Deadly Ledley sinks Tykes
Bluebirds to meet Pompey after Wembley win
By Joe Drabble. Last Updated: 07/04/08 11:12am
Ledley: Match winner
Cardiff will face Portsmouth in the FA Cup final after Joe Ledley's first half volley proved the difference against Barnsley at Wembley.
The Bluebirds claimed a 1-0 victory in the capital after Ledley spectacularly fired into the top corner in the ninth minute after the Tykes defence failed to deal with Tony Capaldi's long throw.
The result will be hard to take for Simon Davey and his men after Barnsley squandered opportunities to equalise with Kayode Odejayi guilty of fluffing his lines after he was sent clean through midway through the second half.
Gavin Rae could have put the game beyond doubt but he missed two second half chances and Cardiff held on to book their place in the final of the nation's most prestigious competition for the first time since 1927.
After the torpor of the first semi-final, at least the 82,752 fans who packed Wembley on Sunday saw a genuinely close and riveting contest, a match to stir the blood and prove that there is life and excitement and fine football too outside the Premier League.
Nervy semi-finals need early goals if possible to cut the tension. They do not come much better than Ledley's ninth-minute volley.
It arrived following frantic early pressure from Cardiff. The ball was floated across the Barnsley defence only to be headed out by Barnsley defender Robert Kozluk. The danger seemed gone. But Ledley, who deservedly earned the man of the match award, wafted a left leg and caressed rather than powered a peach of a volley which floated over Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele and nestled in the corner of the net.
It was just what the match required and Barnsley might have been level within a couple of minutes if Stephen Foster had not headed wide when he should have done much better.
But while Barnsley, who had slain Liverpool and Chelsea on their way to Wembley, caught the eye with the Ronaldo-type stepovers of Jamal Campbell-Ryce and the creative midfield promptings of captain Brian Howard, their football lacked a cutting edge. It was Cardiff, with 36-year-old Jimmy Hasselbaink and 35-year-old Trevor Sinclair bringing big-game experience and determined for one final hurrah, who looked more threatening.
In truth, however, there was little to choose between them. They knew each other inside out from many a Coca-Cola championship battle.
At the start of the second-half Cardiff manager Dave Jones was forced to make a change, replacing injured full-back Kevin McNaughton with 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey, a talent who has been attracting interest from no less than Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was the energy of Ledley, however, which should have given Cardiff breathing space, his surging run down the left followed by a Rae header straight into the arms of goalkeeper Steele.
Ledley has interested Premier League clubs and it seems only time before he will be plying his trade at a higher level. The same could not be said for Odejayi, whose miss came after 66 minutes and should have been Barnsley's lifeline back into the match.
It is difficult to guess what was going through his mind as he bore down on Peter Enckelman following a brilliant through ball. Clearly he never got his radar sorted because when it looked as if he must score he clipped his shot into the side netting.
He trudged back to his position, seemingly wishing the Wembley turf could have opened and swallowed him.
Barnsley never gave up, sweeping forward in more hope than expectation. Cardiff could easily have caught them on the counter through Rae and Ledley.
But in the end it is Cardiff, who beat Arsenal 1-0 in the final of 1927, who once more can dream again of taking the famous trophy out of England for only the second time in its 127-finals history.
There could be no better advert for the Championship.
|Barnsley||Team Statistics||Cardiff City|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||5|
|7||Shots off Target||5|