Palace Pay The Price For Lack Of Ambition
Cardiff City scraped through to the Carling Cup final courtesy of the lottery of a penalty shoot-out after Anthony Gardner's early own goal cancelled out his header in the first leg. However, it should have been all over well before that point as Palace rode their luck with their goal leading an incredibly charmed life.
City missed numerous chances, striking the woodwork on 3 occasions, seeing a header cleared off the line and the likes of Don Cowie and Kenny Miller firing narrowly wide when well placed.
By absolute contrast, Crystal Palace created nothing of note during the entire 120 minutes. Content to sit back, they were restricted to a few dangerous looking crosses, and a couple of second half breaks with no end product. The Eagles' gameplan seemed intent on holding onto their slender advantage whilst using every opportunity to feed the lively Wilfred Zaha when in possession.
Zaha is a real talent, unpredictable and immensely dangerous, but with virtually no support - his threat was largely nullified by Darcy Blake and latterly sub McNaughton. Zaha won a couple of free-kicks, and beat his man on occasions - but no chances were forthcoming.
If I were a Palace fan, I'd be disappointed with the tactics - especially having rested so many players before the game. I've felt the same numerous times when Cardiff City have failed to show any ambition in attack - and you invariably pay the price. In Wales' biggest game of the last 15 years, Mark Hughes set his side out to defend a 1-0 defecit and try to hit Russia on the break - it failed miserably and the best chance of qualifying was gone.
For their part, palce did defend well - although City were guilty of spurning o many chances it became absurd. Many felt it just wouldn't be our day. Having now played 120+90 minutes at CCS, Palace failed to score (even failing to muster a single shot on target last night) while only a goal from the most unlikely source (following a Keeper error) saw them net at home. You can't expect to succeed on that basis.
Cardiff City certainly deserved the chance to play at Wembley in the final. You'd have thought a team with the attacking threat of Zaha, Scannell and co would be more dangerous, especially having beatn Manchester United earlier in the competition! Cardiff City have struggled against teams like Blackpool, prepared to 'have a go' and attack with pace - Freedman himself pointed this out. Well done to Malky Mackay and the team, it could so easily have been a different outcome but it's the Bluebirds who take the glory this time.