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Palace 1-0 Cardiff

February 6 2006

Aki Riihilahti

Aki Riihilahti

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then Steve Bruce's gob must be classed as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, writes Simon Pophale.

Since his comment about AJ and penalties, every referee now wants to see a broken bone or blood from our pint sized assassin, before a penalty is awarded.

So when ex-Cardiff midfielder Jobi McAnuff played a perfect ball to the England striker on 7 minutes, who was crudely brought down for what I considered to be a stonewall penalty – referee Anthony Bates waved away any notion. On any other day, and any other striker, it would have been given.

We should have been in the lead 5 minutes later as Freedman retrieved a lost cause at the byline and his cross fell to McAnuff, who with the goal gaping from around 5 yards managed to only hit the bar. Micheal Hughes could only shoot wide from the rebound.

Dowie managed to field a midfield that was packed with Internationals for the first time in many many months. McAnuff, Riihilahti, Hughes and Marco Reich gave us a solid look, which aided the forwards no end.

For the first 20 minutes of the game, we did all the attacking and Cardiff, who came to defend, offered little support to the divisions leading scorer Camerone Jerome.

Yet with Jerome’s first real chance on goal, it was in the back of the net. Thankfully, the whistle had already gone for off side, but it was a timely warning just before the half hour mark that there was a threat posed from our opponents.

AJ was still threatening and he hit the side netting after Hughes had set him free with a fine pass. Half time and despite the game being scoreless, Cardiff really did not look like they were going to pose any threat to our goal, despite Kevin Cooper having an effort parried by Kiraly and cleared by Boyce on 37 minutes.

The 2nd half began much the same way as the first half had ended. Cardiff allowed us to attack them and was content to play on the break.

This was a policy that suited us fine and on the hour, we thought that we had made the breakthough after a corner from McAnuff caused mayhem in the box, Darren Wards’ shot from the edge of the area ended up in the back of the net, but the whistle had already gone for an infringement.

But 7 minutes later we did have the ball in the net and this time it was to count. From a charged-down Hughes free kick 20 yards out, McAnuff managed to get the ball to AJ who sprinted down to the byline and his cross was edged home by Riihilahti who scored his first goal this season.

The game looked over as a contest and on 82 minutes, following an off the ball incident involving Joe Ledley, Fitz Hall was sent off and we had to play the match out with 10 men.

Despite the referee adding what seemed like an eternity and Cardiff finally starting to play in our half of the field, we held on for a victory which opens up a gap between us and the teams directly below.

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