Cardiff held their nerve to win a compelling Carling Cup semi-final on penalties and will face either Liverpool or Manchester City in the final
Evening all: And with that traditional nod to the Five-O's George Dixon, welcome to tonight's MBM of the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final between Cardiff and Crystal Palace. Palace have a 1-0 lead from the first leg and their manager, Dougie Freedman, has upset Malky Mackay with an interview he gave in the build-up, which the latter has interpreted as an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on the home side.
I'm sure you've seen it, as have the Cardiff players because it's been stuck up on their dressing room wall. Here are the key comments:
"I think they are under more pressure to succeed. Maybe not in this competition, but with the money they have spent this season.
"Their fans expect to succeed, they are a passionate crowd and one that has nearly got there. In the play-off games they have always been a nearly team, nearly getting there. We are just enjoying ourselves, no one expected us to be here, we are looking forward to a challenge that most people thought we would never see. There are two levels of expectation, Cardiff have got a bit more pressure on their shoulders than we have got right now.
"The experience we have got is from relegation battles, not from play-off semi-finals like Cardiff have had. It's a great club but I think with the fans' expectations and the heartache they have had over the last few years is difficult to take. At Selhurst Park the atmosphere is different – we almost can't believe we are here, it's sheer enjoyment."
I'd always admired both of them as players, Mackay in particular for the character he showed having helped two clubs to promotion – Norwich and West Ham – but jettisoned before he had a chance to play in the Premier League for them. He then did it a third time and was rewarded at the age of 34 by making his English top-flight debut for Watford.
Cardiff have won their last 10 home League Cup ties in succession while Palace have been at this stage three times before (in 1993, 1995 and 2001) but didn't make it through to the final.
From what I've seen of the two sides, I'm looking forward to seeing Aron Gunnarsson tonight, Peter Whittingham, obviously, Nathaniel Clyne and Kagisho Dikgacoi, the two-hammerfingered typist's nightmare footballer.
All this and the edge of the managers' words, too. Should be fun. I'll post the teams in a few moments.
Here are the teams:
Cardiff City: 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 (South Yorkshire)
Steve Claridge is in the BBC studio. When he used to do his scouting reports for us, I sometimes had to speak to him during the week. Top man. Barney Ronay once saw him devour a whole basket of fruit in a quarter of an hour.
Dougie Freedman has said a reporter put the words into his mouth, the ones that Malky Mackay has taken umbrage with. At least it wasn't the translation this time.
It's time for Men of Harlech. Mark Bright's in the crowd. When I worked at Sportspages Bright was a loyal customer. When he rang up to order a book, he'd say: "It's Mark Bright, Sheffield Wednesday here." I've thought of that as his full name ever since.
1 min: Cardiff kick off, Palace having made them change ends. Cross comes in from the left, fed by Whittingham and it arcs towards the six-yard box but inches away from Cowie's leap.
3 min: Gunnarsson's long throw – no wonder Stoke covet him – is flicked on at the near post but Speroni picks it up and launches a quick break by finding Zaha. Cardiff knock it out for a throw 10 yards from goal. Howard Webb orders the linesman to burst a few balloons before the game continues. Cardiff clear the throw.
5 min: Conway goes down in the box after he gets on the end of a 30-yard pass from Blake. He wriggles past Gardner and then falls to the floor as Gardner recovers and Parr comes to help. He asks for the penalty but Howard Webb tells him to get up.
GOAL!! Cardiff 1-0 Palace (Gardner og) Tenacious work from Gunnarsson in the centre of the park gets him past Dikgacoi. He pokes it out to Blake running forward on the right. The hard cross comes in from Cowie by the byline and Gardner stoops at the near post and heads it into his own net. Speroni could have caught it but perhaps Gardner didn't know where his goalkeeper was. He didn't seem to shout. "Dougie, what's the score?" rings out.
9 min: Palace were very nearly level then as Zaha bamboozles Blake with a mazy run cutting in from the left. He steers his cross from the left side of the box across goal and all it needed was touch but a Cardiff player got there first to knock it away. When Cardiff break Clyne is yellow carded for halting their momentum with a foul.
11 min: Whittingham's corner ends up back at his feet, running in from the right. He shimmies then blasts a dipping shot that Speroni batters clear with his fists and McCarthy whacks the ball out of the Palace box.
13 min: The movement of Cardiff's forward players is causing all sorts of problems for the Palace defence. Miller is always looking to find sapce on the right or left, giving Conway and Cowie the opportunity to break through the middle. Now Blake whips in a cross from wide on the right towards the penalty spot and it bobbles awkwardly but eventually safely towards Speroni's hands.
16 min: Palace enjoy a decent minute's spell of possession, patiently sweeping passes to one another, making progress slowly yard by yard. But Zaha's heavy touch in the D of the penalty area gives the ball back to Cardiff who pile forward and win the foul just by halfway.
18 min: Palace corner after Taylor deflects a cross. Aimed at McCarthy, City defend strongly, conceding a throw but pushing Palace backwards.
20 min: Not much happening. Palace maintaining a higher line the past two minutes and pressing more to stop Cardiff getting through their midfield. Gunnarsson launches a throw diagonally into the box but Palace deal with it comfortably. On the break Murray has a run but he's stopped in his tracks by Turner's firm, clean tackle.
22 min: Palace's 4-2-3-1 leaves a gap down the flanks if Zaha and Jedinak don't cover. Blake has just had the opportunity to make 20 yards unchallenged as Parr couldn't make up ground. His cross is met by Miller, 15 yards out,, but there wasn't enough power in it so Miller can only glance it unthreateningly towards Speroni.
25 min: Cardiff free kick 25 yards out slightly to the left of centre after Gunnarsson is tripped. Whittingham can't get it over the wall, though. "What up Rob! Must say, seems a shame that this game isn't getting more emails, presumably because it involves diddy teams, hence this missive to yourself! Am v.impressed with the Claridge fruit basket feat. Did he pause to unpeel bananas etc first, or do Real Men scoff skin and all?" I believe he did unzip them, Ryan. But how impressive that would be if he didn't. I am actually receiving emails, plenty of them, off topic, on the subject of a certain court case but we have to stick to facts, not opinions.
28 min: Gerrard chips a pass out to Conway on the left, he comes in, plays it back to Taylor who curves in a cross to Gunnarsson who has lost his marker and stormed into the area. He catches it, though, on the bridge of his nose and it bounces through to the keeper tamely.
32 min: "The one thing I remember most about Sportspages was reading on the blackboard in the shop that Mo Johnston had just signed for Rangers," writes Ian Burch. "I had to ask the bloke behind the counter if it was true. For some reason that blew me away more than seeing all the ex-pros and cricketers signing their books in there." Was it me, Ian? Only partially gret in those days, like a young Dickie Davies. We did the Sky Sports News ticker, cribbed off Ceefax, through the medium of chalk. Free kick to Palace, 35 yards out after Martin was fouled. Hit from right to left by Ambrose. Jedniak, the last man in the line, expected Blake to head it clear so wasn't ready when it just eluded the defender and the ball hit him and ricocheted off his chest into touch.
34 min: Another free kick for Palace, this time from the left. Ambrose curls it to the far post where Heaton scampers backwards to punch clear. On the replay Palace had a shout for a penalty because Gunnarsson clearly held Martin's shirt. Clearly on the replay, that is.
37 min: "Was Sportspages in Manchester, on St Anne's Square? I used to see it and then when I finally had the money to spend on decent footy books I found it had closed down. Were you thrown out of work Rob?" asks Brian Russell. It was, Brian. I worked up there for a year but jumped from the London shop before I was pushed. There was a cabal of exiled Palace fans I'm still in toiuch with who used to frequent that Manchester shop. I think they're in Cardiff tonight. Zaha is brought down wide on the left and Ambrose's dipping cross is punched clear. Cardiff break quickly thanks to a misplaced defensive header, Gunnarsson on the right plays a defence splitting pass for Miller to run on to. Out comes the keeper and Miller tries to palce it into the corner from his position 18 yards out as Speroni rushes towards him. It trickles past Palaces's left-hand post.
40 min: Whittingham takes a Cardiff free kick following Parr's foul but the ball is played forward too quickly, before Miller had made his run, and Speroni gathered it.
42 min: Zaha is on the ground after Gerrard's challenge which Howard Webb deemed fair. Gerrard seemed to foul him, leaning into him without getting anywhere near the ball. Zaha has lengthy treatment while the home crowd give him the bird.
44 min: We're back in play after two minutes spent by Cardiff fans accusing Zaha of being a self-lover. Thanks to Gary Naylor for this blast from the past: "The Mo Johnston to Rangers transfer story reminded me of one of my favourite fanzine covers from my browsing days at Sportspages. Here it is. Happy days."
45 min: There'll be three minutes of added time. Martin tries to find Clyne on the overlap but pushes his pass too far ahead of the full back and Taylor gobbles up the chance to get there and belt it upfield.
45+2 min: Brilliant shot on the turn from Miller, found on the edge of the box by Gunnarsson's pass. He swivels and thrashes his efffort against Speroni's right-hand post.
Half-time: Palace have had a couple of breaks but Cardiff have looked the dominant team, less so in the last 15 minutes. I'm starving. Off to get a sandwich and I'll be back in 10 minutes. Chris Coleman, he of the "Mario Bolacetti" malapropisms, is being interviewed. Russell Hope writes: "I remember going to Sportspages in the late 80s/early 90s for the express purpose of getting the Saturday afternoon results after an afternoon trolling round the West End. I thought it was cutting edge!!!" Thanks, Russell. I'll tell the founder, John Gaustad. He'll be chuffed. My heart bleeds for Jimmy Cusick: "Watchig from Brazil on the guardian online as my mate who has got ESPN has gone to the beach!!!" Jammy get. Your mate, that is. I've tried to fix that link.
I've failed to fix that link, sadly. It's from the Rangers fanzine, Follow Follow and has a cartoon of Maurice Johnston saying "Forgive me father, for I have signed." Sorry for my incompetence
46 min: We're off. Clyne plays a one-two with Ambrose and uses his pace to get beyond Taylor and bomb on towards the touchline. he hits a low cross to the near post and Murray has to check and attempt a back-flick at it as it got there too soon for him. Palace have a corner, met by McCarthy unmarked but his header is off target.
48 min: Gary Naylor, bless him, has provided a link that works.
49 min: Forget the link. It doesn't seem to worrk any which way I try. Sorry.
51 min: Sorry for wasting your time. Martin has a chance to get a shot away but spoons it over the bar.
53 min: Here's Joe Mahoney: "Just to let you know people can still see the link fine if they just take out the guardian URL at the start." Thanks, Joe. Palace are building some momentum, more urgency after the break.
55 min: "Don't want to play the plucky underdog card too hard, but I'm still feeling the warm rosy glow of that win at Old Trafford, and frankly on this kind of form Cardiff look like the most likely team to trouble pPremiership opposition in the final," writes Desmond Hinton-Beales. "Still dreaming of a jinking Zaha run and cut back for Darren 'Thunderleg' Ambrose to win it for the Glaziers (Palace's old nickname, before I'm taken for a Yankophile mega-capitalist)." It's been a better half all round for Palace … until McCarthy drags down Miller 25 yards from goal and gives away a free kick
56 min: Whittingham hits a fine shot from the free-kick, curling towards the top left-hand corner of Speroni's goal. The keeper's quick feet get him across in time to palm it over.
58 min: Good covering tackle from Blake when you'd have backed Zaha to get past him. Palace have certainly stood up this half, narrowing the gap between their midfield and forwards. Machiel Akkerman is making me feel like Uncle Mort from I Didn't Know You Cared: "I used to travel from Holland just to spend a whole day at sportspages, the amazing sportshop where you could find everyting footy and hear in the background the radio covering a test match and staff someway beautifully fitting in..the pleasure of it all..everytime I come back to London I look around the corner halfway Charing Cross Road but it really has closed down..of course it has but always brings good thoughts back..what a shame!" Indeed.
60 min: A peach of a chipped pass from Whittingham into the box, finds Gerrard's run and he beats Speroni to the ball and nods across goal. It would have tucked in, too, had McCarthy not been covering.
62 min: Martin lashes a shot from 30 yards after Zaha had dug in to win the ball and lay it off to him. Too far out, really, to trouble Heaton, it skips past the post. Desmond Hinton-Beales is hoping for penalties: "Hard to tell if my confidence over the possibility of a penalty shootout comes from Speroni's undoubted brilliance, or the fact that, over the two legs, the only thing I can really remember the Cardiff keeper having to do (Gardner's goal) he made a bit of a meal of." He did make a dog's dinner of his attempt to stop Gardner scoring.
64 min: Conway gives the ball away and Jedinak takes it up but doesn't make any ground before City win it back.
66 min: Lovely tackle from Gerrard when he whips the ball off Zaha's toes. Neither side has made the most of the opportunities presented by players winning the ball. Too often they give it away during the next phase.
68 min: Whittinghams's shot scampers past the post. He fancies his luck tonight. Thomas Whitehead feels the Beeb have heard the Dave Clark Five a bit too often and have been brainwashed by the Palace stomp: "Not to deny that Crystal Palace have had a tough recent past, but the BBC commentators are stretching the bounds of impartiality a bit. It's not as if Cardiff's recent history is rosy either: tax bills almost did for them. Anyway, always fun to rant while dodging real work, so thanks for the distraction." Pleasure, Thomas.
70 min: Gunnarsson throws it long to the near post Gerrard gets the flick on and Miller, too square to goal seemingly, tries to hook in an overhead kick. But he was too square.
72 min: Julian Farino, a Palace fan stranded in LA, writes: "Just noticed your picture of Cardiff celebration - doesn't that Cardiff bloke look a lot like a vampire? Very scary." If it gets to extra time, perhaps Doooooogie should give his players some garlic. Cardiff have been battering away for the past few minutes, Palace having retreated. But they can't find the killer pass to get through Palace's lines.
74 min: Is either manager going to gamble to win this before extra time. Palace are preparing Sean Scannell. Blake's looked really good in defence and attack and has just battled to win possession then rolled it to Gerrard 20 yards out but the centre-back balloons his shot.
76 min: Scannell hasd an immediate impact, running directly at the backpedalling Cardiff defenders befoire thereading a pass through to Zaha, advancing into the box on the left. He gets under his shot, though, as the ball skipped away from him after a heavyish first touch.
Red card!! Paddy McCarthy, Palace's captain is sent off Second bookable offence for going through the back of Miller. Daft challenge.
To his credit, Sean O'Sullivan sent this before the sending off: "Checking in late to find Paul McShane (He'll be great that fella, core of our defence for years to come), Owen Garvan (Johnny Giles nephew, class act, our creative fulcrum for years to come) and Sean Scannell (unbelievable pace and a good finisher, Keane's replacement for the next decade) all on the bench while good old Paddy McCarthy (too small and too reckless to ever be allowed play in a full international game) continues to plough a dependable trade at the centre of the defence … it's the hope that kills you!" Paul McShane comes on to plug the gap, Ambrose, oddly, off.
80 min: Cardiff sub: McNaughton on for Blake.
81 min: Taylor swings in a cross from the left, arcing towards the penalty spot but two onrsuhing City players, attempting to get on the end of it, are defeated by the angle.
82 min: Optimism's alive and well in Texas with Richard Bristow: "Stuck in Houston on the phone with clients while hitting refresh button every 10 seconds … God knows what I am gonna do when Palace score and win the tie … Luckily I have cleared my schedule so that I can book my flights to London and hotel as soon as the final whistle goes." It might take another half hour, Richard. Glenn Murray off, Jermaine Easter on for Palace.
83 min: McPhail off for Cardiff, Kiss on. Great guy McPahil. I saw his debut 14 years ago for Leeds. I thought he'd be a legend, and in his way, though not the one I hoped for, he has.
85 min: Miller is only inches away from beating Palace's offside trap 10 yards inside the opposition's half. Up goes the flag. "Lovely words about Paul McShame [sic] from Sean O'Sullivan," writes John Allen. "Great to see the ginger Cafu finally getting some credit."
87 min: Palace have covered the lack of a man pretty well but Cardiff have had a period of sustained possession, broken when Scannell cleverly shields the ball and wins the foul. Matt Willson asks the question I've been pondering: "Why are there so many Palace fans in the US I wonder? Did we all want to get out of Croydon THAT badly?"
89 min: I always thought of Croydon as Terry and June country or was that Purley? Zaha does well defensively to block a shot resulting from taylor's whipped in cross that went over the heads of Miller and the two centre-backs.
89 min: Conway flashes a pair of shots, the first worn on the head by McShane, the second goes wide.
90 min+2: There'll be four minutes of added time. Cardiff win the ball through Gerrard and pile forward but Palace keep their shape and hustle the ball out for a throw.
90 min+3: From Gunnarsson's monster throw, not directly but after several blocks and passes, Kiss steers a tame header wide.
90 min+4: Zaha beats his man, gets to the touchline wide left and does the last thing poorly having done so well to get there, blasting a cross beyond every Palace player trying to get on the end of it.
Peep, peep, peep! We're going to have extra-time. Away goals come into play.
91 min: Cardiff kick off, Whittingham's attempt to chip into the box is cut out and Zaha picks it up, makes slowish progress up the left, his every touch booed. His cross ends up with Scannell, who has run up the other wing, but his pass is blocked.
93 min: Conway gets past Clyne and hits a weak cross across the box too far ahead of Miller and Speroni picks it up. It's been very tepid stuff since the re-start. Gold from Phil Withall: "Palace fan, son of Croydon and punk god Captain Sensible wrote a song called, funnily enough, Croydon. In it he mentions moving to Los Angeles and follows with the line 'but I'll still be dreaming of you Croydon, especially in the pouring rain'. That eloquently echoes Matt Willson's thoughts."
96 min: Credit to Palace who are defending in numbers and with real intensity. Whittingham passes it out to Conway on the left but Palace have seven men back in the box. His cross, though, is good and Miller is on the end of it but before he can turn Gardner's at him, diving in to block his touch. The ball falls to Kiss, who tries to find a position to get his shot away and when he ekes out a hint of space he whacks his shot miles over.
98 min: As Martin Keown says, Palace have kept their shape diligently but Cardiff have the initiative. The question is whether they can break them down.
99 min: Easter fouls Whittingham. A real bone crunching foul but it draws no card.
101 min: Oh. Scannell and Easter break in tandem after Conway, who looks exhausted, ceded possession. They make 70 yards but Scannell tries to be too cute and dink a pass into the box from 20 yards out when it might have been better to shoot. Back come Cardiff and Gardner almost scores his second own goal of the night whe he loses his bearings to deal with a cross. Fortune favours him this time.
103 min: Gestede comes on for Cowie before Cardiff take their corner.
104 min: Whittingham's near post corner gets knocked out to Taylor on the edge of the box. His shot is blocked by his own player, Gunnarsson, but the ball bounces kindly to Gestede whose first touch is a shot straight down Speroni's throat.
105 min: Palace corner, now. Hit out to the edge of the box to Jedinak whose header is blocked but Gardner stems the Cardiff break.
Half time: Just the moment for this from Desmond Hinton-Beales. "Having moved from Croydon to Bristol as a mere tot, I can't share in my fellow ex-pat Palace fans' nostalgia. though I do remember being accosted by a burly gang of mini-Jethro's when wearing my 1994 lurid yellow TDK sponsored Palace away kit in the playground. Great times." Matthew Willson, clang, drops a name. I'm glad it's all over. "I met him once [the captain] in a record shop in West Wickham. Can't remember what he was buying though." Dougie has taken the Palace players to have their brief chat right in front of their fans.
106 min: Zaha fouls the canny McNaughton. Cardiff play it up into the box and, two phases later, win a corner, which spins right past everyone and out for a goalkick. Paul Taylor suggests: "The Gardner own goal counts as away, right?"
108 min: Understandably scrappy. Crowd's in great voice, though, both sets of fans. "This isn't a bad game really is it?" asks Liam Tyrrell. I've really enjoyed it. "However, I'm a little confused about why away goals count in extra time. It seems to me that they should only count up to the end of 180 minutes and after that just have it be the aggregate score that wins it. I guess I'm just torn between my desire to see some goals and my desire to see a penalty shoot-out." Me, too, re away goals. Seems unfair to me.
110 min: Zaha tracks McNaughton's run all the way and blocks his cross. Gunnarsson puts the ball into the box where it breaks to Kiss off McShane's legs. Kiss absolutely smashes his shot but it's wide.
112 min: Excellent work from Zaha, really tenacious, dribbling the ball away from McNaughton then hitting a delightful pass to Scannell. He makes for the box, spots Easter's run, plays a good pass for his team-mate to run on to but Turner makes an excellent sliding tackle to beat Easter to the ball.
114 min: Quite surprised neither Jonathan Pearce nor Martin Keown have uttered the question: "Who wants it?"
116 min: They both want it but there have been very few openings. Philip Withall says: "I'm hoping that Kiss scores a late winner so I can use a Prince quote.'I just wanted your extra time and your… Kiss' but it probably won't happen so I'll sit on that for another day." You don't have to be Prince if you wants to dance, you've got to get down with the Age of Chance. Tense now, and Whittingham has a snap shot in the box from Taylor's cross. It flies off Gardner's knee and mercifully, for him, wide.
118 min: From the corner Palace counter, stopped by Whittingham's cynical foul. No booking. He deserved one.
119 min: Cardiff corner, taken by Coneay. Up leaps Gunnarsson and smacks his header against the bar. Luck is flowing Palace's way.
120 min: This is finishing at breakneck pace from Cardiff, but Palace are defending with heart and skill. That's it. Penalties are coming.
Full time: Cardiff 1-0 Palace (aggregate score 1-1) Penalties to be atken at the Palace end.
Right, we're ready. The two teams break from their huddles. The two keepers embrace. Cardiff to go first.
Cardiff miss – Kenny Miller
Palace saved!! – Jermaine Easter
Cardiff score - Craig Conway
Palace saved!! – Sean Scannell
So Cardiff are 1-0 up after two rounds
Cardiff score!! – Rudy Gestede
Palace score!! – Mile Jedinak
Cardiff score!! Peter Whittingham
Palace miss!! Jonathan Parr
Cardiff win 3-1 on penalties!!
Palace were brave throughout but the penalties were tentative at best. Cardiff win on penalties after a compelling match. Thanks for all your emails. I'm shattered. Good night!