Cardiff City 0 Portsmouth 2. Match Report

Last updated : 10 November 2004 By NigelBlues

Two Yakubu goals in the opening 9 minutes of the second half separated the sides.

Cardiff reached this stage entirely on the road thanks to penalty shoot out wins at Kidderminster and at Bournemouth and dishing out a pasting to MK Dons in the land of the concrete cow. Pompey got here by scrapping out single goal wins at Tranmere and then home to Leeds.

At stake was a place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup (The Carling Cup), a level City last reached in 1966, only Lennie Lawrence was alive then! It was a major chance of glory. The chance was realistic, especially with Pompey winning just 2 of their last 25 away league matches, and the incentive was also a high probability of a match up with a Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea.

What an incentive, what an opportunity but it seems someone forgot to let City know that as they never found the tempo, passion or fight. It was very sad to see a side who hit the highs in their last home displays against Leicester and Leeds look so very flat and lacklustre.
Both teams were forced into changes for different factors. The headline was that Pompey recalled Gary O’Neill early from an outstanding loan spell with City. He would have been cup tied if he was still with Cardiff, it would have been tough on him to play against us 72 hours after playing for us. It was maybe best for all, perhaps diplomatic, that a tight hamstring suffered at Rotherham stopped him from being involved in the game at all.

An eager and fit again Willie Boland stepped in whilst there was one surprise as the on-loan and cup tied Darren Williams was not replaced by Rhys Weston, as many expected, but Tony Vidmar. The starting line up was Warner, Vidmar-Boland-Kavanagh-Barker, McAnuff-Boland-Kavanagh-Ledley, Lee-Parry.

Pompey went from one extreme of an outstanding 2-0 win against Manchester United 10 days ago to the other with a 3-0 thumping at Aston Villa last weekend, a game in which they were awful. On top of that, their injury list (which prompted the recall of O’Neill) was long with the likes of Steve Stone, Patrik Berger, Eyal Berkovic, Levoy Primus, Nigel Quashie, Todorov and at least three others including O’Neill. Finally, same as when City played sides from lower divisions in earlier rounds, Harry Redknapp wanted to rotate slightly and give some lesser lights a run out. Still, what's the problem when one of their lesser lights is the £600k Cameroon international, Cisse?

Redknapp chose a side of Ashdown, Unsworth-DeZeeuz-Stefanovic-Griffin, Mezague-Cisse-Faye-Taylor, Yakubu-LuaLua. In general, they looked a big, physical side and they played to their strengths. There also showed the difference between a decent Premiership side and one playing catch up in the Championship as the movement was crisp, one touch and sometimes instinctive. City's play often seemed far more deliberate, they always wanted an extra touch and moves broke down often through their own failings.

Lennie and Harry Redknapp faced each other and shook hands. If they were painted yellow and green respectively, it would have looked like Monty Burns from The Simpsons meeting Shrek! The scene was excellent for cup football, a very mild November evening, a decent but slightly disappointing official crowd of 13,555 but which included over 1,200 from Pompey making great noise - and a complete pain constantly ringing a bell.

Their turnout, I thought, was pretty decent for a game arranged less than 2 weeks ago, especially given that we are hardly the most glamorous opponents they will face this term but their vocal backing for their team was excellent. In fairness though, they had plenty more to sing about, City rarely gave us reason to get the whole ground chanting them on.…

City, overall, weren't poor and most players came out of it with credit. However it is always disappointing to see your team go out of a cup with barely a whimper. It is increasingly difficult to beat any Premiership side these days, the gulf keeps getting bigger, but I couldn't help feeling we showed the visitors a little too much respect and just did not get our normal game going. A shame really as I feel the outcome could have been different if we had.

The opening half-hour of the game and the last half-hour were instantly forgettable and a disappointing spectacle, all the key action came within the 15 minute periods each side of half-time.

The first half was an even affair and suggested it was anyone's game. Both sides started slowly as they seemed to be working each other out. Pompey however were shading the midfield battle as City seemed to have their balance wrong. Kav and Boland were being overshadowed.

Kav, not for the first time, issued the pre-match war cries but never backed it up with his own personal performance. It was a throwback to his early season form rather than his recent showings. He looked injured but I assume he wasn't as he was flat and one-paced, playing too deep, passing sideways and backwards, often getting caught out and every time he got forward a little, his passing was cut out. The equation is quite simple really. Like him or not, Kav playing well means City playing well, Kav being off his game has us struggling, he plays such a pivotalrole in the side.

I was also half tearing my hair out watching Kav playing behind Willie Boland. That's Kav - the attacking central midfielder with the shot - playing the holding role and Boland - the natural holding player who rarely creates and never scores - playing the attacking role. How and why does our management set up allow that to happen?

A couple of early chances fell Portsmouth's way. LuaLua, the best player on the field and a constant thorn to us, hit a ball across the face of goal at speed and narrowly past Warner's post - ironically after Kav lost possession by being near motionless near halfway and then being guilty of ball watching as he didn't put a foot in with two opportunities to get it back. Matt Taylor blasted an effort narrowly high and wide. Taylor, an alleged friend of Will Young, getting a few wolf whistles every time he touched the ball but none more than when he bent over to place the ball down for a corner kick.

Portsmouth seemed to have City well sussed in these opening exchanges, Cardiff's only effort in the opening 30 minutes was a speculative pot shot from an off balance Tony Vidmar that was at least 15 yards wide. In the final 15 minutes, City suddenly raised hopes as they got some momentum going forward.

Paul Parry cleverly tricked and turned a defender in the area but his angled shot was straight at Ashdown. Alan Lee get Ashdown a little more work to do as, following excellent build-up play, he turned on the edge of the area and hit a rising shot that Ashdown had to dive to stop. Willie Boland so nearly broke through when clever play through the middle sent him in but the ball didn't fall kindly and Unsworth scrambled away. City also won a couple of corners, sent crosses over as we started causing problems but we didn't quite have it in and around the penalty box, there was no end product. At the other end, LuaLua brought a good stop out of Warner.

The end of the half gave hope. Warner had been very well protected and had nothing to do, Ashdown was the much busier keeper without having to face anything truly worrying. The feeling already however was that whoever scored first would win but it was also likely it could go all the way to extra-time and penalties.

Half-time: CITY 0 POMPEY 0

Whatever plans City made went completely out of the window just 90 seconds after the restart with Pompey taking the lead. The origin was classy as LuaLua dummied as lost the previously excellent Ginge Collins inside the penalty area and hit a ball across the face of goal. YAKUBU got in front of everyone and his shot saw Tony Warner make a truly unbelievable stop to tip the low shot up onto the crossbar but the ball came straight back at Pompey's leading scorer for the simplest of tap-ins. That was so harsh on Warner, if it had stayed out, we would still be talking about his awesome stop.

On 55 minutes, it was game over and again LuaLua was the initial destroyer. A quick pass found LuaLua one on one with Gabbidon, he skipped aside him and City were in real trouble. Portsmouth almost seemed to be walking the ball home as a mass of bodies only saw the ball get ever closer to goal but City got a touch, the ball was going away when Matt Taylor produced the most outrageous of dives but won a penalty.

I was too far away to know if he was tackled or touched but he wasn't in control of the ball and his dive was pure theatrics. The penalty was simplicity itself as Warner went the wrong way but even if he had chosen the right direction, YAKUBU's effort was far too good, hit high into the top right corner.

I'm afraid that was pretty much it. Game over. Portsmouth coasted through the final 35 minutes, City never seemed to have the spirit and belief that they could hit back and the football through the motions, at times resembling a training exercise, so flat and lacklustre for a cup tie with a quarter-final place on offer. The main contest now seemed to be a "sing off" between City and Pompey fans in The Grange End, the visitors won that one too.

There were some moments from City. McAnuff saw one effort flyover, Parry's pace and trickery produced a couple of great moments and Alan Lee should have perhaps scored when a high cross gave him a header in front of goal which he cushioned over but we all know that his heading is a definite weakness.

Jerome Cameron and Lee Bullock came on for the final 20 minutes, Bullock instantly adding a more attacking flavour to City's play whilst Kav didn't wait to see his number before running off, again suggesting he may have had a slight knock. When Stuart Fleetwood replaced Paul Parry for the final 10 minutes, it was as much to do with giving the youngster a run out as a last throw of the dice and much of the home support drifted home.

Danny Gabbidon won sponsors man of the match and he did do well even though he wasn't quite at his best, Collins had an outstanding first half but will have to look at if he could have prevented both goals. Tony Vidmar carried on where he left off before suspension, looking jaded and a shadow of the player he was last term, Weston can't have been happy not claiming the right sided defensive berth.

Willie did really well in midfield but the Kav/Boland partnership rarely shakes up trees, it doesn't appear instinctive and natural and the loss of Gary O'Neill in this department is going to have a big effect on City's style of play and attacking armoury. Ledley had a quiet game, McAnuff more so but they were a little starved of service whilst Pompey did their homework too. Paul Parry did really well again when he saw the ball but Lee was disappointing in the way he played with his back to goal all night, couldn't hold or lay off the ball and allowed himself to be bullied a little but Portsmouth had strong defenders.

A night to look forward to became a night to forget really. Still, now we can concentrate on our Premiership challenge! Or maybe I should have said the continued battle to get away from the drop zone. Next up is leaders Reading away this weekend, life doesn't get any easier.

Report from FootyMad

A double whammy within ten minutes of the start of the second half sent Premiership Portsmouth through to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup. Dangerman Yakubu was on hand to open the scoring in the 47th minute and he added a second from the spot eight minutes later.

The Bluebirds were forced to make two changes with Tony Vidmar replacing the cup-tied Darren Williams and Willie Boland taking over in midfield from Gary O'Neil.

Harry Redknapp paid City the compliment of putting out a strong side packed with Premiership experience.

Their front two of Lomano LuaLua and Yakubu had the home defence stretched from the start and a shot from LuaLua skimmed across the face of Tony Warner's goal before drifting wide.

City's first strike on target came midway through the half when a long ball from James Collins was headed into the path of Paul Parry, but his was shot was safely gathered by Jamie Ashdown.

The Bluebirds had settled well and in the 28th minute a snap-shot from Alan Lee forced Ashdown to his knees to save and two minutes later Boland raced through the middle, but David Unsworth deflected the ball for a fruitless corner.

LuaLua and Yakubu were dangerous when Portsmouth broke away and the former Newcastle striker flashed in a shot that had Warner scampering across the goal-line.

Pompey took just two minutes of the second half to take the lead. LuaLua beat Collins down the right flank and his cross was pushed on to the bar by Warner but Yakubu was on the spot to knock the loose ball home.

Portsmouth went further ahead in the 55th minute with the award of a penalty. Graham Kavanagh went into block Matthew Taylor and an outrageous dive from the visitors' midfielder resulted in the referee pointing to the spot. Yakubu coolly put away the penalty to Warner's left.

With the game now safe Portsmouth could relax and play the ball about and the Bluebirds were left relying on occasional breakaways.

Alan Lee sent a header flying over the bar from a Parry cross, but the Bluebirds ended up living off scraps as Pompey closed the game down.

External reports
The Times
Western Mail