The game was live on Setanta, had extensive highlights twice on ITV so there will be few who haven't seen it or read 1 of 100 other reports out there but here's another. The game had a Sunday 1:30pm kick-off but Canton pubs obliged by opening at 10am, most were pretty full by 11 and packed by midday and there was a mood of definite optimism although many believed there would be a replay or wanted it anyway. When Setanta's coverage stated an hour before the game, the packed cries of "w**ker" and massed boos burst out in The Napier as their studio guest was Robbie Fowler who was even asking Dave Jones questions too.
Walking to Ninian Park in good time (for a change!), punters were gutted to discover that the matchday programmes were sold out long before kick-off. How difficult is it to produce enough programmes when you know what the crowd will be?
The connections were many and various. Ex-City man Aaron Ramsey with Arsenal men ex-Arsenal man Jay Bothroyd and coach Terry Burton with City, that legendary 1927 F.A. Cup Final win, Arsenal's last ever F.A. Cup tie at Highbury 3 years ago being against Cardiff City now this was possibly Ninian Park's last ever cup game too.
Ninian Park was swaying with 20,000 punters but unlike recent Premiership visitors Leeds (well they were at the time), West Ham and Spurs, The Gunners insisted on their full allocation which gave them the entire Grange End. As they had it, City gave them a full 4,200 tickets meaning the visitors had over 20% of the crowd while Cardiff's fans in a game they could have sold out a few times over was restricted to season ticket holders, sponsors and less than 1,000 others who had attended the most home league games this term. It has to be said, Arsenal didn't make the most of a rare day on the terraces, only occasionally being heard and never loudly while the loss of that area never quite produced the same atmosphere from City either despite three sides of the ground belting out anthems a number of times.
Dave Jones had only one change from what is now their regular side and that was forced as Peter Whittingham tweaked a hamstring putting him out for upto 3 weeks (why are City getting so many hamstring problems?) and allowing ex-Rangers man Chris Burke to make his home bow with a starting place. I bet I wasn't the only one who thought he was going to be taller than he was.
CARDIFF CITY: Enckleman; McNaughton-Johnson-Gypes-Kennedy; Burke-Rae-Ledley-Parry; Bothroyd-McCormack. With 7 subs allowed in the F.A. Cup, I'm not sure if City's bench was big enough but it contained Heaton-Blake-Capaldi-Comminges-Johnson(Eddie)-McPhail-Purse.
Arsene Wenger made 5 changes from the side that won 3-1 at Hull in the Premiership last weekend but included a fair number of his stars as he stopped well short of throwing on the kids, a habit of his in Cup matches. Surely out of respect for Cardiff City but undoubtedly because he is facing some pressure after 4 Trophy-less seasons and the F.A. Cup is his only realistic target for this term. I was a tad disappointed to see Arsenal in yellow rather than their famed red shirts ... or was it amber as they struggled to get going?
ARSENAL: Fabianski; Sagna-Toure-Djourou-Gibbs; Eboue-Song-Ramsey-Nasri; Van Persie-Bendtner. Their subs bench wasn't bad either - Almunia-Adebayor-Denilson-Diaby-Gallas-Vela-Wilshire.
The place was bouncing at the start and that intensified as City made a magnificent high tempo, high up the pitch, dominant opening and carved chance after chance. As mentioned, that opening spell produced 5 clear openings and they really should have taken at least one, if not two, of them but have to reflect that they never even tested Fabianski in the Arsenal goal.
Those chances then. The first opening came just past 5 minutes as Joe Ledley swept the ball right to left on the edge of the box, Chris Burke cut inside one defender but a lunging Arsenal defender managed to block his goal-bound shot also surviving handball appeals. Shortly afterwards, one of two best chances arrived as Joe Ledley swung over a beautiful cross beating the last defender and Ross McCormack glanced a header wide of the far post, it seemed as if he didn't expect to get the ball and didn't get his positioning right.
Next build up play and a classy McCormack back-heel gave Joe sight at goal but he hit tamely into Fabianski's grateful arms and then fired over first time on the turn meeting a Parry cut-back cross. Jay Bothroyd who was troubling the visiting defence met a long ball with a flicked header and McCormack shot inches wide of the far post with an angled effort that Fabianski didn't move for, I'm not sure he really knew it was missing. Then the best chance of all as Paul Parry who was about the only Cardiff player that hadn't got into the contest almost burst down the left but then profited as Sagna hit him with a clearance, he cut inside him and another defender to have clear sight of goal 15 yards out but hit his effort over the bar.
Arsenal were on the ropes at this point and a goal for Cardiff didn't seem far away but the visitors managed to ride the storm and make headway of their own although nearly always through counter-attacking fast breaks rather than measured, quality football and even then, they found City's defence in dominant mood. The only uncomfortable moment came when Peter Enckleman did really well to beat down a Nasri effort.
Arsenal pushed in the final 15 minutes but Gypes was in supreme form while Johnson, Kennedy and McNaughton all put in timely blocks or interceptions. It was a credit to them that the visitors were reduced to diving as Eboue put in an effort that got him 5.5 for technical merit, 6.0 for artistic impression and a yellow card from the ref.
Cardiff had the final say in a fairly pulsating first half with Chris Burke again appealing for handball inside the box as he shot after being set up by Mark Kennedy then Joe Ledley's follow up hit was blocked.
Half-time: CARDIFF CITY 0 ARSENAL 0
The game seemed set up for a storming 2nd half with City attacking the Grange End packed with Gunners and they started well with Paul Parry meeting a Bothroyd cross but failing to get power and direction as the ball went at Fabianski. However it never matched the intensity and tempo of the opening period and was quite the opposite as the went surprisingly quiet. Arsenal gained more of a foothold but it was a tribute to Cardiff's performance that Arsene Wenger was forced to bring on the big guns.
Before the hour, off came Aaron Ramsey seemingly overawed by his return to Ninian and completely overshadowed by Joe Ledley. That should help cement City's current asking price for Captain Joe! Rambo thought he was still a Bluebird as he uncharacteristically passed to Blue shirts, if not out of play, a few times. 5 minutes later, on came the towering Adebayor, I never realised he was such an imposing giant of a man but still Johnson, Gypes and co were first to crosses and balls played in.
In the final quarter, Arsenal created a couple of chances but Enckleman, excellent throughout, was equal to shots by Van Persie who was the only Arsenal man to impress me and then a disappointing Nasri but City came closest as Ross McCormack shot from 25 yards which forced Fabianski into a sprawling save just turned behind.
The closing minutes saw Tony Capaldi replace Chris Burke for only his 2nd outing this season and Jay Bothroyd limp away for Eddie Johnson much to the amusement of the crowd starting an ironic "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" chant. In between, both sides had a let off.
First Adebayor scuffed a clear opening at goal from 8 yards which you'd back him to convert 99 times out of 100 - even Eddie Johnson would have netted that one - and Ross McCormack came closest of anyone with a 25 yard free-kick that dipped and swerved superbly but bounced behind off the top of the crossbar producing a 15,000 strong "aaaaarrrrrggggghhh" as heads collectively fell into hands. There would have been no way back for The Gunners had it gone in.
Both sides seemed resigned for the replay and if there was any doubt of that, there was the surprising sight of Joe Ledley advancing down the wing in added time but running the ball into the corner to kill the game.
Both sides were warmly applauded off. City fans disappointed with the way the game fizzled out but immensely proud and happy with how they comfortably held Arsenal. The Gunners haven't lost at home in 26 F.A. Cup games so it's an enormous challenge for City at The Emirates but they've showed they can cause problems and I'm sure they will again next week.
Report from FootyMad
Arsenal failed to overcome last season's beaten FA Cup finalists after a goalless fourth round stalemate with Championship side Cardiff City at Ninian Park.
The Bluebirds had new signing Chris Burke making his debut in place of the injured Peter Whittingham, while former City player Aaron Ramsey began for the Gunners.
Jay Bothroyd beat two Arsenal defenders in the fouth minute to force a corner and then Robin van Persie beat the offside trap at the other end but was unable to get his cross over.
Ramsey was in the thick of the action for the Gunners and one clever pass sent Emmanuel Eboue through on goal but he was pulled up for offside.
In the tenth minute, a superb cross from Joe Ledley was headed wide by Ross McCormack as City took the game to the visitors.
Four minutes later, a snap-shot from McCormack went just wide of the far post and then Ledley and Paul Parry both went close as the Bluebirds looked for the all important opening goal.
Six minutes before the break, van Persie hit a weak shot straight at Peter Enckelman, but after City had strong claims for handball turned down, the Gunners broke away only for Nicklas Bendtner to have a shot blocked by Roger Johnson.
Five minutes into the second half, a Parry header went straight to Lukasz Fabianski and then in typical fashion the Gunners broke away at speed.
A van Persie free-kick whistled past the post as a warning to the Bluebirds, who immediately went back down field only for Burke to waste the cross.
Ramsey left the field to a standing ovation to be replaced by Abou Diaby and on the hour McCormack flashed in a shot that Fabianski dived to push behind.
Emmanuel Adebayor entered the fray in the 66th minute and his first touch brought panic in the City defence but Kevin McNaughton cleared the danger.
The introduction of Diaby put Arsenal on top and Samir Nasri fired in a shot that Enckelman went to his left to gather.
A superb free-kick from McCormack three minutes from time crashed against the top of the Arsenal crossbar but the game deservedly ended all-square.
Cardiff City Official Website
Arsenal Official Website
South Wales Echo