Cardiff 2-3 Leicester (4-3 p)
Cardiff City Stadium
12/05/10 - 7.45 p.m.
Leicester suffered the cruelest of play-off exits as penalties were to prove fatal to end dreams of a final at Wembley.
The Foxes had fought against the odds to claim an incredible 3-2 victory on the night to take the match into extra time and then penalties, but misses from Yann Kermorgant and Martyn Waghorn in the shoot-out proved decisive as City missed out on the chance of back-to-back promotions.
It was a heroic effort from Nigel Pearson's side, who took the Bluebirds to the wire in an excellently contested battle in the Welsh capital.
Michael Chopra put the hosts one up on the night within the first ten minutes to give Cardiff a seemingly unassailable lead, but Matty Fryatt hit back immediately after to put the tie back on track.
Things got better for City with ten minutes of the firt half remaining when Mark Hudson headed into his own net to put the Foxes onto level terms in the semi-final.
In truth it was against the run of play given Cardiff's dominance in the first period, but clinical Leicester were reaping their rewards in front of goal.
Thoughts of a Wembley final with Blackpool were shamefully put into the forefront of minds when Andy King headed home after just four minutes of the restart to sent Leicester's travelling contingent wild.
The miraculous comeback had been achieved, and Cardiff were undoubtedly shell-shocked by the sucker punch straight after half-time.
But some slack defending was to prove fatal for the Foxes as Michael Chopra was hauled down by Alex Bruce for a certain penalty. Peter Whittingham made no mistake from the spot to put the Bluebirds back on level terms, setting up a nervy final 20 minutes for Leicester fans.
And what a horrible 20 minutes. How many emotions is it possible to run through as a football fan during one match? Because I think I went through every single one of them last night.
Jay Bothroyd saw an effort come back off the crossbar, before Whittingham crashed a free-kick off the upright once more. I could be forgiven for wanting the world to swallow me up whenever the winger was faced with a set-piece after his incredible exploits this season.
Leicester had opportunities of their own, first when Waghorn's corner was punched onto the post by David Marshall, before the goalkeeper was on hand to get two hands to Steve Howard's dipping volley.
Neither side could find the crucial breakthrough to send a thrilling tie into extra-time.
The final half an hour was tight, compact and relatively danger-free for both sides. The Foxes' best chance fell to Waghorn, who looped the ball well wide of Marshall's goal after finding himself in space at the back post. In truth it should have perhaps been game over.
Cardiff did not go without opportunities of their own, Kelvin Etuhu taking the pick of the bunch to force Chris Weale into a good save round the post.
And so the match moved into the feared penalty shoot-out. An epic tie of over 210 minutes of football could not seperate the two sides, leaving it all down to who had the most bottle from twelve yards.
The first three penalties from each side were dispatched expertly. Then stepped up Leicester striker Yann Kermorgant to duly deliver a ridiculous chip which Marshall saved with ease. A terrible decision in a shoot-out of such magnitude.
Mark Kennedy scored Cardiff's crucial fourth, leaving the final spot-kick to Waghorn who stepped up and saw his effort saved by Bluebirds stopper Marshall. Shoot-out lost, Leicester out of the play-offs and condemned to another season in the Championship.
But hope is far from lost. Last night's incredible tie was just the bitter end of a magnificent season, one in which consolidation was brushed aside in the quest for Premier League glory.
One thing goes without saying - we're all proud of you boys.
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