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Cardiff 2 Leeds United 1
FA Cup 3rd Round, 6th Jan 2002

Nigel Martyn is helpless to stop Kavanagh's free-kick
Nigel Martyn is helpless to stop Kavanagh's superb free-kick (Photo © BBC)

Take a deep breath, pour yourself another glass of cold frothy stuff, and read that first line again. Rub your eyes, pinch yourself, punch the air and read it again, open the front door, shout it down the street, phone a friend and then smile.

Can it seriously get any better than this ? Have you ever had a life-changing experience at a football match ? Have you ever cried at a football match ?

Have you ever seen your most insane dreams come true in front of your very eyes in the floodlights of Ninian Park ?

This was Billy's boots, Roy of the Rovers, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll all wrapped up in one heart-popping brain-shredding ninety minute sliver of sublime football ecstasy.


If you were there today, then you will begin to understand the kind of momentous afternoon we experienced.

The Bluebirds have wiped the floor with the top team in Britain, matching and besting them in every department, grinding their pampered perfumed Premiership butts into the dust and recording the most earth-shattering upset in recorded memory.

I'm trying not to get carried away here, but strap me down in an all-purpose restraining strait-jacket if this was not the single most impressive performance since the boys in blue did the Arsenal in 1927.

And let's not forget that this was no flukey freak result, but a hugely and completely deserved victory.

Every last one of the CCFC boys chased, hustled, harried and ran for every lung-bursting 50-50 challenge as if their lives depended upon it.


Not only did they outfight the visitors, but they also outplayed them, defending so solidly, breaking up attacks and then launching themselves forward with chest-expanding pride, young Robert Earnshaw splicing their defence almost at will.

And what a team to do it against. Who better to turn over and send blubbing back to their nouveau riche fake Edwardian Barrett houses than unsavoury specimens like Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate ?

It was obvious from 2 o'clock onwards that something a bit special was happening today. The pubs around the ground were crammed to capacity, there were so many alcoholic empties in the street as to suspect an impending beer shortage.

FA Cup day had taken Cardiff by storm, the cameras were here and the fans were up for it in a big way.

Inside the ground, the atmosphere built up impressively, despite all the efforts of the brain-dead DJ to poop the party by playing his Now That's What I Call Welsh Music Vol. 24 at maximum volume, attempting to drown out the chanting rolling around the stadium.


Somehow it all felt right, and despite the imposing Leeds team sheet, we were quietly confident. Were we buggery! In truth, we were hoping to escape a whitewash and perhaps sneak a draw to prolong the FA Cup action.

Leeds didn't take long to get into their stride, passing the ball about swiftly in attractive rhomboid shapes. City responded with style and aggression, in the case of Gavin Gordon perhaps a little too much aggression, as he went through on Rio Fedinand and all but amputated his leg, forcing an early substitution, with Duberry taking his place.

Soon after Leeds were one ahead, Viduka lashing home a twenty yard drive. Noise abatement officials momentarily moved into the Cardiff sections, but the Bluebirds fans were soon roaring on their team as they fought back in magnificent fashion, unfazed by the Leeds players, their reputation and their 1-0 lead, which would have crucified teams with less heart and bottle.


The equaliser arrived like a dove from above, a divine free kick from Graham Kavanagh, whose all-round game bestrode this contest like a colossus.

In a spooky echo of Blake's corker against Man City, Kav lashed in a peach of a free kick past the hapless Martyn. Watch out Roy Keane, the mighty Kav is after your place.

At 1-1, we looked good - solid, sharp and holding our shape, but one felt the tide was turning as soon as petulant Alan Smith got his marching orders. Oh how we chuckled. Game on.

From holding on to a mighty creditable draw, the feeling grew that this could mutate into something quite extraordinary. And finally it came - a scramble in the penalty area and local hero Scott Young whacked home the winner from 10 yards.

With only five minutes to go that had to be it. There had been a few hair-raising moments - in particular Young's titanic game-saving challenge on Viduka as he raced towards goal, but in all honesty the scares were few and far between. Not bad for a "fair to middling 2nd Division team", eh, David Lacey of The Guardian ?

Now we fear no-one. Sarfend or Tranmere here we come!

© Paul Davies 2002

Other reports:
Cardiff stun Leeds - BBC Sport
Cardiff's glorious day spoiled by a shower of missiles - Guardian
Match reports -

The new Nou Camp? (Observer) 06.Jan.02
Wales' new super-club (Observer) 06.Jan.02

Cardiff v Leeds crowd trouble - let's hear your opinions
Opinion by Sky commentator, Andy Gray, 7th Jan 2002

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