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Crystal Palace on course for League Cup final

Darren Ambrose of Crystal Palace battles with Cardiff City's Joe Ralls during the Carling Cup semifinal first leg match at Selhurst Park on Tuesday in London, England. (GETTY)

By Agencies

Crystal Palace defeated Cardiff 1-0 in the first leg of their semifinal in the Carling Cup, English soccer’s second-tier club competition.

Anthony Gardner put Crystal Palace on course for their first major Wembley final since 1990 when he scored the only goal just before halftime at Selhurst Park in south London on Tuesday night. Cardiff hosts the return match in the two-leg series on January 24.

Former Tottenham defender Gardner netted for the first time in more than a year to spark jubilant scenes at Selhurst Park and leave Palace fans dreaming of their first semi success in four attempts. Kenny Miller had an equaliser controversially disallowed for Cardiff, who will nevertheless need to show more cutting edge in the Welsh capital in two weeks' time if they are to turn the tie around.

Having stunned Manchester United at Old Trafford in the previous round, Palace will be confident of finishing the job and ending the semifinal heartache that has seen them lose at this stage of the competition three times since famously reaching the FA Cup final 22 years ago.

“We got a team set up to win away from home,” Palace manager Dougie Freedman, whose players knocked out Manchester United in the previous round, told Sky Sports. “We’ll go there quietly confident and it’ll be a very interesting game.”

The winner of the series between the teams from the second-tier Championship advances to the February 26 final at Wembley Stadium in London. Record seven-time winner Liverpool visits Premier League leader Manchester City in the first game of the other semifinal on Wednesday night.

Palace took the lead when Mile Jedinak beat Cardiff goalkeeper Tom Heaton to a Darren Ambrose free kick and flicked the ball toward the far post where Gardner nodded it into the empty net.

Cardiff looked to have tied the score in the 67th minute when Kenny Miller headed in a corner kick, only for referee Mike Dean to disallow the effort for a foul in front of goal.

“The referee not giving the goal is a surprise to me,” Cardiff manager Malky Mackay told Sky Sports. “Maybe he has got in his mind he should have given a goal kick rather than a corner and tried to rectify that.”

The Bluebirds controlled play over the final 15 minutes without coming up with the tying goal. Andrew Taylor sent their last chance just over the crossbar in injury time.