Liverpool lifted the Carling Cup — formerly known as the League Cup — for a record eighth time on Sunday. After playing Cardiff City to a 2-2 stalemate over 120 minutes, the Reds triumphed in a dramatic shootout, and won the 2011-12 season's first major trophy.
It's hard to believe how far Liverpool has come since Kenny Dalglish returned to the LFC hotseat. In just under 15 months, the Reds have evolved from Premier League strugglers to trophy winners. And it happened in his first full season in charge. The future looks even brighter than the present.
The Reds are still battling on two fronts. Achieving a top-four finish in the Premier League — the principal aim of this campaign — is still a very real possibility. The seventh-placed Reds trail Arsenal by seven points with 13 games to play.
Liverpool is also one win away from returning to Wembley Stadium, as they host Stoke City in a FA Cup quarterfinal on March 18.
Things are going smoothly along the course laid out at the beginning of the season, according to Steve Gerrard.
"The plan at the start of the season was to go on two long Cup runs and get into the top four, and we can still achieve that," the LFC captain told the Liverpool Echo.
Some of the great Liverpool teams of the past have used the League Cup as a springboard to future success. There's no reason why this team should be any different. Lifting a trophy can bring a group closer, galvanize it and spur it on to higher heights.
If Liverpool hits all its targets in this season, it will raise expectations — and pressure — on this group of Reds. They have already one major triumph. Annual cup runs and title challenges will be expected by their (rightfully) demanding supporters.
Now that they have lifted the Carling Cup, can this group of LFC players achieve even more?