Paul Quinn’s penalty leaves Cardiff City triumphant
Joe Lovejoy Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff City 2 Leicester City 2
Cowie 33 Howard 40
Gestede 82 Dyer 66
aet; Cardiff win 7-6 on pen
Two teams well-matched in terms of attitude and aptitude, for all the wrong reasons, needed penalties to separate them and supply a winner to go through to the fourth round.
Even Championship clubs have such scant regard for a competition that should be renamed the Weak Shandy Cup, that no fewer than 17 regulars were rested here with not so much one as both eyes on the weekend, when these two meet again with points at stake.
Unsurprisingly in such circumstances, neither team was good enough to progress by orthodox means, so they were condemned to ordeal by shoot-out, settled at the sudden-death stage when Gelson Fernandes fired over the top and Paul Quinn made it seven out of seven for Cardiff.
For the record, the Welsh club made seven changes to their first-choice line-up, Leicester 10, which must have left Matt Mills wondering “Why Me?” until he too was withdrawn after 45 minutes.
There are two ways for fans to consider “The Other Cup”. It can be totally disregarded as a waste of admission money, or it is a chance to assess their club’s reserve/youth resources. The South Wales public were none too interested last night, but then they do have two more home games in the coming week, with Leicester’s visit on Sunday followed by Southampton next Wednesday. This clearly came a distant third in their list of priorities.
It was galling for all concerned, then, when Stephen McPhail, out since last May, lasted only 29 minutes on his latest comeback before succumbing to a groin strain and another of Cardiff’s first-teamers, Andrew Taylor, went off, lame, after 59, with hamstring trouble.
The tie took a long time to rise above the mundane, but the Welsh team brought it to life by taking a 33rd-minute lead. Michael Ball, capped by England at full-back, ought to have cleared Taylor’s left-wing cross but failed to do so with a maladroit volley which left Don Cowie to score with an angled header, inside Chris Weale’s left-hand upright. Cowie is the archetypal Scottish winger, small in stature, which makes it remarkable that three of the four goals he has scored this season have come with his head.
Cardiff’s advantage lasted barely seven minutes. Then Jeffrey Schlupp, the 18-year-old German striker who scored a hat-trick against Rotherham in the first round, centred low from the left for Steve Howard to divert the ball in via the near post. Leicester went on to take the lead midway through the second half, when Lloyd Dyer rifled a shot low into David Marshall’s left-hand corner from 18 yards, but equality was restored after 82 minutes, when Rudy Gestede’s volley on the turn from 18 yards gave him the most spectacular of first goals for the club he joined from Metz during the summer.
Extra time would not have been necessary but for the improvised save, using his legs, with which Marshall kept out Schlupp’s shot in the last minute of normal time. The additional half hour failed to produce a winner, so it went to the lottery that is the shoot-out. Dyer, Howard, Abe, Danns, St Ledger and Pantsil all scored for Leicester, as did Naylor, Earnshaw, Cowie, Conway Kiss and Gestede for Cardiff. Then, at 6-6, Fernandes missed, leaving it to Quinn to play the hero’s role.
Sven-Goran Eriksson, in familiar mode, said: “It’s a pity to lose, but it was a good performance, a good football match and we’re back on Sunday to try again.”
Advantage Cardiff, psychologically? “I don’t think so,” said their manager, Malky Mackay. “We’ll have a different 11 guys out there against us then, so this will count for nothing.”
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