Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bluebirds' Woes

Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Berjaya’s Vincent Tan's investment in Cardiff FC – thought to be around £140 million – has allowed the club to prepare itself for top-flight competition. I don’t quite know his motive behind this venture but for sure, Cardiff was immensely grateful. [Off the pitch Tan has even promised to donate £1 million to local causes every season the club stays in the EPL].

And then things took a bizarre turn in the opposite direction. Tan changed the club crest from a bluebird to a dragon. The playing shirts switched from blue to red. The club’s experienced recruiter, Iain Moody was replaced in October 2013 with 23-year-old Kazakh Alisher Apsalyamov. (He was at the club on work experience before his appointment and is a friend of Tan's son. Apsalyamov has since been temporarily suspended in a query over his visa). It is even said that Tan supposedly attempted to advise manager Malky Mackay on tactics mid-match. 

Mackay is no novice manager – he had guided Cardiff to promotion to the Premier League last season. 

Then, on Monday, Tan gave Mackay an ultimatum: Resign or be sacked! 

Now, Mackay is well-respected. Many questioned if Tan knows about the game, about professional football. Already, Tan had shown a total disregard for the history, tradition and interest of Cardiff City FC and its fans. 

Even so, the fact remains that Tan owns Cardiff – he thinks that gives him the right to do anything he wants. 

In Saturday’s Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Hearts, the former came away with a 2-0 victory. In fact, the former was encamped in Hearts territory, almost from start to finish – and goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald displayed heroics to prevent a bigger defeat. 

The first half didn’t produce any goals but Celtic remained patient. After the break, they finally got their reward when Kris Commons scored with a powerful drive in the 64th minute. James Forrest sealed Celtic's victory when he latched on to fellow substitute Georgios Samaras' through ball, skillfully evaded his marker and clipped the ball past MacDonald with the outside of his right foot (90). 

In the other match that I was following, Liverpool produced a display of contrasts because they excelled in the first half and faltered in the second. But still they showed enough determination and commitment to win the game against Cardiff at Anfield with a 3-1 score. 

Luis Suárez instigated a lightning move on the corner of the Cardiff box. The stand-in captain and standout performer found Joe Allen, who released Jordan Henderson with a first-time pass and the commanding midfielder lofted the ball back towards Suárez. The outcome was predictable – a fine right-footed volley into the bottom left corner (25) and the striker's 18th goal of the season. 

An overdue second arrived three minutes before the break, when Henderson's creativity and accuracy with the pass again unlocked the Cardiff defense. The midfielder sent Suárez racing clear of an exposed rearguard with the outside of his foot, but the Uruguayan chose not to shoot, instead squaring for a grateful Raheem Sterling to convert into an empty net (42). 

Liverpool's third came when Jon Flanagan played a one-two with Henderson and, from the midfielder's exquisite back-heel, Suárez arched a shot beyond David Marshall and into the far corner from the edge of the area (45). 

Cardiff did not surrender and they were gifted with a goal when Jordon Mutch was left unmarked to steer in a header (58) from Peter Whittingham's free-kick. 

With this win, the Reds are now sitting atop the EPL table.

This Saturday match may well be Mackay's final act as Cardiff manager! 

In a strong show of support for Mackay, Cardiff fans made their feelings known, singing "Malky Mackay, we want you to stay", followed by "Vincent Tan, we want you to go" throughout the match and remained behind inside Anfield chanting their support some 45 minutes after the final whistle.

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