Wembley joy for Cardiff
Bluebirds see off Palace on penalties to reach Carling Cup final
Last Updated: 24/01/12 11:18pm
Cardiff booked their place in the Carling Cup final with a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Crystal Palace after the two teams were locked together at 1-1 after extra time.
Bluebirds goalkeeper Tom Heaton saved the first two Palace kicks from Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell before Jonathan Parr blazed horribly wide of the target to the delight of the vast majority in the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff had levelled the aggregate scores in only the seventh minute of the clash when Anthony Gardner, who had given his side the edge in the first leg, could only divert Don Cowie's dangerous cross into his own net at the near post.
Kenny Miller twice went close to putting the Bluebirds ahead on the night, rolling one effort agonisingly wide after a swift break, before rattling the upright with Julian Speroni well beaten after a smart turn and shot from the edge of the box.
Palace were reduced to ten men 12 minutes from the end of normal time when captain Paddy McCarthy, who had already been booked for one challenge on Miller, elected to go through the back of the striker, leaving referee Howard Webb with little option.
Malky Mackay's side pressed for a winner with the benefit of their numerical advantage, but could not find a way through although they came agonisingly close when Aron Gunnarsson somehow headed against the face of the bar from no more than three yards out in the dying seconds before the drama of penalties.
Cardiff took the lead in just the seventh minute as Gardner, who had given Palace their slender advantage, drew the Bluebirds level in the tie by putting through his own net.
Darcy Blake played Cowie in down the right and Gardner could only turn his cross past a stranded Speroni.
Keeper Speroni had to be on his mettle again in the 11th minute as he beat away Peter Whittingham's fierce angled drive, with Anthony Gerrard narrowly failing to get to the loose ball.
Palace threatened little until Wilfried Zaha worked his way into the box, but Andrew Taylor got back to clear his attempted pass to Glenn Murray.
After such a frantic opening quarter the game eventually settled into some form of pattern, as Palace found a foothold in the contest.
But the hosts remained the dominant force, enjoying large swathes of possession and Miller should have doubled their lead after Parr's woeful header gifted Gunnarsson the ball.
The midfielder played the Scotland striker in as Palace appealed in vain for offside, but his left-footed shot rolled agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.
And there was more anguish for Miller when he hammered a volley against the post moments before the interval.
Miller was again in the thick of the action on the resumption, picking his way past three defenders before working the ball to Whittingham, whose low shot beat Speroni but also the near post.
Palace had a rare attempt on goal after 52 minutes as Chris Martin turned well on the edge of the box after being found by Murray but fired over.
Whittingham showcased his set-piece prowess by curling in a free-kick that Speroni had to tip over the bar, with Miller's belligerence having forced a foul, which resulted in a booking, from McCarthy.
The Palace skipper was forced into a vital intervention moments later as Gerrard snuck round the back to head a Whittingham free-kick goalwards, scrambling the ball away to safety.
Cardiff were given a reminder of the threat the visitors posed on the counter as substitute Scannell's first contribution was to tee up Zaha, but the teenager could only blaze harmlessly wide.
Having missed that great opportunity to put themselves back in front on aggregate, Palace were then reduced to 10 men with 12 minutes to go as McCarthy was handed a second booking following another tussle with Miller, leaving the centre-half decidedly unimpressed by Webb's decision.
Zaha redeemed himself by making a brilliant block in the final moments, getting back to slide in and deny Cowie and make sure the tie went to extra time.
With the extra man Cardiff dominated the entirety of the 30-minute period and would not have had to endure the agonies of penalties had Kiss not whacked a volley against the bar from inside the box, and Gunnarsson not done likewise by contriving to find the woodwork with his point-blank header.Those misses looked like they might prove costly when Miller missed the first spot-kick, but Heaton saved low down from Easter and Scannell, before Parr failed to find the target to send the Welsh club to Wembley for the third time in five seasons and spark a minor pitch invasion by the delighted home support.
|Cardiff City||Team Statistics||Crystal Palace|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||0|
|18||Shots off Target||6|
|60.9||1st Half Poss.||39.1|
|56.4||2nd Half Poss.||43.6|