Eagles showed just how much they have improved since Bluebirds semi-final woe
3:24pm Tuesday 8th April 2014 in Sport
Eagles columnist WILL TAYLOR reflects on how Saturday’s 3-0 win at Cardiff shows how far Palace have come since their tame 2012 League Cup semi-final display at the same stadium.
I was in Cardiff two years ago when Palace suffered their demoralising defeat in the League Cup semi-final.
I can remember feeling incredibly apprehensive even before the prospect of a penalty shoot-out, spilling most of my pre-match pint in an attempt to drown my nerves.
Upon taking my seat I could sense the boisterous home support enclosed around us, emitting a relentless chorus of noise that created a truly intimidating atmosphere.
As a result the Eagles retreated into their shell, failing to muster a single shot on target during 120 minutes of football and fluffing all but one of their penalties.
The contrast between the two teams that day could not have been more extreme but on Saturday it was clear the tables have now turned.
Palace exhibited a unique blend of discipline, confidence and old-fashioned camaraderie which embodies the bullish presence of Tony Pulis on the touchline.
Alongside him Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked lost in his cocoon of inexperience, failing to inspire the same impact from the bench as he did during his time at Manchester United.
Up in the stands, Vincent Tan is the latest example of a revered businessman who has blissfully ignored supporters as he searches for short-term solutions with ruthless decision making.
The fact his club don't know whether they are red or blue at the moment optimised the disparity in stability between Cardiff and Crystal Palace.
While Steve Parish and co have certainly made mistakes, they have done so with the club's best interest at heart, which has enabled them to rely on an unwavering level of support from fans.
And this proved to be a vital difference on Saturday.
As the away end serenaded Pulis' players and the returning Wilf Zaha, the home support grew increasingly frustrated and annoyance soon bubbled over into anger.
Pulis was keen to take advantage of this potentially poisonous atmosphere, instructing his players to slow the tempo down and neutralise all of Cardiff's early momentum.
The plan worked to perfection, minus a five-minute spell when the eager-to-impress Zaha made Joel Ward look decidedly average, before Cardiff slowly but surely lost all belief.
Once again Scott Dann and Damien Delaney calmly dealt with every intruding ball which entered their box, while sentinels Kagisho Dikcagoi and Mile Jedinak racked up yet more steals, blocks and interceptions.
Further afield Jason Puncheon is back to his blossoming best, eager to take people on and pull the trigger as soon as an opportunity arises.
Pulis reserved special praise for my man of the match Joe Ledley, who calmly went about winning the midfield battle in a truly professional Premier League performance.
Such was his display of professionalism I initially thought his goal had been disallowed, as his deadpan celebration refused to rub salt into Cardiff's gaping wound.
Marouane Chamakh returned to the fray as a second half substitute and set about showcasing his portfolio of tricks, intricate touches and brilliant hold-up play.
Such attributes are standard protocol at a club like Arsenal, but for a team battling relegation they are a rare commodity and I will cherish them until the day Chamakh deservedly moves onwards and upwards in the footballing world.
I can only hope a win this weekend against Aston Villa effectively ensures our survival and attracts more talented talisman to Selhurst Park in the summer.
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