Cardiff new boys Wilfrid Zaha and Kenwyne Jones inspired a victory that seemed unlikely 37 minutes into the relegation six-pointer with Norwich at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.
If fortune does indeed favour the brave then Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be keeping his Cardiff team in the Premier League by the season’s close.
His boldness, some might say naivety, has already been seen in previous games but his latest tactical change before half-time in the Norwich game was by his own admission ‘a gamble’. Maybe only someone like Jose Mourinho would have been so brazen.
While I’m sure almost every other manager in the Premier League would have waited for half-time to make the change, Solksjaer did it eight minutes before the break.
What Soksjaer engendered was amazing. Firstly, it excited the crowd, despite some unfair boos directed at Peter Whittingham. That was all down to the long anticipated arrival of Zaha onto the field.
Once the Manchester United loanee had set off on his first dribble down the left flank it had an instant and distinct galvanizing effect on both supporters and the team.
Next, whatever Solskjaer said at half-time also translated into two goals and the lead within five minutes of the restart. First Craig Bellamy with a 49th minute goal for his record-breaking seventh Premier League club, laid on of course by Zaha, then a debut goal for the admirably named Kenwyne Jones less than two minutes later.
Suddenly the first half was forgotten as the celebrations went wild around the stadium. But what followed was Cardiff clinging desperately to their three points as Norwich bombarded the home goal. Only the inspirational David Marshall in goal and a goal-line clearance from Bellamy prevented the Canaries from reversing the result.
For Solksjaer, it’s a start. Maybe this is the win that can provide the confidence needed going into probably the most vital Welsh derby game ever at the Liberty Stadium next Saturday. There really couldn’t be a better time to play the Swans than now. A point would do but three would be immense.
What a time to create history by becoming the first of the Welsh derby teams to grasp a seasonal double from the 56 league games that will have been played. A win would also level the series at 20 wins apiece with 16 draws.
February continues with home league games against Aston Villa and Hull City with a home FA Cup tie against holders Wigan also thrown into the mix.
Cardiff will need better performances than the one against Norwich to secure three points in the upcoming league games but confidence can do remarkable things – ask Gus Poyet and his Sunderland team.
As incredible as Sunderland have been since new management took over, the Bluebirds remain only three points adrift of the Wearsiders and two behind Palace who have had no small revival of their own under Welshman Tony Pulis. Palace’s run ended with a loss at Arsenal on Sunday and what happens from here on in will decide their future, not what has already happened.
Palace entertain West Brom next, the Baggies lying two points ahead of Cardiff despite the valuable point gained at home to Liverpool last time out. Something has to give when these two meet and that is only in Cardiff’s favour.
Eighteenth-placed West Ham are at Aston Villa who are six points above Cardiff and the furthest team out in the relegation battle lying 10th in the table. The Hammers will need something while Villa will not want to be pulled in any deeper by losing to Sam Allardyce’s recharged team.
Sunderland are at home to Hull City and you must fancy Poyet’s men to continue their current surge at the expense of Steve Bruce’s team. Whatever this result it only matters that Cardiff get something themselves if they are to take an advantage from it.
Norwich are at home to Manchester City, enough said. Stoke after beating Manchester United in fortunate style travel to Southampton where the home team should prove too strong.
With Swansea just three points ahead of Cardiff a Bluebirds win would be exceptional. A point would do, a loss not a complete disaster unless all the other relegation games go the wrong way.
By Saturday, when Cardiff kick-off in the late game, they will know what went before them. There is a good chance they can play without fear knowing any positive result is a bonus while the Swans, led by the perhaps soon to be departing Michael Laudrup will have all the pressure and everything to do.
And when Sunday comes, Fulham run out at Old Trafford where Manchester United will again start the process of beginning a winning sequence of games and where the Cottagers will hope not to be left adrift at the bottom of the table.
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