Filed: Monday, 7th May 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham are on their way to Wembley after depatching Cardiff City with consummate ease.
Malky Mackay's side, who finished the league campaign three places and some 11 points behind West Ham were simply no match for a rampart United side in front of a capacity crowd at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.
First half strikes from Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te and a last minute effort from substitute Nicky Maynard sent the Hammers through to the play-off Final - West Ham's first appearance at Wembley since 1981.
All the talk before the game had been of West Ham protecting their two-goal advantage, secured in the first leg at the Cardiff City Stadium last Thursday night.
But in the end those concerns were proved to be unwarranted as Sam Allardyce's side swept aside the challenge of Cardiff who, for the second successive game, were simply not at the races.
Such was West Ham's dominance that Rob Green made his first save of the game in the final minute of normal time. At the opposite end United racked up a string of chances and could quite easily have won by an even greater margin.
As it was they had to settle for just the three goals - although the visitors might complain that they were unlucky to be denied a penalty shout when Winston Reid appeared to trip Kenny Miller on the edge of the box with just ten minutes played.
Five minutes later and it was pretty much game over for Cardiff when Kevin Nolan pounced from virtually underneath the crossbar to give West Ham the lead from a Matt Taylor corner.
And any remaining doubts were firmly dispelled five minutes ahead of the interval when Ricardo Vaz Te scored an absolute belter that threatened to tear the net when he blasted home West Ham's second from some 15 yards or so.
Such was the Irons' dominance in that opening period that the lead could have been even more comprehensive - and would have been had City 'keeper David Marshall not managed to tip Gary O'Neil's 35th minute effort - a shot eerily reminiscent of Vaz Te's goal to come - around the post.
However there was little Marshall could so when O'Neil - who had looked like missing out on the play-offs altogether after sustaining an injury during the 2-1 over Hull City - found the crossbar with a clever volley from a Collison cross just after Nolan had given the home side the lead.
With the game in the bag and a place at Wembley assured the second half was a strange one with West Ham content to move the ball around the park without ever really threatening the Cardiff goal, much to the delight of the ebullient home crowd who at one stage cheered every pass.
Following a string of substitutions, including that of captain Nolan who left the field to a standing ovation - perhaps the first sign that he has finally been accepted by the Boleyn crowd - West Ham finally sealed the win in the last minute when substitute Nicky Maynard grabbed a third goal.
The former Bristol City striker combined beautifully with fellow sub Henri Lansbury before firing home beyond Marshall into the top far corner to put the icing n the cake on a wonderful day for West Ham.
The only black mark was a nasty injury to Jack Collison, who may now miss the Wembley showpiece after dislocating a shoulder. Sam Allardyce revealed after the game that although Collison's arm had just "popped back in" to place, he is now a serious doubt for the Final on May 19th.
Who West Ham will face a fortnight from now will be determined on Wednesday evening when Blackpool travel to Birmingham for the second leg of their semi-final with a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Bloomfield Road.
West Ham Utd 3 Cardiff City 0: match facts
West Ham Utd: Green, Demel, Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Noble, O'Neil, Nolan (McCartney 69), Vaz Te, Collison (Lansbury 48), Cole (Maynard 86).
Subs not used: Henderson, Faubert.
Goals: Nolan (15), Vaz Te (40), Maynard (90).
Booked: Reid (68).
Shots on/off target: 6/4 (10).
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton (Blake 81), Taylor, Hudson, Turner, Lawrence, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, McPhail (Cowie 76), Mason, Miller (Kiss 76).
Subs not used : Heaton, Earnshaw.
Booked: Miller (28), Hudson (50), Whittingham (80).
Shots on/off target: 2/3 (5).
Possession: West Ham Utd 54%; Cardiff City 46%.
Referee: Mike Dean (7).
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