Advantage Palace in Cup-tie

It was first blood to Crystal Palace in their Carling Cup semi-final with Cardiff City – but the job is only half done.

Anthony Gardner’s close-range header just before half-time was enough to give his Palace side the narrowest of football scores going into the second leg at the Cardiff City Stadium in two weeks’ time. Palace boss Dougie Freedman is confident his side will progress to the final at Wembley.

He said: “We have a team set up to win away from home. We’ll go there quietly confident and it’ll be a very interesting game.”

Palace had to do it the hard way after a virus ripped through the squad earlier in the week. Nathaniel Clyne and Dean Oxley were too ill to take part in the clash at Selhurst Park, while Paddy McCarthy and Mile Jedinak struggled through the game, the soccer betting was siding with the visitors ahead of kick-off.

Cardiff started the brighter of the two sides and created the best chances in the opening exchanges. However, Palace weathered the storm and gained a foothold in the game. They went into the break 1-0 up thanks to Gardner’s header.

The Bluebirds were left to rue a decision by referee Mike Dean just before the hour mark. Kenny Miller thought he had equalised, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni by Joe Mason.

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay couldn’t hide his disappointment as his side went on to lose the game. He questioned Dean’s decision to rule out Miller’s header.

“He’s had an absolute howler. Anyone that will see the pictures will probably tell you that. Not one of our players has gone anywhere near the goalkeeper, which is what he’s suggested the foul was for,” he said.

The tie is intriguingly poised going into the return leg on January 24.

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