Bleary-Eyed Statto 2

Another Stateside Cardiff City FC Weblog
John Heyda / Middletown, Ohio USA
Email Bleary-Eyed Statto 2

15 Top Cardiff City Web Sites

Bleary-Eyed Statto

BBC Sport - Cardiff City

Bluebirds Downunder

Bluebird to the Bone

Cardiff City Online

Cardiff City FC's Official Site

Cardiff City Predictions

CCFC Sleeping Giant

GTFM 106.9 Pontypridd / City Phone In

ICWales City Page

1927 Club

TeamTALK City Page

Urban 75's City Page

Yahoo! Sports City Page!

Bleary-Eyed Statto 2 will be a lot like and yet different than its predecessor. It will be the same as Bleary-Eyed Statto in regaling you with updates on Cardiff City FC, quite simply the greatest football club on this or any other planet. Here you'll get, once again, my bleary-eyed takes on City matches and maneuverings, not to mention reactions to conversations from the chat room and messages to the message board at Cardiff City Online. I'll have entries, too, that respond to postings to the world's greatest mailing list. (To join the Cardiff City mailing list, type "cardiffcity" in the search box at and go from there.

This weblog will go about things a bit differently, however. Bleary-Eyed Statto set itself a difficult course, an entry a day no matter what and, more often than not, a rather lengthy entry at that. Yours truly, the bleary-eyed one, managed to stay with this exacting regimen for a little over two years, from July 2001 to August 2003. In the end, though, it got to be a bit much.

Bleary-Eyed Statto 2 will be more relaxed. No numbering of entries this time around and there might not be a new entry every single day either. Maybe more like three or four a week. I'll try to do more stats as well. I'll try, too, to stick closer to home. Cardiff City yes. Wales yes. F.A. Cup maybe. Champions League and Premiership probably not. Hmm. This might just work out.

To get to the Bleary-Eyed Statto 2 archives, click HERE.

Bristol City, Huddersfield Advance to Playoff Finals

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Bristol City and Huddersfield have reached their respective promotion playoff finals today, the Robins rallying late to beat Hartlepool 2-1 at Ashton Gate to gain the Division Two final thanks to a 3-2 aggregate edge. Huddersfield got a late goal themselves to draw 2-2 with Lincoln City at the McAlpine Stadium and advance to the Third Division final via a 4-3 aggregate score.

Bristol City had fallen behind in the 63rd minute when Hartlepool's Antony Sweeney headed the visitors in front, but an 88th-minute header by substitute Marc Goodfellow got the Robins back on level terms. Then, Christian Roberts put the hosts through to the final, netting the winner in the third minute of injury time. Huddersfield had to rely on much the same sort of dramatics to get past Lincoln City. The Terriers brought a 2-1 lead into today's second-leg match but found themselves on the verge of elimination after two goals shortly before halftime moved the Imps in front, Richard Butcher and Mark Bailey scoring within a minute of each other. A Danny Schofield penalty on the hour mark got Huddersfield back to a 3-3 aggregate scoreline, however, and then in the 83rd minutea Rob Edwards strike put the Terriers through to the final.

The Guardian's David Foot has a report on Bristol City's grandstand finish, "Roberts Rescues Bristol City's Final Push." Foot observes that, though Hartlepool lost, they "were in any case the more threatening, sharp and uncomplicated, and several times the Bristol defence, statistically joint best in the League, faltered as the visitors pounded forward." Nicholas Harling has the Telegraph's report, "Roberts Steals Victory." BBC Sport has a report as well.

Louise Taylor has the Guardian's report on Huddersfield's win, "McAlpine Men Rebuild Road to Cardiff." The Telegraph's Ron Gubba has a report on this match as well, "Edwards Seals Final Spot." BBC Sport has an account of the action too. Check their report here.

Valencia Top Marseille 2-0, Win UEFA Cup

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Valencia won the UEFA Cup tonight, beating Marseille 2-0 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The key moment in this title game came in the last minute of the first half, when Marseille's keeper, Fabien Barthez, was sent off for a two-footed lunge into Miquel Mista. That action not onlu reduced Marseille to ten men but gave Valencia's Rodrigues Vicente the chance to put the La Liga powerhouse in front at half time. Thirteen minutes into the second half, Valencia moved two goals in front, thanks to Mista's blast from 12 yards out. The win has to be especially sweet for Valencia as they had lost the UEFA Cup final in 2000 and 2001.

The Guardian's Michael Walker has a report on the final, "Valencia Triumph After Barthez Sees Red." Of the Spanish League club's performance, Walker notes that, "as well as displaying their fleetness of foot, . . . Valencia also showed their physical powers, the centre- halves Carlos Marchena and Roberto Ayala willing to leave the boot in and worry about the consequences." Regarding Marseille's display, he has praise for their "activity in the Valencia half. Part of this stemmed from the bright midfielder Camel Meriem. Influential in the semi-final against Newcastle, the lithe Meriem was providing the link between midfield and attack." Barry Glendenning has the minute-by-minute report.

Christopher Davies has the Telegraph's report, "Valencia Profit from Barthez Lapse." The BBC Sport report includes a link to a page of photos from the match.

West Ham Whip Ipswich, Reach Playoff Final

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

West Ham United got two second-half goals to beat Ipswich Town 2-0 at Upton Park tonight to advance to the Division One playoff final by a 2-1 aggregate score. Matthew Etherington blasted home the equaliser at the 50-minute mark and Christian Dailly's deflected shot provided the winner some 20 minutes later. The Hammers will now meet Crystal Palace in the final on May 29 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Jon Brodkin of the Guardian has a match report on the Hammers' big day out, "Dailly Delivers Hammers to Final." Brodkin notes that "Goals by Matthew Etherington, a lively presence after the interval, and the captain Christian Dailly, saw off Ipswich who will forever rue wasting their best chance inside two minutes and had the misfortune to hit a post through Ian Westlake in stoppage-time." The Telegraph's Henry Winter has a report as well, "Dailly's Strike takes West Ham to Cardiff." Winter observes that "a combination that was to bring West Ham such spectacular reward early in the second half, with Carrick's short corner and Etherington's sensational strike, was in evidence throughout the first half. Time after time, these two English talents set West Ham pulses racing." Winter adds, as did Brodkin for the Guardian, that "for Ipswich, Ian Westlake hit the bar in added time."

BBC Sport has another account of the match. For that report, which includes audio from both managers, click here.

Palace Rally to Gain Playoff Final

Monday, May 17, 2004

Crystal Palace staged an impressive comeback at the Stadium of Light tonight to beat Sunderland 5-4 on penalties after battling the Black Cats to a 4-4 aggregate result over the two legs. Sunderland won this night's second-leg 2-1" on the strength of two first-half goals, the first from Kevin Kyle in the 42nd minute, the second from Marcus Stewart in the 45th. Boosted by their two-goal lead, the hosts held onto an aggregate 4-3 edge well into the second half. Then their prospects grew brighter still when ex-Bluebird Julian Gray was sent off for a second yellow with but five minutes to go. However, substitute Darren Powell headed in a 90th-minute goal that sent the match into extra time and, after 10-man Palace withstood a battering in the extra session, the visitors took the dramatic shoot-out to advance to the final.

Michael Walker has the penned the Guardian' match report, "Hughes Hits Spot for Palace." For Walker, "Palace progressed and, while Sunderland could complain about the painful nature of their exit, the south Londoners merit their final place." Walker adds, "What a rise for both the club and the manager Iain Dowie. When he took over in December Palace were 19th. Now they are one game from the Premiership." Rob Stewart has the Telegraph's report, "Palace Go Through in Penalty Shoot-Out." About Palace's second-half rally, Stewart observes that "they remained sufficiently composed to regain the initiative after the interval but again struggled to create genuinely decent opportunities despite their territorial advantage." Still, "Sunderland still looked very much in command" until Powell's late header.

BBC Sport offers their own account of tonight's match. To check their report, click here.

Seagulls and Stags Snag Playoff Wins; Shrews Back in League

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Playoff action continued today with Division Two and Three first-leg matches and the Conference playoff final. In Division Two, Brighton got past Swindon 1-0 at the County Ground thanks to Richard Carpenter's deflected goal in the 72nd minute. Mansfield topped Northampton 2-0 at Sixfields Stadium in the day's first-leg Division Three contest, Rhys Day and Junior Mendes scoring for the Stags. Shrewsbury Town won the Conference playoff final at the Britannia Stadium, beating Aldershot 3-0 on penalties after the two clubs had battled to a 1-1 draw after extra time. Shrewsbury bounce right back into league football then, a year after they'd been relegated from Division Three. For Aldershot, the defeat means a 13th consecutive year of non-league football next season. The Shots last played league ball in 1992.

Pat Symes has the Guardian's match report on the Seagulls' big win, "Carpenter's Hammer Blow." About the match, Symes observes that "It was not a pretty sight. Brighton travelled to Wiltshire intent on suffocating and squeezing the life out of their opponents and their gameplan worked perfectly." The Telegraph's Trevor Haylett has a report on the Division Two match as well, "Carpenter Chips in For Brighton." Haylett reports that "Swindon efforts that came back off a post and the crossbar preceded Richard Carpenter's 72nd-minute deflected winner." As a result, Brighton have to be "in good shape to reach the Millennium Stadium. The form guide certainly favours them: this was their sixth successive game without conceding a goal and they have not lost at home since November." For another account of this match, check BBC Sport's report on the Division Two contest.

The Guardian's Grahame Lloyd has a match report on the Stags' triumph, "Curle's Paperwork Pays Off for Mansfield." Lloyd notes that "Northampton transformed themselves into the form team of the division to reach the play-offs but yesterday they paid the price for failing to take their chances." He adds that "the hosts, 19th in the table at Christmas, spurned a host of opportunities in yesterday's first-half purple patch, and were eventually well beaten by an organised Mansfield side." BBC Sport has a report on the Division Three match as well. Check it out here.

Adrian Milledge has the Guardian's match report on the Conference playoff final, "Howie the Hero as He Stops the Shots." Milledge notes that "the Shrews, relegated from the Third Division a year ago, return next season courtesy of a heroic display from their goalkeeper Scott Howie in what has become the obligatory way of settling Conference play-offs - a penalty shoot-out." Nicholas Harling has the Telegraph's report on the final, "League Return for Shrews." About the shoot-out that decided everything, Haylett observes of Shrewsbury Town that "ultimately Scott Howie was their hero by saving all three of Aldershot's penalties but no one was quite sure whether it was exceptionally good goalkeeping that won the day or bad spot kicks." For another report on the final, check the BBC Sport story, "Shrews Secure Promotion." BBC Sport has a story on Aldershot's disappointment as well, "Brown Feels Play-off Pain."

Ipswich Win Caps Busy Day of Playoff Action

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Nationwide playoffs broke out today into a veritable festival of football featuring first-leg matches in all three divisions. In the Division One game, Ipswich Town's Darren Bent nodded home from six yards in the 57th minute to lift the hosts to a 1-0 win over West Ham United. The Division Two match saw Hartlepool battle Bristol City to a 1-1 draw at Victoria Park, with a 75th-minute Joel Porter strike offsetting a Tony Rougier goal in the fifth minute of play. The Third Division contest saw Huddersfield top Lincoln 2-1 at Sincil Bank, a tight-angled David Mirfin shot in the 74th minute providing the margin of victory.

Will Buckley has the Observer's report on Ipswich's win, "Bent on Promotion." Of the match, Buckley notes that "for Ipswich the game had special significance, for it offered a route whereby they could retain parity with neighbours Norwich," while "for West Ham an injection of Premiership money might mean they can go through an entire month without selling anyone." Trevor Haylett has a report too, "Bent Keeps Head Up." As Haylett saw it, "There were instances of commendable defending in both penalty areas. And times when straight-forward technique was found wanting." BBC Sport has a report as well.

Louise Taylor has the Guardian's report from Victoria Park, "Cooper Loses His Sole." Curiously, Taylor has the Telegraph's report as well, "Rougier Heads City in Right Direction." In her Telegraph account, Taylor observes that, "although Joel Porter provided Neale Cooper's side with a second-half equaliser Danny Wilson's City could be poised to revive the once promising career of a manager which took a wrong turn at Sheffield Wednesday." BBC Sport offers its own version of the first-leg draw here.

Grahame Lloyd of the Guardian has a report on Huddersfield's first-leg triumph, "Onuora Makes the Most of Getting On." Lloyd notes that the visitors "proceeded to outplay an out-of-sorts Lincoln side. Winning virtually everything in the air, they were quicker to the ball." Herman Miller has an Observer story on the Terriers' win, "Mirfin Gives Huddersfield the Edge." Huw Turbervill has the Telegraph's report, "Jackson Close to Deserved Success." Check the BBC Sport report on the action from Sincil Bank here.

Palace Top Sunderland 3-2 in Playoff Opener

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Nationwide playoffs are underway, and in impressive style. Crystal Palace got an 87th-minute goal from Andrew Johnson to beat Sunderland 3-2 in the first leg of their Division One playoff semifinal tonight at Selhurst Park. This was quite a match. After a scoreless first half, Sunderland took the lead early in the second when Marcus Stewart put the Black Cats in front with a penalty following Tony Popovic's fouling Carl Robinson in the box. It took only a minute for Palace to reply, Neil Shipperly heading home with the equaliser. Then, at the 64-minute mark Palace were in the lead, thanks to Danny Butterfield's deflected shot. Sunderland drew level at the 85-minute mark, however, as Kevin Kyle scored from six yards out following a free kick. Two minutes later, though, Johnson let fly with his low drive from the edge of the area and Palace had their precious one-goal advantage.

The Guardian's David Plummer has a report on the match, "Johnson Gives Palace an Edge." For Plummer, "Palace richly deserved this pulsating win, the 15th of Iain Dowie's 23 matches in charge." Trevor Haylett has the report for the Telegraph, "Johnson Goal Gives Palace the Edge." In Haylett's view, Palace's "resilience had to be admired," while "Sunderland had to be careful not to become stretched," as "Dowie's team possessed the necessary pace to punish opponents on the break." BBC Sport offers a detailed report as well.

The second leg will be played on Monday, May 17 at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland.

Lennie Lawrence Serves Up Retained List

Thursday, May 13, 2004

City manager Lennie Lawrence released the club's list of players it intends to retain today. As Mike Morris reports, in "No Shocks as Lennie Names Retained List,"it had been widely reported that only Spencer Prior and Gavin Gordon would be released and so it turned out." Meanwhile, "Martyn Margetson and Gary Croft have both been offered deals while talks are still ongoing with Lee Bullock and York City to finalise his probable transfer to Ninian Park."

Mario Risoli has a story on Spencer Prior's reaction to today's news, "."

Reserves Lose Pontins League Playoff Final

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Cardiff City Reserves lost the Pontins League playoff final 3-1 to Reading Reserves tonight, the match played before a crowd of about 700 at the Madejski Stadium. Reading got two goals from Andre Fashanu to lead 2-0 at the break, then went up by three when Darren Campbell scored a few minutes into the second half. City got one back a couple of minutes later when Danny Thomas got a goal at the 50-minute mark. Any hopes of City's getting back in the game were dashed, however, when two Bluebirds were sent off late on, first Anthony Taylor, then Rhys Weston.

Mike Morris has a brief report. For a more detailed account, check the report on the Reading FC official website.

Playoffs Begin on Friday

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Nationwide playoffs season has arrived and kicks off this Friday with a Division One match, Crystal Palace hosting Sunderland. The Telegraph's John Ley has a story previewing the playoffs, "The Race for the Premiership." The Telegraph has a page offering a schedule for the playoffs in all three divisions as well.

You would think that Sunderland must be the favourite to win the Division One playoffs and join Norwich and West Bromwich in the Premiership next season. After all, they did finish third, five points ahead of fourth-place West Ham and six ahead of fifth-place Ipswich and sixth-place Palace. Finishing third puts you up against the sixth-place club and would seem to offer a valuable advantage. History shows, though, that third-place clubs have not fared well in the Division One playoffs. The Guardian's Dominic Fifield has the story, "Why Third So Often Finishes in Tears." Fifield reports that

since the one-off final was introduced to the play-offs in 1990, only three sides in 14 years have escaped the second tier having finished just outside the automatic places: Ipswich in 2000 and Bolton the following year, who both finished third, and Notts County, fourth in 1991 when three were promoted automatically.

Sunderland have to be just a bit wary of the spot they're in then.

Palace in Playoffs, Wigan Out; Gillingham Survive

Monday, May 10, 2004

Cardiff City now know who 19 of their 23 Division One opponents will be next season. After yesterday's final league matches, they know they'll be playing Wigan, who just missed a berth in the playoffs after drawing 1-1 with West Ham, and Gillingham, who will be staying up after managing a 0-0 draw at Stoke. Crystal Palace lost 2-1 at Coventry but slip into a playoff berth nonetheless. Walsall find themselves relegated despite beating Rotherham 3-2; Gillingham stay up on goal difference alone. For the list of the 19 known opponents, check Mike Morris's story on next season's lineup. BBC Sport has a story on last-day matches and their consequences, "Palace Scrape Through." The BBC Sport story has links to match reports on the day's biggest games.

Dominic Fifield has the Guardian's match report on the Coventry-Crystal Palace game, "Palace Coup Saved at the Last." The Telegraph's Nicholas Harling has a report on this match as well, "Relieved Palace Scrape Through." Louise Taylor has the Guardian's report on Wigan's bad day, "Deane Breaks Wigan Hearts." William Johnson has the Telegraph's report on this match, "Wigan Left With Sour Taste."

Jeremy Alexander has the Guardian's report on the Gills game, "Gillingham Live to Fight Again." The Telegraph's Ron Gubba has a report on the Gills game too, "Banks Saves the Day for Gillingham." The Guardian's Adrian Milledge has the report on the Saddlers' demise, "Walsall Pay Heaviest Penalty." Peter Keeling has the Telegraph's report on the Saddlers' game, "Merson Vows to Bring Walsall Back."

City Draw 1-1 at Ipswich But End Up 13th

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Cardiff City finished their first Division One campaign in 19 years on both a positive and a negative note. The positive had to do with the Bluebirds' performance today, a rousing 1-1 draw with playoff-bound Ipswich at Portman Road. The negative is that, in spite of their picking up a point, City dropped out of the top half of the table, finishing 13th following last-day wins by Stoke and Coventry. Stoke wind up with 66 points to Coventry's and City's 65. The Bluebirds' inferior goal-difference figure leaves them just behind the 12th-place Sky Blues.

Shefki Kuqi put Ipswich ahead in the 26th minute of play, nailing a low, 20-yard drive that eluded City keeper Margetson. Lee Bullock got the equaliser at the 41-minute mark, heading home a Tony Vidmar cross. Both clubs had scoring opportunities in the second half, City's best chances coming late when Earnshaw and Langley threatened to secure all three points. In the end, though, points were shared.

In his website reaction piece, Mike Morris had this to say: "I thought the game itself was a cracker, City were excellent first half and should have been 3 goals to the good. . . . Second half Ipswich has to attack more. . . . They fired high and wide and generally made a mess of trying to score. City were reduced to counter attack for long periods but were always causing problems."

In his match report, Nigel Harris put things this way: "Undoubtedly the better side on the day, the Tractor Boys very nervous trying to secure a play-off place, City turned in one the their best performances on the road in a productive away season." Summing up the long campaign, Nigel added the following:

Over 46 games, there’s been plenty of ups and downs but it has to be reflected that it’s been a cracking first season back at this level in 19 years for the Bluebirds. Missing the play-offs, Top 10 and top half is disappointing but 65 points and comfortable consolidation was far beyond our expectations last August. . . .

Whatever happens, enjoy this summer and drink a toast to Sam, Lennie and our squad. When all is said and done, they acquitted themselves well, gave us memorable times and games and football we’ve been waiting for most of our lives to return to this club. These remains times to savour.

Stuart James has penned a match report for the Guardian, "Success Silences Royle Rumble." For James, "Cardiff deservedly equalised in the 41st minute when Lee Bullock met Tony Vidmar's in-swinging cross with a glancing header and the ball deflected off Jermaine Wright's knee past Kelvin Davis." The Telegraph's David Miller has a match report as well, "Staggering Ipswich Do Just Enough." In Miller's view, "Cardiff, mid-table after promising more earlier in the season, were much the more impressive of the two sides." Other reports are available from the Western Mail, the East Anglia Daily Times, and the site.

QPR, Torquay Win Automatic Promotions

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Vanquished by Cardiff City in the Division Two playoff final last year, QPR found a better way back to the second flight today, beating Sheffield United 3-1 before 30,000 at Hillsborough to win automatic promotion to Division One. Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong put Rangers up by two, and after Jon Shaw scored for Wednesday, a Chris Carr own goal sealed the deal. The promotion is QPR's first in 21 years. Ed Jones has a match report for the Observer, "Padula Steps In to Send Rangers Up." BBC Sport's report on QPR's big day, "QPR Clinch Promotion," features audio from their boss, Ian Holloway. QPR's going up means that Bristol City, despite beating Blackpool 2-1, are consigned to the playoffs, where they'll face off with sixth-place Hartlepool. QPR finished second, seven points back of champions Plymouth, with 83 points to Bristol City's 82. In the other Division Two playoff, fourth-place Brighton takes on fifth-place Swindon.

Torquay United won automatic promotion to Division Two on goal-difference thanks to a 2-1 win at Southend. Combined with Huddersfield's draw at Cheltenham, the win gives the Gulls 81 points and a +24 in the goal-diffence column compared to the Terriers' 81 and +16. Jason Tomas has the story for the Observer, "Torquay Pip Terriers at the Last." The BBC Sport story on the end of the Division Three campaign, "Torquay Edge Out Terriers," includes audio of Gulls goalscorer David Graham.

Fourth-place Huddersfield will meet seventh-place Lincoln in the playoffs, the Imps holding onto a berth despite losing 3-2 to Yeovil at home. The Glovers just missed out on the playoffs in their first league football campaign, finishing up with the same point total as Lincoln but losing out on goal-difference. The other playoff will see fifth-place Mansfield take on sixth-place Northampton. The Cobblers beat the Stags 2-1 to grab a playoff spot. Mansfield and Northampton finish with 75 points each, Lincoln and the unlucky Yeovil 74 points each.

At the other end of the Division Two and Three tables, Chesterfield got an 88th-minute goal from Glynn Hurst to beat Luton 1-0 to escape relegation by a single point. The late heroics at Saltergate meant relegation for Grimsby, 2-1 loser at 10-man Tranmere. The Spireites were helped to survival by Port Vale as well, the Valiants stopping hosts Rushden 2-0. Vale's win could have gained them a playoff berth, but only so long as Swindon and Hartlepool didn't draw. Unluckily for the Valiants, they did, winding up 1-1. All three clubs ended up with 73 points each but Vale had the poorest goal-difference figure of the three. At the bottom of the table, Chesterfield survive with 51 points, while Grimsby with 50 and Rushden with 48 go down. Notts County and Wycombe were relegated earlier.

At the bottom of Division Three, already-relegated Carlisle played their last league game, losing 1-0 at already-promoted Doncaster. York City, also Conference-bound, drew 0-0 at Swansea in their last league game.

Marseille, Valencia Book Spots in UEFA Cup Final

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Last night Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League at the semifinal stage. Tonight Newcastle lost out at the same stage of the UEFA Cup. The Magpies lost 2-0 to Marseille at the Velodrome, Didier Drogba netting both goals for the French League club. As a result, Marseille go through to the final on the strength of a 2-0 aggregate win. They'll meet Valencia in the final on May 19, the Spanish League powerhouse having dispensed with pesky La Liga rival Villarreal 1-0 at the Mestella Stadium. Valencia go through thanks to a 1-0 aggregate score, with the prolific Miquel Mista getting the only goal, a 16th-minute penalty.

Michael Walker has the Guardian's report on the Magpies' loss, "Drogba Ends Newcastle Dream." This result means that Alan Shearer may well have played his last European match; the Guardian's Dominic Fifield has that story, "Shearer Empty-Handed Again." Barry Glendenning has the Guardian's minute-by-minute report. Rob Stewart has the Telegraph's match report, "Drogba Sinks Sorry Newcastle."

Stephen Mackey has the Guardian's report on the other semifinal, "Mista Penalty Puts Valencia in Final." Astrid Andersson has penned the Telegraph's report on Valencia's win, "Mista Hits the Right Spot."

Porto and Monaco Reach Champs League Final

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Porto and Monaco will meet in this year's Champions League final on May 26. On Tuesday, Porto slipped past hosts Deportivo la Coruna 1-0 to win their second-leg match and advance to the final by a 1-0 aggregate score. As expected, Monaco joined them in the final after drawing 2-2 with Chelsea in their second-leg tilt at Stamford Bridge. The draw preserves Monaco's edge from their 3-1 first-leg win and gives them a 5-3 aggregate triumph. First-half goals from Gronkjaer and Lampard pulled Chelsea level with Monaco at 3-3 and ahead on aggregate thanks to an away-goals edge but such good fortune lasted only a minute or two. After Lampard scored in the 44th minute, Hugo Ibarra had Monaco back in front a minute later and Morientes supplied the clincher at the hour mark.

Kevin McCarra has the Guardian's match report on Chelsea's exit, "Chelsea Blow Their Final Chance." He observes that "a place in the final against Porto in Gelsenkirchen on May 26 is still deserved for the team coached by the former Stamford Bridge midfielder Didier Deschamps. They have been the more coherent side." The Guardian's Richard Williams has a special report, "Tinker Old Guard Fall on Blunt Swords." Jon Brodkin, also of the Guardian, has a special report as well, "'I Used My Hand," Admits Ibarra." Barry Glendenning has the minute-by-minute report. Henry Winter has the report for the Telegraph, "End of the Road for Chelsea."

Sam Wallace has the Telegraph's match report on Porto's win, "Coup Adds to Mourinho's Credentials." Barry Glendenning of the Guardian has the minute-by-minute report for the Porto match. The man of the moment is Jose Mourinho, of course, as his Porto outfit is headed for the final while his probable future employer, Chelsea, have just crashed out. The Guardian has a story on this hot property, "Europe's Most Wanted Man."

Vidmar Named Player of the Year

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

City defender Tony Vidmar made out quite well at the Cardiff City Player Awards banquet on Saturday night. Not only did he pick up the Player of the Year award, but he took home as well the Rams' award for player of the year, the Redrow Homes player of the year award, and the award from Bluebirds Downunder. Mike Morris has the story on Vidmar's impressive haul.

I have to say that Vidmar's winning so many awards checks out with stats I've kept this season. For one thing, Vidmar was a near ever-present for the Bluebirds this year. He started 48 of City's 49 league, FA Cup, and Carling Cup matches and wasn't substituted a single time. Had he started and played the full 90 minutes against Preston at Deepdale on April 24 he'd have played every minute of City's 49 big games.

The quality of his performances stands out as well. I've tracked City player ratings and Vidmar's are among the best. For example, he has racked up six games with a rating of 8 or better so far, third best on the club. Kavanagh had 10 such rated games, Robinson 9. One other Bluebird has six such games besides Vidmar and that's Richard Langley. These four players are the only ones with more than five such games. (Earnshaw has four, Gabbidon three so far.) So, I'd say that Vidmar's awards are well deserved.

Check the Mike Morris story for the winners of other awards.

Hereford Crash Out of Conference Playoffs

Monday, May 3, 2004

Wouldn't you know it. I adopt Hereford United as my pick to escape the Nationwide Conference and reclaim their rightful place back to the football league. They proceed to boost my spirits by waging a brilliant, season-long campaign to go up automatically, culminating in an end-of-season 11-game winning streak that falls just short of the goal. They raise hopes a bit further by surviving the first leg of the playoff semifinals, drawing 1-1 at Aldershot and setting up a sure home win that'd put them in the final. Then the unthinkable happens.

How does Hereford lose at home to Aldershot? After all, the Bulls finished some 20 points ahead of the Shots over the course of the season. Well, how 'bout only when everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong? That about sums up tonight's second leg, which the Shots won on penalties by a 4-2 margin following a 0-0 draw. Hereford had to play much of the match at a disadvantage after Andrew Tretton was sent off in the 21st minute - and for no very good reason. Other things went wrong too. Danny Williams and Steve Guinan missed golden first-half scoring opportunities and the Bulls had a clear case for a penalty waved off.

The sending off was the big talking point, however. Consider Richard Prime's report for the Guardian, "Aldershot Closing on Return to the Big League." Prime quotes Shots manager Terry Brown as saying that "a lot of referees wouldn't have given that and if it had been one of my boys sent off like that I would have been screaming and shouting." Graham Turner, Hereford's director of football had this to say: "The referee's had an absolute nightmare today. To make a decision like that with so much significance attached to it is really hard for us to take." I concur. I saw the "infraction" on my home TV set thousands of miles away and even I could see that it wasn't a penalty.

So, it's Aldershot in the final. There's a story there too. The Observer's Jamie Jackson covers the club's recent revival in "Shots Ricochet From the Brink of Despair." Aldershot will meet Shrewsbury in the final. The Shrews got past Barnet 1-0 in the second-leg tilt at Gay Meadow tonight to bring about a 2-2 aggregate. Shrewsbury then went through by beating the Bees 5-3 on penalties. Mat Kendrick has a report for the Guardian, "Shrewsbury's Penalty Prowess Pips Barnet."

By the way, the Nationwide Conference playoff final will be played on May 16 at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium.

Leeds Relegated After 4-1 Loss at Bolton

Sunday, May 2, 2004

There might be a silver lining to Cardiff City's missing out on the playoffs after all. With a return to Division One football now a certainty, Bluebird fans will have a little extra time to savour the prospect of Leeds United's joining them in the Nationwide next season. That's because Leeds lost to Bolton 4-1 today at the Reebok Stadium, a defeat that all but consigns the Yorkshire club to second-flight football for the first time since the 1989-90 season. Leeds are six points from safety with two games to go. Even if all results were to go their way, though, they'd still fall short due to a whopping problem in the goal-difference column.

Wolverhampton Wanderers face the exact same problem as Leeds - six points down with two to go and no hope of winning a goal-difference tiebreaker. Still, Wolves fans quizzed on Sky Sports after their win over Everton managed to keep a fairly straight face while insisting that Wolves weren't down quite yet. A Sky Sports News reporter reminded them that to stay up they'd have to make up a -35 goal difference on Man City in just two games but they remained more or less resolute. A couple of them even said they thought Wolves could still do it.

I didn't watch Sky Sports News tonight so I don't know if any Leeds fans were saying the same things. Still, maybe we're being a bit premature here. If Leeds beat Charlton 9-0 and Chelsea 9-0 while Man City lose to Middlesbrough 9-0 and Everton 9-0 they'd be level on points and level in the goal difference column too. Frankly, I'd love to see something like this happen, but only if Wolves managed to beat Newcastle 9-0 and Tottenham 9-0 to finish level on points and with a goal difference advantage of one over both Man City and Leeds. As the great comedienne Judy Tenuta used to like saying, "It could happen . . . ."

The Guardian has a report on Leeds's demise, Richard Williams's "Crying Game." Williams sums up the match in a couple of sentences. "A goal up at the interval, but already down to 10 men, Leeds collapsed in the second half. Three goals were conceded in a seven-minute spell soon after the restart, followed by a fourth shortly before the end."

City Settle for 1-1 Draw After Late Dons' Equaliser

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Though all hopes of a playoff berth have been dashed, Cardiff City had much left to play for going into today's home finale against Wimbledon. A win or draw in either of their last two games would assure the Bluebirds their first winning season in the league's second tier in 33 years. A strong windup could give City its first top-half finish at this level since the club finished ninth in the old Division Two in 1978-79. So, with so much at stake how did the Bluebirds fare?

City scored late to go ahead of relegated Wimbledon via John Robinson's 82nd-minute goal but the Dons came right back to pull off a 1-1 draw thanks to a Mark Williams header off a free kick but a minute later. The Bluebirds stay 11th but Coventry and Stoke both won, meaning that City missed a golden opportunity to secure a top-half finish. With the Sky Blues and Potters both within two points and having better goal-difference numbers, City may have to win next week at Ipswich to stay in the top 12.

In his match report, Nigel Harris observed that "Cardiff City and Wimbledon served out typical, eventful if rather dull, end of season football as last home game of the season ended 1-1." Nigel added that "City played well only in spasms but mustered only one meaningful on-target effort other than their goal. Wimbledon fully deserved their point after hitting the bar and post separately and having forced Martyn Margetson into several excellent saves."

Mario Risoli's report for the Western Mail, "City Can't Cash in on Sorry Dons," includes the observation that "not even a decent crowd - 15,337 was quite impressive considering the weather and the opposition - could lift Lawrence's men." Risoli added that "For City, it was further evidence that they have problems at home. This stalemate means they have failed to beat any of the bottom three clubs - Bradford and Walsall the other two - at Ninian Park and have won only 10 of 23 games in their own backyard." In his Wales on Sunday report, "Lennie Focuses on Bluebirds' Failings," Chris Wathan noted that this was "another lacklustre display in front of a packed, partisan crowd."

Check Last Month's Entries

To check last month's entries, click here. Is this site "state of the art" or what?