Belfast Telegraph

Warnock hails ‘miracle’ Manga challenge as Cardiff pick up point at Palace

The Bluebirds defender denied Wilfried Zaha late on to preserve the visitors’ clean sheet.

Neil Warnock hailed the challenge from Bruno Ecuele Manga as a “miracle” after it denied Wilfried Zaha a near-certain goal and earned Cardiff a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

The point was only their second away from home in this season’s Premier League, since that at Huddersfield in August, and came as they were consistently forced to resist intense pressure.

At the halfway stage of the league season Cardiff are on course to survive but had Zaha scored when he raced through on goal in the 86th minute, until Manga magnificently denied him, they would instead have been reflecting on a third successive defeat.

Last week they lost 5-1 at home to Manchester United, prompting Warnock to make five changes to his starting XI, and after watching Palace not score from 31 shots on goal, the 70-year-old Cardiff manager said: “I don’t know how Bruno got to that. A miracle, that.

“Somebody above us; a magnificent tackle. He couldn’t catch him given (he had given Zaha) a five-yard start.

“We moved it with purpose, nullified their strengths and kept them to a minimum. We dealt with their crosses magnificently. We could have created a few more opportunities ourselves. It’s a point gained.

“They were cream-crackered. Junior (Hoilett) put a shift in. That’s as good as I’ve seen from Kadeem (Harris) and Junior against attacking full-backs.

“Their goalie (Vicente Guaita) made the best save of the match from Kadeem.

“We’re looking at bringing players in (in January), but it’s not simple. We’re not going to spend stupid money. One or two have done that in the past and it’s not been the right thing for the club.

“It would be the biggest achievement of my career by an absolute mile (to keep Cardiff up).”

It was the lack of a reliable striker that again undermined Palace, demonstrating how remarkable last week’s 3-2 victory at Manchester City truly was, and their manager Roy Hodgson said: “We have to bite the bullet.

“We’d have liked to have won this game, and added to the points we got at Manchester City, but Cardiff came here with a good defensive set-up, a good plan, and were determined they wouldn’t lose. I’d guess Neil Warnock will be pleased.

“We weren’t certain they’d play with five at the back. That was hard for us to predict: it’s not something they’ve done very often, certainly in recent games.

“Perhaps our win last weekend gave us a bit more status than we might otherwise have had. But we dealt with the system well. We still produced the attacking play, and the moves I was hoping for.”

That Hodgson is a year older than Warnock at 71 made this the first Premier League fixture between teams managed by septuagenarians, and the former said: “We don’t regard ourselves as 70. That’s the problem. We put that fact conveniently behind us.

“We totally refuse to accept we are the age we are. I was watching a wonderful documentary on Bobby Robson, and that brought it home to me.

“It’s about what energy and enthusiasm you can muster up. Bobby Robson was the classic example of that. I’d like to think Warnock and I are in the same mould.”

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