Cardiff City’s 1-0 derby-day victory over Swansea Sunday might not have delivered the greatest football ever played, but as for incidents and talking points it had more than enough ingredients to entertain the global audience.
Cardiff started the day just one point above the relegation places and five places behind Swansea, but the victory catapulted the Bluebirds to 12th, overtaking the Swans on the way. It was a third victory of the season for Cardiff, who have 12 points from 10 games.
The beautiful-game reputation that Swansea had adopted was unravelled by a Cardiff side who allowed Swansea to play their passing game in areas away from the Cardiff goal. If Swansea threatened ‘El Pitbul’ Gary Medel, was there time and time again to break up the attack. Swansea managed a coupled of efforts on goal in the first half, and when they were chasing the game late on they tried but could not beat David Marshall.
The winning goal came from a Steven Caulker header. Caulker rose to meet Craig Bellamy’s corner kick, leaving Chico Flores standing as the ball hit the back of the net. The home crowd went wild in celebration of the first goal at this level. The teams had never played a game in the top division before. It’s maybe a touch ironic that Caulker played 26 times for Swansea in the Premier League during the 2011-12 season.
As the rain poured and the clock counted down, the atmosphere kept building. Both sides used up their allocation of substitutes; Michu went off for Swansea looking a shadow of the player he has been. All Cardiff’s substitutions were greeted to great applause. The board to denote five minutes of injury time went up and two of the Cardiff replacements combined to create the next major incident.
Kim Bo-Kyung (on as an 88th=minute replacement for Gary Medel) launched a ball forward for Fraiser Campbell (who came on for Peter Oedemwingie in the 75th). Campbell was in a race for the ball with Swansea keeper Michel Vorm. The Cardiff attacker made it a split-second ahead of Vorm, whose high boot caught Campbell, and left referee Mike Dean with no option other than to send the keeper off.
Swansea had used all three substitutes. so Angel Rangel went in goal for the final four minutes. Peter Whittingham tested Rangel with the resulting free kick, but the interim keeper tipped it over the bar. Swansea’s hopes were diminishing fast and Cardiff were able to keep the ball and pressure deep in the Swansea half until Dean blew the final whistle.
As Cardiff fans celebrated, the Swansea players approached their fans to thank them for their support. Jonjo Shelvey went one step further and gestured to the home fans with a ‘swim-away’ gesture. It relates to a incident back in the 1980s when several Cardiff fans were said to have been chased into Swansea Bay after a game at the Vetch Field.
The action means that Shelvey could face the threat of disciplinary action for inciting the Cardiff crowd. Personally, I think that players are given plenty of abuse by the fans and it can be quite funny to see them react. I’ve witnessed Bristol City’s Scott Murray turn the tables on Cardiff fans after scoring against the Bluebirds at Ninian Park and ex-Swansea player Izzy Iriekpen going over the top with his celebration of a Scunthorpe goal against Cardiff in 2008. Cardiff players have celebrated many a goal by ‘Doing the Ayatollah’ as they celebrate in front of the opposing supporters.
Have a word with Shelvey, of course, but taking action against him would be taking a step too far.
This fixture in years gone by has seen levels of violence inside and outside each team's stadium, but in recent years fans have been bused to the games in convoy from each City. The process is known as a ‘Bubble Trip’ and it means that only fans who get on the organised travel at their own stadium can go to the game.
It’s a long day for the traveling fans. Swansea supporters will have endured close to an eight-hour round trip to a match 38 miles away.
The end result was no arrests with South Wales Police tweeting the following. . .
No arrests at the Cardiff City Stadium today. Great to see both sets of fans being passionate & well-behaved #CARSWA— South Wales Police (@swpolice) November 3, 2013
The post-match press conferences saw a dejected Michael Laudrup bemoan giving Cardiff a set-piece chance to score the winning goal. Malky Mackay made a point of thanking his staff and players for their efforts to get to this level over the last couple of years (a thinly veiled reference to his former head of recruitment Iain Moody, who was sacked by owner Vincent Tan). Malky made no comment of Tan -- highlighting the division that exists between the men.
Tan himself found time to speak to the media, but would reveal nothing about the circumstances surrounding the removal of Moody saying "I don't want to explain now. I will explain when the time is right. I don't want to add fuel to the fire. I will explain when I need to explain and when I am ready to explain."
Malky is getting Cardiff into a position where Premier League survival is a reality, but the actions of the owner is likely to chase Mackay out of the club if the opportunity arises and that could spell disaster after such good work. On a day when the capital city was celebrating victory in one of the most crucial South Wales derbies ever, there’s still an undercurrent of uncertainty.
Vincent, give Malky the tools and let him get on with the job. Keep out of the football side of things and accept Mackay is the most important man when it comes to the team and the playing side of things.
Cardiff City, for the moment at least, the No. 1 team in Wales.