Crystal Palace held out until the bitter end after a tough encounter with Cardiff City last night. The Welsh side had dominated from start to finish with some intelligent possession and, at times, incisive forward play.
In the end, though, it took penalties to see off a resilient Palace. Cardiff would have felt aggrieved had they not secured the win after dominating the game, which ended with Palace having only 10-men left on the field.
Cardiff City 1 -0 Crystal Palace (1-1 AGG AET 3-1pen)
Carling Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Palace got off to the worse possible start after Gardner turned into his own net by diverting a Cowie cross in the post and crossbar to send the City stadium into raptures.
The buoyant home side dominated possession creating all the clear chances of the first half. Miller should have put the game beyond doubt when he went one on one against the Palace keeper, only to see his effort drift agonisingly past the wrong side of the post when most of the ground was already celebrating.
Bluebirds’ fans were on their feet again moments before the half time whistle when Miller again caused trouble for the Palace back-four. A sweet strike from the Scot could only see the face of the post and bounced wide. Palace were lucky to go into the break at 1-0.
The second half started well for both sides, Palace looked resolved at the back but lacked any cutting edge going forward.
Zaha looked threatening but failed to display just why so many clubs are rumoured to be interested in signing him this transfer window.
A half of little action or clear cut chances did not mean it was not entertaining; at one point the superb Whittingham looked to be curling a fabulous free-kick into the top-left hand corner only to be scooped out by the excellent Speroni.
Whittingham again struck one that drifted past the post, this time with Speroni scrabbling, and a few minutes later Palace had their only real chance of the match. Scannell, who had just come on, gave Palace a boost and after driving at the City defence he fed Zaha, who could only skew wide from 6 yards.
McCarthy then got sent off after a second yellow card and that looked like the tipping point needed to sway the match. It wasn’t to be and after a whole period of extra time the match went to penalties.
Cardiff kept their cool and booked their place in the Carling Cup final to face Liverpool or Manchester City.
A great cup campaign for Dougie Freedman’s men, who must hold their heads up with pride, considering their limited resources and the fact the future of the club looked totally uncertain just a year ago. This shows the sort of progress Eagles’ fans could have only dreamed of.
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