Cardiff City kicked off at Selhurst Park in their new black and red third strip for the first time, too much excitement amongst The Bluebird supporters – a win today would take Cardiff City to the top of the league an given recent results there was every reason to expect that outcome, however it wasn’t to be. A simply dreadful, amateur performance by Cardiff City’s defence in the second half saw to that!
It had all started so brightly, Cardiff had looked composed on the ball, enjoying some early possession in the opposition half. The Bluebirds even earning the first corner of the game as Helguson knocked down to Gunnarsson who caught the ball on the half volley, which was deflected wide, the ensuing corner came to nothing.
However, the warning signs were fired early by Palace who created the first chance of the game as Zaha’s trickery on the left flank created a shooting opportunity for Brazilian attacking midfielder André Moritz. The City defence hacked the ball away. The ever lively Kagisho Dikgacoi, it seemed, was shooting every time he got the ball – he forced David Marshall into an excellent save, as his deflected long range effort was heading towards the top corner.
It was all The Eagles earning a string of corners to no avail, but against the run of play The Bluebirds took the lead when Aron Gunnarsson showed a burst of pace to break through several Palace defenders, taking advantage of a fortunate bounce of the ball, before slipping the ball past Speroni in to the bottom corner, to the utter delight of 1,300 plus of the Bluebird faithful.
The Bluebirds then repeated their midweek feat at The New Den, by scoring two goals in a couple of minutes. In the very next attack, Bellamy’s powerful and goal bound shot was deflected up in to the air, and Don Cowie met the ball on the half volley, firing it into the far corner. The goal was met by complete exhilaration from the City supporters, full of song and belief for their team. While the Palace fans and their team were shell shocked after City’s quick fire double and resorted to long range efforts from Jedinak and Dikgacoi, much to manager Dougie Freeman’s chagrin. Then The Bluebirds nearly made it three when after a spot of head tennis on the edge of the box, Craig Bellamy pounced on the ball he unleashed a ferocious volley that shaved the top of the bar.
Dougie Freedman responded by replacing Joel Ward for Peter Ramage. Helguson won an aerial battle against the Palace centre halves, Gunnarsson ran on to the knock down and was promptly brought down, but his claim for a penalty was waved away. It was end to end stuff, the Eagles’ wingers Zaha and Bolasie always lively, but Palace struggled to create any clear-cut chances on goal, and the desperation to create something somehow resulted in Zaha being booked for diving after taking a tumble in the box. Half time and City supporters had good reason to be in strong voice, as things stood they were heading for the top of the table.
The second half started in a scrappier fashion and it seemed like a different Cardiff City team had run out into the pitch! Palace won themselves a central 25 yard free kick with a few minutes played, André Moritz left-footed effort was deflected behind, but the referee adjudged that it had come off Andrew Taylor’s hand in the wall. Penalty to Palace, but the replay would later show that Taylor – The Cardiff City pin up – was merely trying to protect his face, it was a harsh decision, Glenn Murray stepped up and slotted the ball home sending David Marshall the wrong way.
Glenn Murray forced Marshall, to palm away his effort the rebound was comfortably picked up and then sent up field by Mark Hudson it was from this pass that City carved out a great chance, Bellamy and Helguson played a one two, before laying the ball off to Cowie, who blasted his shot well over.
The Eagles then went straight up the other end and punished the Bluebirds for wasting that chance. The ball fell to Glenn Murray a couple of yards out, Marshall did well to keep the ball out, but with the ball bouncing on the line, Matthew Connolly merely knocked it into the goal when trying to run back to clear the ball.
Cardiff City then completely went to pieces defensively – Connolly partly made a last ditch challenge on André Moritz after Hudson had let the Brazilian past him with ease, Cardiff were hanging on. The game swung completely in the favour of The Eagles at 72 minutes Helguson launched in with a late sliding tackle right just outside of the box, but despite protestations the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot once more, giving Glenn Murray the opportunity to score his second of the afternoon. The former Brighton front man made no mistake again, to complete the comeback for Palace. It pains me to say this but it was no more than Cardiff City deserved the second half performance was woeful from a team capable of far, far better!
Double Substitution; Cardiff: Craig Noone on for Don Cowie and for Crystal Palace: Jonathan Williams on for André Moritz, just a few minutes later MacKay sent on Joe Mason to replace Craig Bellamy
City looked to the youth to provide the answer, hoping Joe Mason and Craig Noone could get them back in to the game but Palace still looked the much more dangerous side with Zaha and Bolasie causing all sorts of problems for the full backs, while Dikgacoi continued to shoot on sight. The match became ever more scrappy bogged down in midfield a long range drive by Peter Whittingham was the only chance that The Bluebirds created in the last 15 minutes of the match.
Substitution Crystal Palace: Dean Moxey on for Yannick Bolasie while Cardiff again went for youth with Kim Bo-Kyung on for Tommy Smith – MacKay had taken off players with a combined age of over ninety-five!
Five minutes of injury time ensued – it was dire stuff, the sky had gone dark there was a chill in the air, but the Cardiff City dressing room post match, was about to get very hot, as Malky MacKay set about giving his Bluebirds a roasting.