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Crystal Palace 1-2 Cardiff City
CRYSTAL Palace ended the 2011-12 campaign with a home defeat at the hands of Cardiff City.
Cardiff went into the match sitting in the final play-off spot but they suffered an early setback when Wilfried Zaha fired the Eagles into a 13th minute lead.
However, second half goals from Peter Whittingham and Don Cowie ensured the Bluebirds a place in the end of season lottery and they now face a double date with west Ham.
Lewis Price pushed out Liam Lawrence’s third minute low drive but recovered excellently to prevent Joe Mason converting the rebound.
Aron Gunnarsson’s ambitious 25 yard shot failed to trouble the Eagles keeper but after a bright start by the visitors the hosts got back into it and they took lead on 13 minutes.
Zaha passed to Darren Ambrose wide on the right and his return ball put Zaha through before the highly-rated youngster slipped a low shot past David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Ambrose’s dipping 18th minute shot flew over and Price made a comfortable save by catching Mason’s header after he connected with Kevin McNaughton’s delivery.
Mason was unfortunate moments later that nobody was able to get on the end of his low ball across the face of goal and Lawrence fired harmlessly over in the 31st minute.
Whittingham’s 34th minute attempt from 30 yards was never going to cause Price any problems and then Mason placed a shot well over the bar, not for the first time Cardiff had failed to hit the target with an effort from outside of the area.
At least their next attempt came slightly closer to goal and Price made a decent save to keep out former Palace captain Mark Hudson’s header.
Owen Garvan committed two fouls in the space of a minute just before the break, earning a yellow card for his second challenge on Mason.
However, the visitors were unable to capitalise after being awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside of the area as Price again made a simple catch to deny Ben Turner.
The Bluebirds were almost back on terms at the start of the second half when Kenny Miller dragged his low shot across the face of goal and just wide of the target.
Miller was cautioned for a 50th minute tackle on Matthew Parsons, although the replay showed he had won the ball.
Parsons was yellow carded himself moments later after going in late on Lawrence and it was from the resulting free-kick Cardiff drew level as Whittingham’s delivery from out wide on the right flew in to the far corner of Price’s net without anyone else applying a touch.
Palace made their first change two minutes later with Sean Scannell replaced by Antonio Pedroza.
But it was Cardiff who took the initiative on 62 minutes when Gunnarsson’s long throw in was flicked into the path of Cowie by Hudson and his stinging volley from just inside the box flew past Price.
Zaha fired inches wide after Pedroza had done well to win possession in midfield to create the opportunity.
Ambrose made way for Kyle De Silva on 73 minutes while Turner did well to put behind Zaha’s dangerous cross, although the corner came to nothing.
With Watford now in front at home to Middlesbrough, the remainder of the game went a bit flat with Cardiff guaranteed a play-off spot.
In fact, the match kind of summed up Palace’s season – a very bright start but then things ruined by a defeat to Cardiff City.
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Crystal Palace: Price, Parr, McCarthy, Ambrose (De Silva 73), Garvan, Scannell (Pedroza 55), Zaha, Murray, Moxey, Parsons, O'Keefe. Subs not used: Fitzsimmons, Wynter, Sekajja. Att: 15,510.