The Bluebirds and the Eagles met in a showdown for a place at Wembley. We went minute-by-minute.
It’s an all-Championship affair tonight in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Selhurst Park.
Or wait til full-time and we’ll see you in the chip shop.
We’re 90 minutes from Wembley, we’re in the last four in the race for the first trophy of the English season, the stadium is rocking… but you know you’re off Broadway when Steve Claridge is drafted into the BBC studio.
The former Leicester man is a Championship expert of course, and no better man on a night when Crystal Palace come to the Cadriff City Stadium with a single goal lead from the first leg in London.
The players are about to be led on to the pitch by some British military representatives while the likes of Joe Calzaghe sits high in the stands. Let’s get ready to rumble….
Palace boss – and one of my favourite players of old – Dougie Freedman has been accused of shouting his mouth off in the build-up to this second leg.
Cliche alert: opposite number Malkay Mackay says he’s pinned Freedman’s comments about Cardiff being scared of failure on the dressingroom wall.
The BBC interviewer mentioned the tiff to the Selhurst Park boss.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us but we’ve got our noses in front after the result at Selhurst Park. We’re fully fit, we’re strong, we’re focused and we’re prepared. Malky’s picked up some news report or put some words into my mouth. If I can do his team-talks for him then brilliant. If we’re focused on what we have to do then we can win this game,” he said.
Away goals count double after extra time, FYI. Let’s have your predictions.
And we’re off… here’s your teams… including two Irish skippers:
Cardiff: Heaton, Blake, Gerrard, Turner, Taylor, Cowie, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, McPhail, Conway, Miller. Subs: Marshall, McNaughton, Kiss, Earnshaw, Gestede, Mason, Ralls.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Parr, McCarthy, Gardner, Clyne, Ambrose, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Zaha, Murray, Martin. Subs: Price, Wright, Garvan, Scannell, Easter, McShane, Andrew.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)
HOWARD WEBB THINKS THERE ARE TOO MANY BALLOONS ON THE PITCH
The early pressure has come – unsurprisingly – from the home side. They’ve pinned Palace back in their own half and Aron Gunnarsson has unleashed his big throw-ins.
Then the ref waved away their penalty claims when Conway skipped through two defenders and threw himself on the ground. He should probably have been booked, but he’s given the benefit of the doubt.
GOAL! Cardiff 1 Palace 0 (Gardner og, 8 minutes)
So Cardiff convert that early pressure into an early equaliser. Blake got down the tramline and drilled a cross across the goal, Gardner – who scored the winner in the first leg – was on the near post, in front of his keeper. His header nestled in the bottom corner.
“Dougie, what’s the score?” the home fans ask.
Palace have established a footing in this game as we approach the 20-minute mark. But they look second to every ball to use a football truism.
There’s absolutely nothing happening. That’s my analysis.
Martin Keown, who’s in the co-commentary position is pinning the blame of Cardiff’s goal on the goalkeeper – not the big centre half who nodded it in.
“Anthony Gardner is the fall guy, but it was a really whipped-in ball. Maybe the goalkeeper Julian Speroni should have communicated a bit better at the near post. A fantastic start, just what you wanted if you’re a Cardiff player.”
We’ve just had a lingering 30-second shot of Stuart Pearse and Chris Coleman seated next to each other in the stands. It looks like the final shot of in an Episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or something with both sat with arms folded and staring straight ahead. I’m not sure who insulted who.
On the pitch? Not much happening still, Jeff. Cardiff are pressing well and Palace look rushed in everything they do as a result. Half an hour on the clock now.
Palace looked to be in for a half-chance as Zaha got on his bike for the first time really tonight. Manchester United fans may remember that name from the earlier rounds and former Old Trafford Phil Neville has tweeted: I like the young player Zahar (sic) from palace.
He wasted the chance this time around though.
What a let-off for Palace! Gunnarsson played a neat pass inside for Kenny Miller and the veteran striker took it first time, as Speroni advanced quickly from his line.
The ball beat the goalkeeper but trickled just wide.
OOOOF! It doesn’t seem to be Miller’s night… so far. The former Celtic man collected the ball with his back to goal, about eight yards out maybe. He swiveled delicately and got a shot away quickly but it came back off the base of the near post.
As I type, Howard Webb toots his whistle and the teams go in for their cup of tea, level on aggregate.
HALF-TIME Cardiff City 1 Crystal Palace 0
And we’re up and running… 45 minutes to Wembley!*
*(Possibly 45 minutes plus extra time and penalties to Wembley)
I think we may have a game, ladies and gentlemen. Palace have emerged for the second half with Dougie Freedman’s Scottish burr ringing in their ears it seems.
They’re getting on the ball, getting down the flanks and looking a lot more lively in general.
YELLOW CARD Patrick McCarthy has been booked and Cardiff have a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Deary me… Peter Whittingham puts it right in the top corner with a swinging left foot effort but Speroni gets there atheltically and knocks it behind. Excellent stuff.
Off the line! Paddy McCarthy gets it away under pressure after the ball is nodded across the face of the yawning goal. Kenny Miller should have been there to tap that in, Keown says.
I agree with Martin.
Cardiff have reasserted their authority somewhat here but with 25 minutes or so to go, we’re still tied up. Both sides are full of industry but seem to lack the nous to take advantage of opportunities they carve out.
Too often the final ball is poor or mistakes are made in the a phase after a good tackle. It may be a long night yet.
Ireland’s 21-year-old prospect Sean Scannell looks to be coming on for Palace. He’s warming up on the touchline with his tracksuit top off ahead of his introduction with 15 minutes of normal time left.
Scannell makes an immediate impact as he combines well to put dangerman Zaha in on goal. The Palace winger absolutely shanks the ball wide and over from six yards to the delight of the home fans.
That’s encouraging though for Eagles fans and those of us who haven’t had our dinner yet.
RED CARD Paddy McCarthy is off. He went through the back of Kenny Miller when, in all honesty, there was no danger whatsoever. Howard Webb reached for his yellow card, the Dubliner takes his second of the night and walks down the tunnel. Tough one.
Never fear though, the Irish quotient is restored when set-piece expert Darren Ambrose is replaced with your friend and mine, Paul McShane.
That’s a big call, especially with penalties a possibility.
With 88-and-a-bit minutes left on the clock, Cowie misses his chance to send Cardiff to Wembley. He drills a volley into the ground, like the Tipp hurlers of yesteryear, and it eventually goes behind for a corner which comes to naught.
We’re well into injury time and the whole stadium seems to be on its feet as the home side gives it one last throw of the dice.
WE HAVE EXTRA-TIME…
So, we’re underway again after a short break that involved some gesticulation, Jaffa Cakes, and lots of sports drinks. And that was just us etc…
Palace, let’s not forget, are a man down as Paddy McCarthy is somewhere in the stadium, wet behind the ears, after his early bath. And Paul McShane is well placed to play a central part here.
We’ve just endured a penalty box scramble, the like of which I’m familiar from playing six-a-side football. And Jonathon Pearse’s machine-gun commentary as the ball fizzed about in front of the posts was not unlike my internal monologue as I’m desperately chasing the ball up and down the astroturf like a dopey terrier after a plastic bag in the wind.
Ultimately, Cardiff wasted the chance. Again.
We’re about to change sides during half-time in extra-time here, and it’s Cardiff who will rue missed chances again. Taylor swept two shots in quick succession towards goal which were blocked and when the ball broke to Gestede he drove it over.
Usually, I thought, teams just swap sides at this stage but Freedman has brought his 10 remaining players and the subs down in front of the travelling fans to offer his last words of advice tonight.
Belt yourself in for the last 15 minutes.
Cardiff hit the crossbar! The ball is laid down for Kiss to hit and he obliges with a sweetly-struck half-volley which hops off the top of the bar.
Ten minutes left; file this under statement-of-the-obvious but Cardiff will regret all these missed chances if Palace nick it on spotters.
Anthony Gardner is breathing a deep sigh of relief. The man who scored the winner in London and the aggregate equaliser into his own net in the first half tonight, almost turned the ball into his own net again.
Full back Taylor clipped the ball back to Whittingham from the byline, he stabbed at it and it took a ‘wicked deflection’ off the former Spurs man, but went wide.
About two minutes left, boys and girls.
One last Cardiff corner…
… but it comes to nothing and we go to penalties. Where’s my hip flask *mops sweaty brow with hankerchief*
Here we go, Kenny Miller… misses for Cardiff! He wellies it over the bar.
And Jermaine Easter does the same – his kick is saved. Scoreless after one each.
Conway scores for Cardiff and Ireland’s young hope Sean Scannell sends a dribbler into the keeper’s hands.
Cardiff 2 Palace 1 Gestede makes no mistake and then Jedinak gets Palce off the mark.
IT’S ALL OVER Cardiff win on penalties!
Whittingham scores – he’s been brilliant all night – and when Palace miss their next, the stadium erupts after a tense night. They’ll go to north London to face either Liverpool or Man City.
Gary Lineker signs off quickly because he knows Paxman is waiting to go on. That’s good enough for me too.
Thanks for your company in what was a dramatic night of cup action. We’ll do it all again tomorrow night – when the heavyweights of Man City, Liverpool and our Niall take centre stage. Do join us.
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