minute save, but then Skrtel was denied a second goal when his 74th minute volley from another Downing corner was well held by Heaton on his goal line. And four minutes later the keeper had to dive full length to turn aside a low 25 yard drive by Downing.
Play was now switching from end to end as both sides went all out for a winner, which Cardiff should have had in the dying moments of normal time.
Central defender Ben Turner headed wide from Cowie's 83rd minute cross, then Miller wasted a golden opportunity when he shot over the bar from eight yards after Cowie had once again set up the opportunity.
That miss was almost punished less than a minute into extra time, when substitute Craig Bellamy floated over a corner and Suarez flicked in a header that left back Andrew Taylor had to clear off the line.
Bellamy, a Cardiff supporter and on-loan with the club from Manchester City last season, went close with a 15 yard drive that flashed over the bar a minute before the end of extra time's first half.
Cardiff's resolve was finally broken three minutes into the second period of extra time, Kuyt latching on to a Johnson pass to send in a 20 yard drive that was blocked - but when the ball landed back at his feet the striker lashed his second shot home.
Mackay's men were down but not out, however, and as extra time approached they threw everything into attack. Anthony Gerrard had a header cleared off the line by Kuyt from midfielder Peter Whittingham's 118th minute corner.
But when Whittingham swung in the resultant flak kick the ball dropped for Turner to score from just a yard out and take the game into a penalty shoot-out.
Five of the spot-kicks were missed as nerves got to both sides, but it was Liverpool who edged home to once again put their name on The League Cup.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Heaton; McNaughton (Blake 106), Hudson A. Gerrard 99), Turner, Taylor; Mason (Kiss 91), Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Cowie; Gestede, Miller.
Substitutes not used: Marshall, A. Gerrard, Earnshaw, Conway, Naylor.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger (Caragher 86), Enrique; Henderson (Bellamy 58), Gerrard, Adam, Downing; Suarez, Carroll (Kuyt 103).
Substitutes not used: Rodriguez, Spearing, Doni, Kelly.