Archive for FA Cup

They don’t make FA Cup finals like these any more..

Posted in Football with tags , , , on May 5, 2012 by telescoper

You have to go back to the 1950s – before even I was born – for the last time my own team won the FA Cup, but they did win it three times in that decade, including in 1952 when they were watched at Wembley by the new Queen Elizabeth II. Sixty years on we’re approaching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but I don’t think Her Majesty is watching. Neither am I, in fact, because the FA moved back the kick-off to 5.15 from the traditional 3pm. Sacrilege.

P.S. The score in the 1955 FA Cup Final was Newcastle United 3 Manchester City 1. Fans of Manchester United will be hoping that there’s a similar result in tomorrow’s Premiership match between the same two clubs!

Match Day

Posted in Biographical, Sport with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by telescoper

Unusually for a saturday, I’ve been a bit busy today and I’m also going out later, so I’ll refrain from one of my discursive weekend posts and keep it brief (but not necessarily to any particular point).

Today, of course, is the date of Wales’ first home match in this year’s RBS Six Nations Rugby competition. They lost to England 30-17 last week (at Twickenham) largely because of a bit of indiscipline by Alan Wyn Jones who got himself sent off the field for ten minutes after tripping an England player. England forged ahead during the time Wales were down to 14 men and although Wales fought back later on I thought England deserved to win. It wasn’t, however, a very good game to watch.

The scene was thus set for a home game for Wales in Cardiff  today against Scotland (who lost at home to France last week). It’s really impossible to describe how special it is to be in this city when Wales are playing rugby. The Millennium Stadium can hold about 75,000 which is large compared to Cardiff’s population of around 330,000. The Scottish fans, easily identified by the kilts and the smell of alcohol, were out on the townin large numbers last night. No doubt many of them woke with substantial hangovers this morning, but it has been a beautiful sunny day and the sight of the Scots – blue and tartan – mixing with the Welsh – red and green with a liberal sprinkling of dragons- was marvellous to see as I walked around this morning running a few errands.

The atmosphere in town was just sensational, unique to Cardiff, and enough to make you just want to walk around and soak it up. Actually, enough to make you wish you had a ticket for the match too, which unfortunately I didn’t. Still, it was live on TV.

When I got home the crowds were already walking down past my house towards the stadium, which is only a mile or so away,  for the 2pm kickoff. Among them was the sizeable frame of legendary Welsh rugby hero JPR Williams. He’s quite  old now – a quick look on wikipedia reveals that he was born in 1949 – but he hasn’t changed much at all since his heyday in the 1970s.  Taller than I had imagined.

Anyway, I did a little gardening in the sunshine just before the match started and, standing outside, I could hear the sound of Land of my Fathers being sung before the kickoff all the way from the Stadium. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Tremendous.

The match itself was strangely disjointed to begin with but ended in extremely exciting fashion. Wales playing surprisingly poorly in the first half and Scotland surprisingly well. Wales appeared nervous and a bit disorganised and the two Scottish tries both involved defensive errors by the Welsh. The half-time score of  Wales 9 Scotland 18 was not what I would have expected before the start of the game, but was a fair reflection of the balance of play at that point.

The second half initially followed a similar pattern, Scotland edging 21-9 ahead at one point,  but Wales gradually crept back into it. However, it was a yellow card for a Scottish infringement that led to Wales gaining enough momentum to claw their way back to 21-24 with a try created by Shane Willians and scored by Leigh Halfpenny. Then, with less than a minute to play,  Scotland lost another player for a cynical piece of foul play that prevented another Welsh try. Wales decided to take the penalty kick to tie the game at 24-24 with just 40 seconds left. The Scots restarted with only 13 men on the field and only seconds left to play, hoping to run down the clock and finish with a draw. However the Welsh were scenting an unlikely victory and the Scots were very tired. The Welsh managed to keep the ball alive – the next dead ball would have been the end of the game – and, unbelievably, Shane Williams popped in to score a try. The match ended Wales 31 Scotland 24.

It wasn’t the best rugby I’ve ever seen in terms of quality, but it’s definitely the most dramatic final ten minutes! I’m not sure the referee was right to allow the restart after the kick to level it at 24-24 as it seemed to me the time was up then. I’m sure the rugby fans in Cardiff  tonight won’t be quibbling, though. The city will be buzzing tonight!

Today was also the day for two important footall matches. In the FA Cup, Cardiff City travelled to Premiership leaders Chelsea and, predictably, got thrashed 4-1. The other match that interested me was Swansea City versus Newcastle United in the Championship. That finished 1-1, a result I was happy with since Swansea are playing well and Newcastle had lost in feeble fashion 3-0 away at Derby County earlier in the week. They go back top, if only by one point.

All in all, a most satisfactory day, and it’s not over yet. Tonight I’m off to the Opera (for the first time in what seems like ages). So guess what tomorrow’s post will be about….

Cardiff City 1 Bristol City 0

Posted in Football with tags , , on January 19, 2010 by telescoper

It seems like ages since my last football blog post, but tonight has provided me with another opportunity. My local team, Cardiff City, was drawn against Bristol City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. This promised to be quite a tasty fixture because Bristol City are the nearest English club to Cardiff and there’s consequently something of a local rivalry between the two. A couple of weekends ago I settled down to watch the match (away at Bristol) on the television, as it was shown live on welsh channel S4C. Unfortunately, the snow descended, the pitch froze and the game was postponed. When eventually played the result was 1-1 which meant, under FA Cup rules, a replay at the team initially drawn as the away side. Hence tonight’s fixture.

Cup ties like this often generate their own special kind of atmosphere, but it would be an exaggeration to say that this happened this evening. The attendance was pathetically small (only 6,731), partly because it was a very cold night and partly because the game was again being shown live on S4C. I left in good time from my house in P0ntcanna and found that it took me only 15 minutes from my front door until I was taking my seat in the stadium at Ninian Park. I’m certainly well placed for sporting venues where I live: football, rugby and cricket all within a quarter of an hour’s walk from my house!

The game started unimpressively. Both teams seemed lethargic, they were reluctant to press the ball in midfield, the quality of passing was poor and there were no clear-cut chances at either end. Then, after about 30 minutes, Cardiff’s teenage midfielder Aaron Wildig (who has just broken into the first team) picked up an injury and was replaced by Michael Chopra. This made a big difference to Cardiff’s attacking play and from then on they looked the more likely to score. Nevertheless it was an undistinguished first half which ended predictably at 0-0.

I warmed myself with a pint of ice-cold beer during the interval, and the game started again with Cardiff playing at a better tempo than in the first half. Although it was still a rather scrappy game, it started to get a bit stretched and both teams managed to string a few passes together and find a bit of space. Cardiff probed and made half-chances, but still didn’t look particularly likely to score primarily because they don’t have a particularly clinical finisher in the team, Chopra’s sporadic contributions notwithstanding. Thir best chances came when the Bristol City goalkeeper tried one of his speciality fumbles or botched clearance kicks. His name, by the way, was Gerken which sounded like gherkin on the public address; on a cold and frustrating evening this provided much-needed amusement.

Because the 4th round ties are being played this coming weekend, this game had to reach a conclusion tonight. I was beginning to worry we would have to sit through extra time and penalties, but at least I knew the ball would have to hit the back of the net at some point. I girded my teeth and gritted my loins for the long haul, wishing I had worn my thermal underwear too.

However, my fears turned out to be ill-founded. About 75 minutes into the game, Whittingham’s excellent pass found Chopra in space wide on Bristol City’s left inside the penalty area. The angle looked very tight, but he did brilliantly well to fire in a low shot that sped across the face of the goal. The danger seemed to have passed when it cannoned off the far post but, fortunately for Cardiff, the ball bounced off the woodwork into the path of the Bristol City defender Bradley Orr. I don’t know whether he was trying to put the ball out of danger wide of the post for a corner or just trying to get out of its way, but the result was that he smashed it with considerable force into the back of his own net. It was quite a comical moment, but they all count.

From then on, it was all Cardiff. They had made a good decision to keep going forward rather than try to sit on their lead. They don’t look the best defensive team I’ve seen, by a long way. There were two chances after that for Cardiff to score again, including one really good one for Chopra which he missed when it looked easier to score. Chopra is an enigmatic player, sometimes brilliant, sometimes ordinary.

Bristol tried to get back into it, but didn’t really threaten and betrayed their feelings a bit with a string of wild tackles, many of which went unpunished by an extremely indulgent referee. After a very long 4 minutes of extra time, the referee finally decided to blow his whistle and send Cardiff City into the next round. They will play Leicester City in the 4th Round on saturday. I might go, if I get back from my travels in time…

OK, so it wasn’t the greatest game I’ve ever seen but I still think it’s a shame there were so few supporters there. Along with many football clubs, Cardiff City has quite a few financial problems at the moment but I think if they showed a bit of imagination they could get the fans a bit more on their side. These cup games are not covered by season tickets, so why not cut the price to get more people in? Surely it’s better for the team to have a bigger crowd paying smaller prices, than one that’s depressingly empty?

You can read the BBC report on the match here.