Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham United
Thursday, 3rd May 2012
by Staff Writer
West Ham are 90 minutes away from Wembley after producing a thoroughly professional performance in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi final in Wales tonight.Two first half goals from Welsh international Jack Collison were enough to give Sam Allardyce's side a commanding lead to take into the second leg at the Boleyn Ground next Monday afternoon.
And should the Hammers avoid defeat they will book a first visit to Wembley since 1981 when John Lyall's underdogs held European Champions Liverpool to a 1-1 draw under the now defunct Twin towers.
Watford-born Collison, who qualifies for the Welsh international team through his grandfather struck in the 8th and 41st minutes of the opening period to send West Ham into the second leg with a huge advantage.
The first of his two goals came slightly against the run of play as Cardiff, looking to capitalise on their home advantage had started the game the stronger. Kenny Miller's 3rd minute effort was inches away from dipping underneath Rob Green's crossbar.
But the home crowd were silenced just five minutes later when Collison showed enough determination to get on the end of Ricardo Vaz Te's cross at the second attempt having seen Marshall avert his initial effort.
From there on the Hammers took full control of the first half with Cardiff failing to find their rhythm; Carlton Cole being particularly instrumental as the lynchpin of the attack despite receiving some rough treatment from the City defence.
Therefore it was no surprise when West Ham finally doubled their advantage four minutes ahead of the break when the 23-year-old midfielder scored a goal almost identical to that which proved to be the winner at Leicester recently.
Picking up a half-clearance some 30 yards from goal, the midfielder chested the ball down before firing a volley at goal that took a wicked deflection off former Portsmouth player Liam Lawrence, leaving 'keeper Marshall stranded.
Cardiff may feel slightly hard done by, but TV replays suggested the Collison's shot was goal bound anyway - albeit in the opposite side of David Marshall's goal.
Carlton Cole, outstanding throughout almost put the game beyond the home side in the final minute of the first half but a wonderful save from Marshall maintained a glimmer of hope for the Bluebirds.
Rejuvenated by the half time break, City gave their all in an attempt to claw their way back into the game but bar a good chance for the fairly anonymous Peter Whittingham - the home side's danger man - seconds after the restart, West Ham survived that all-important opening 15 minute period with consummate ease.
Thereafter both sides created several chances to add further goals; for Cardiff, Miller, Hudson and Mason missed from close range when they really should have tested Rob Green at the very least, whilst Nolan and Cole were both inches away from making the win an ever more comprehensive one for the visitors.
As it stands, the two sides pick up again next Monday afternoon with West Ham now overwhelming favourites to complete the job in hand.
Sam Allardyce, who once again got his tactics absolutely spot on will no doubt be hoping for more of the same in the second leg in front of a full house at the Boleyn Ground.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
Barely had a save to make. Made up for a couple of dodgy moments - one flapped-at cross and once poor clearance - by mocking the home support, who had chastised him throughout the game, at the final whistle.
A much better performance and no hint of the silly mistake that cost a goal the previous weekend against Hull.
A throughly professional performance at both full back in left midfield. Some of his deliveries frm the flank were a joy to witness.
Simply outstanding and a strong candidate for the forthcoming KUMB.com Player of the Season award. Strong inthe air and some perfectly-timed tackles on the ground.
It must have been a tough call for Sam Allardyce when deciding whether to recall Abdoulaye Faye - another strong cadidate for PotY - for this one. The fact that he wasn't missed in the slightest was testament to the young Kiwi who improves with every game.
The freshly-crowned Hammer of the Year completely nullified Cardiff's most dangrous player, Peter Whittingham, who barely had a sniff. An incredible mature performance from a lad who's still only 24.
A real captain's performance in the heart of the midfield. Constantly snapping away at the opposition and always in the referee's ear, the importance of his signing is perhaps only just beginning to be realised.
Gary O Neil
It had looked as if he'd miss this one having been poleaxed last weekend in the game against Hull by a shocking challenge. West Ham have been a better side with him in it during the last few weeks, of that there's no doubt - and so it proved again.
The one player whose inclusion was slightly contentious given the recent form of Henri Lansbury, who didn't even make the 16. He paid Big Sam's faith in the best possible way by netting both goals.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Some way from his best, although we have been spoiled in recent weeks with a string of high-class performances. Despite notching a fourth successive blank it was his persistance that led to Collison's opener.
Cole at his best for the second successive game. The one-time England striker tormented the Cardiff defence who failed to cope with his strength and willingness to fight for every ball. Sadly there will still be those who will criticise him for not getting on the score sheet but as tonight proved, there's far more to CC than goals alone.
(Replaced Vaz Te, 60)
Drafted in with the game already in the bag, the Irish defender barely put a foot wrong and still found time to make the occasional foray into enemy territory.
(Replaced Demel, 75)
You could hear the groans from 200 miles away when Faubs was brought on to replace the tiring Demel with 15 to play at full-back. Fair play to the Tweeting Frenchman for not putting a foot wrong.
(Replaced Collison, 86)
Brought on to see out time and chase down whatever ball came his way.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Guy Demel, Matthew Taylor, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Gary O Neil, Jack Collison, Ricardo Vaz Te, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Jack Collison 9 Jack Collison 41 .
Booked: James Tomkins 55 Mark Noble 62 Kevin Nolan 64 Julien Faubert 88 .
Sent off: None.
Cardiff City: David Marshall, Darcy Blake, Mark Hudson, Ben Turner, Andrew Taylor, Don Cowie, Peter Whittingham, Aron Gunnarsson, Liam Lawrence, Kenny Miller, Joe Mason.
Subs not used: Filip Kiss, Anthony Gerrard, , Tom Heaton.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.