So our last Cardiff final ended in defeat, but what a defeat: our team, which contained two 17-year-olds, two 19-year-olds, a 20-year-old and two 22-year-olds did the club and the fans proud.
Yes, the Russians turned the screw in the second half and their experience counted in the end, but it was close, and for the first hour we were the better team by a distance. Mr Pleat is right in his analysis in this morning’s Grauniad; the only thing missing was our final ball. The team ran rings round their supposedly superior opposition in the first half but couldn’t turn the possession into goals. As the boss said post-match, “we should have done more with the chances we created”.
Had he not gone off injured, Abou Diaby would have won man of the match. He was absolutely sensational yesterday, but in truth the whole midfield excelled. Denilson is growing into something special game by game, Fabregas (a veteran of over 100 games at 19) was excellent, and Walcott too had a good game, scoring his delicious first goal for the club at a perfect time.
And ah yes, we have to mention the fight. I think you’d need six or seven camera angles and an hour of slo-mo footage to work out who were the villains of the piece in that one. The most disappointing thing for me is that it took the headlines away from what was a superb performance from the youngest ever side in an English domestic final.
Also, Adebayor appears to have been the victim of mistaken identity, with the real culprit the increasingly unpredictable Emmanuel Eboue. From being lauded to the skies only a few months ago, Eboue has since sullied his name with some embarrassing play-acting and wild losses of temper. He’s got to calm down and screw his head on, because he’s a good footballer. And all the while, Hoyte has got his head down, improved and edged ahead of him in the pecking order at right-back.
Eboue will probably be banned for his part in the fracas and I hope Adebayor will be reprieved. I know who I’d rather have missing for three games.
The fight was borne out of frustration. You can defend it and give reasons for it all you like but you just can’t react en masse like that, and I suspect the team will be punished for the obvious loss of discipline.
So overall, I loved watching this side take on and better the opposition’s expensively-crafted first eleven. We didn’t make it, but I think there will be plenty of sides out there, the Russians included, who might be looking over their shoulders next season.