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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Irish duo set for Wembley

Carling Cup delight for McPhail and Gerrard

STEPHEN McPHAIL and Anthony Gerrard have a big day out at Wembley to look forward to after Cardiff City made it into the Carling Cup final with a penalty shoot-out victory over Crystal Palace last night.

Securing a place in the final is a huge boost for McPhail, who has been through endless injury and illness problems over the years, while Steven Gerrard's cousin Anthony declared for Ireland but has never been considered for selection by Giovanni Trapattoni.

But three other Irishmen – Paddy McCarthy, Sean Scannell and loanee Paul McShane – were left to rue missed opportunities for Palace.

Scannell missed one of two shoot-out penalties saved by Cardiff No2 netminder Tom Heaton while McCarthy was sent off in normal time for a second yellow card offence.

Cardiff striker Kenny Miller hailed Heaton after the second-choice goalkeeper's heroics helped Cardiff to their first Carling Cup final with a 3-1 shootout win over Palace, and ensured the striker's “rubbish” spot-kick did not prove costly in a dramatic semi-final second leg.

Heaton, who has played second fiddle to David Marshall but started six of Cardiff's seven Carling Cup ties, made low saves to deny Palace substitutes Jermaine Easter and Scannell after the tie had finished 1-1 following extra-time, before Jonathan Parr fired wide to hand the Welsh side a third Wembley final appearance in five seasons.

Despair

Miller had taken the first penalty in the shootout but there were groans of despair when the Scotland striker sent his effort clean over the bar, but Heaton's efforts redeemed him at Cardiff City Stadium.

Miller said: “The boy has done well, he dug us out of a hole and it was a big relief when he saved their first one as well.

“He read them well and made two great saves, and the other boys showed good bottle to put their penalties away.

“After my miss I was hoping for Tom to save the one after. I am still disappointed, especially to miss the target, which is rubbish to be honest.

“With penalties you pick your spot and try to hit it there but I got it wrong. I tried to hit it hard and high to take the keeper out of the equation but it was just a bit too high.”

Cardiff's dominance of the 120 minutes was such they really should not have had to go through the agonies of a shootout.

After Anthony Gardner, who had scored Palace's winner in the first leg, put through his own net to put Cardiff ahead on the night the Bluebirds wasted a hatful of chances to secure a meeting with Manchester City or Liverpool inside the distance.

Miller hit the post with a volley in normal time, before Palace had captain McCarthy dismissed late in the second half for two fouls on the former Rangers man, while Filip Kiss and Aron Gunnarsson struck the bar in the extra period.

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