| Cardiff 1 Leeds United 0
Championship, February 17 2007
"...9 is the magic number..."
With Leeds facing almost certain relegation, this was always going to be an interesting and eventful game - little did we know. The catalyst for Leeds' catastrophic self-destruction can, of course, be precisely pinpointed to 5.42 on Sunday January 6th 2002, the moment when Scott Young bundled in a scuffed shot past Paul "Whoops" Robinson and promptly showed Leeds the exit door of the FA Cup.
They've been dropping like an anvil down a well ever since. Spicing up this league encounter today was the knowledge that the man putatively in charge of the out-of-control Leeds juggernaut as it careered down the hill towards bankruptcy was Peter "Who Me?" Ridsdale.
And despite this being a 'bubble' fixture for Leeds, a decent away following ensured that the atmosphere was noisy and pumped-up from the off.
But what a game! A game very definitely of three halves. For the first 45 minutes Cardiff were clueless - disjointed, disconnected, disappointing in the extreme.
The supposedly floundering Leeds team ran the Bluebirds ragged, and could have swaggered off at half-time 3-0 up, had their finishing not been so wasteful, and the defending by Johnson, Gilbert and McNaughton in particular not been so heroically stout.
Dave Jones had double-bluffed his opponents by placing McNaughton in the centre of defence alongside the stalwart Roger Johnson, despite telling a few pre-match porkies that former Leeds player Simon Walton would be occupying that space. Sensing the imminent confirmation of their relegation, Leeds went at it like men possessed.
Stripped of their rock-like central defensive pairing of Loovens and Purse, Cardiff were initially all over the shop all over the pitch, and failed to settle for a good half hour.
As half time approached, the passes started coming together, and Cardiff began to look like the team squaring up for a promotion battle. A free kick on 44 minutes just outside the area was heaven-sent for Michael Chopra, and the Chopmeister didn't disappoint, yet another perfectly flighted strike over the Leeds wall made it three clinical free kick strikes in successive home games, laying waste to the recent goal drought having now scored seven goals in the last five, taking his seasonal tally to an impressive 19.
Chopra's inadvisable comments about pursuing his career in the Premiership next season with or without Cardiff City were put to one side - the folly of youth and all that.
With that one strike everything changed. Buoyed up by a Dave Jones rollicking, second half CCFC were transformed, and threatened to destroy the visiting Yorkshiremen. Leeds, on the other hand, collapsed.
The Cardiff fans sensed an important victory was about to be theirs to savour and responded in magnificent fashion - they were terrific in the second half, and the players kicked on with a fine team effort which kept Leeds pegged back in their own half for much of the opening 15 minutes.
Calamity struck on the 66 minute mark, when a raised arm from Chopra threatened to decapitate the challenging Leeds substitute Foxe. It was unfortunate, and by no means malicious, but in the cold light of a slo-mo replay, it was difficult to see what else the ref could do. Chops walks and the crowd collectively groan as they contemplate going into the most difficult run of matches of the season without the club's three best players. More importantly, for now, would they survive for half an hour with 10 men?
After that bombshell, elation briefly touched down as a penalty was awarded to Cardiff for a blatant hand ball by Kandol. For some obscure reason, referee Clattenburg kept his red in his pocket, and the fans watched expectantly as Thompson ran confidently up to stroke a fine dead ball which keeper Ankergren did supremely well to save. Leeds fans erupted, and the game entered an even more manic phase as Leeds tried desperately to claw their way back, and Cardiff tried equally hard to bury the game.
A tendency to sit back, whilst understandable in the circumstances, nearly proved to be the Bluebirds' undoing, as Leeds piled forward in a dramatic attempt to take numerical advantage. Cardiff's makeshift defence stuck to their task doggedly, and chewed up and spat out everything Leeds could throw at them, even after the introduction of dynamic duo Cresswell and Healy.
Having steadied the ship following Chopra's dismissal, Bluebirds were left banging their heads against the terrace wall as "idiosyncratic" ref Clattenburg then compounded his earlier aberrations by sending off already-booked Walton for what he clearly regarded as a dive. Looked dubious to all but those from Elland Road, but the stage was set for a blistering ten minute Alamo style finale. Cardiff held firm to register a triumphant victory, a superb defensive display denying Leeds the point they so desperately craved.
It was an awesome performance, yet another "best of the season", and may yet prove to be a vital three points as the promotion bandwagon enters its final frenetic phase. Cardiff drop down to seventh (or joint fourth) but have a great opportunity to push on at the Hawthorns on Tuesday, then leapfrog stuttering Preston in Friday night's game at NP.
A fiercely contested, entertaining game today showed that our boys have got melon-sized cojones and are more than up for the promotion challenge. This was a titanic display from every last one of them - the pride and pleasure on their faces as they saluted the crowd spoke volumes.
Yet again, another so-called big club and their misbehaving supporters allowed their frustrations to boil over into aggressive confrontation as they tried to muscle their way past the thin yellow line separating them from the Deranged End. The spectacle of spotty little Leeds oiks tearing off their Stone Island tee shirts and flexing their flabby biceps, their faces contorted with rage, was plain pathetic. Let's hope the cameramen from SWPTV caught every second of it.
Cardiff's own lunkhead tendency also chose to occupy the moral low ground, having done their very best to enrage Leeds followers with taunts of ""Istanbul". Having sustained an unpleasant barracking from the Leeds supporters himself, DJ sent them on their way with a derisory "going down" gesture.
For Cardiff, still, the only way is up.
Paul Davies © 2007.
The red and yellow cards handed out today were in the main for nothing challenges.
At one stage I didn't know how many players I would end up with, but my players were magnificent.
If you are not good enough for the Premiership then you shouldn't referee in the Championship
Dave Jones, Cardiff manager.
Cardiff: Alexander, Gilbert (Gunter 46), Ledley, Johnson, Walton, McNaughton, Whittingham, McPhail, Parry, Chopra, Thompson (Byrne 89)..
Subs Not Used:: Flood, Forde, Redan.
Sent Off: Chopra (66), Walton (84).
Booked: Thompson, Chopra, Walton.
Goals: Chopra 45.
Leeds: Ankergren, Armando Sa, Rui Marques (Foxe 41), Heath, Douglas, Westlake (Cresswell 60), Lewis, Nicholls, Moore, Kandol, Blake (Healy 60).
Subs Not Used: Stack, Howson..
Booked: Foxe, Kandol, Nicholls.
» BBC report
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