Eagles eye Wembley
LONDON, England – Anthony Gardner put Crystal Palace on course for their first major Wembley final since 1990 with the only goal in the 1-0 Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Cardiff.
Former Tottenham defender Gardner netted for the first time in more than a year to spark jubilant scenes at Selhurst Park and leave Palace fans dreaming of their first semi success in four attempts.
Kenny Miller had an equaliser controversially disallowed for Cardiff, who will nevertheless need to show more cutting edge in the Welsh capital in two weeks’ time if they are to turn the tie around.
Glenn Murray mistimed a free header from a corner against the run of play for Palace before Ben Turner nodded over a much more difficult chance from a corner at the other end as Cardiff continued to hold sway.
But Palace had more of a cutting edge and might have been ahead in the 27th minute had Kagisho Dikgacoi not shot too close to Tom Heaton after being teed up by Chris Martin.
Joe Ralls sent another finish just wide before Palace struck two minutes before the break. Heaton tried to claim Darren Ambrose’s free-kick but was beaten by Mile Jedinak, whose flick-on was nodded into an empty net by Gardner, the unlikeliest of goalscorers.
Martin went close to inadvertently deflecting in Ambrose’s shanked shot and Mike Dean rightly waved away handball appeals against Don Cowie as Palace began the second half strongly but Cardiff had a handball shout of their own snubbed and then saw what would have been an equaliser chalked off moments later.
Ralls’ volley was deflected narrowly wide and Miller nodded the resulting corner into the net at the far post but Dean had already whistled, apparently for a foul on Julian Speroni.
Ralls was booked for a cynical trip on Ambrose as the midfielder threatened to extend a 25-yard surge but Palace were otherwise on the defensive as they sought to avoid a potentially damaging away goal.
Stoppage time saw Andrew Taylor send a rising drive narrowly over the crossbar as Palace held on.