London, Jan 11: Crystal Palace moved closer to reaching its first major final in 22 years by beating Cardiff 1-0 at home in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals on Tuesday from Antony Gardner's first-half goal.
Gardner's close-range header from a free kick in the 43rd minute at Selhurst Park was his first goal in more than a year. It has Palace fans hoping the team will make it to Wembley after having lost the 1990 FA Cup final to Manchester United.
"We showed character and determination. Antony was fantastic defensively — his qualities are there to be seen — but we all worked hard for the clean sheet," Palace manager Dougie Freedman said. "It might be the crucial goal. We have got a team set up to win away from home. We'll go there quietly confident and it'll be a very interesting game."
Cardiff striker Kenny Miller had a goal contentiously disallowed in the second half by referee Mike Dean. Miller headed the ball in from a corner but the match official had already blown his whistle, apparently for a foul on goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
"The referee not giving a goal is a surprise to me," Cardiff manager Malky Mackay said. "I've looked at it again and again, maybe he has got in his mind he should have given a goal kick rather than a corner and tried to rectify that. But he's had an absolute howler with that one. You don't level one thing up with another ... play goes on."
Palace's squad was hit by a virus but only defender Nathanial Clyne was not well enough to play. He is expected to be fit for the second leg in Cardiff in two weeks' time.
"I thought we dominated play, were very bright and had countless chances, but it's only halftime now," Mackay said. "We'll bring them back to Cardiff City Stadium now and we're going to have a right good go, don't worry about that."