My pick for moment of the decade is the 2012 Carling Cup Final against Liverpool. People may wonder why I’ve picked a game which ultimately ended in us losing, but for me, despite being one of the most exciting matches I’ve been to, that game signalled something big. Something significant.
An awakening. A realisation that Cardiff, our Bluebirds, often described as a potential sleeping giant, might actually be capable of mixing it with the football elite.
In a game that nobody really saw us having a chance in, against one of the best. We matched them stride for stride and if it wasn’t for the lottery of spot kicks, we were their equal. It didn’t feel like that to begin with mind you. Steven Gerrard blazed over and Glen Johnson rattled the woodwork before our boys had blinked and it looked like we might take a beating. But that’s not the way it went.
Who knew that Rudy Gestede would win pretty much everything in the air? Who knew that Joe Mason would turn into prime Messi and burst through the Liverpool defence, before nutmegging Pepe Reina?! Not us. But it was amazing. We were actually winning 1-0.
It stayed like that until half time and we all began to dream. Fans who had heard all the stories of 1927, who had travelled to Wembley in 2008 only to see us fail to get the better of Portsmouth. The Bluebirds continued to not only hang on to the lead with some great defending, but continued to create chances at the other end. Don Cowie backheeling a ball into the tireless Kenny Miller, only to see his shot go wide.
This team were mixing it with Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez. This was dreamland. Even when Skrtel managed to scramble home an equaliser after Suarez hit the post, it still felt like we could do it. With the last shot of normal time, Cardiff could’ve even won it, but Miller blazed over. Extra time beckoned, but we didn’t look tired. This was like a Rocky Balboa fight going into the last round and we were Rocky, calling Apollo onto us.
Cardiff City messageboard favourite Dirk Kuyt caught us out though. A sucker punch in extra time put us down and neutrals might have thought that was it, ut Ben Turner had other ideas. We not only got up, but we pushed Liverpool back, searching for an equaliser. As Craig Bellamy watched on in Liverpool red in the background, Turner found the ball at his feet. Time stopped. Everyone in blue all over Wembley and back in Cardiff seemed to stand up in unison. The word ‘limbs’ would be a disservice. This was limbs beyond limbs. Cardiff 2, Liverpool 2. It was penalties.
Although we never won the game, losing out in the lottery of penalties, it felt like we had taken a huge step up. We never went up that season, losing out to West Ham in the play-offs, but I can’t help feeling that Cup Final was the inspiration we needed ahead of the promotion season that followed. It gave us the belief. We broke the ceiling with that game in my opinion and paved the way for the Premier League promotions we’ve seen since.