Bellamy belter seals a perfect homecoming
Cardiff City 4 Doncaster Rovers 0
Sunday 22 August 2010
Very rarely the substance lives up to hype, and here in the Welsh capital yesterday Craig Bellamy fully justified the billing of the superstar hero at last coming home.
With one superlative swing of his right boot, the Cardiffian proved that while you can take the boy out of the Premier League you can't take the Premier League out of the boy.
The chances of anybody at Manchester City tuning into this Championship encounter would have been on the negligible side of zero. Which is a shame, if only because they did not get to see the contribution of the man whose £90,000-a-week wages they are supposedly subsidising to the tune of £65,000.
Purely on this evidence, the Bluebirds have made one hell of a deal, both from a footballing and business standpoint. After yesterday's fairytale finish it is hard to imagine that Cardiff's next home match won't be a sell-out as well. The bloke with 39 on his back was truly that good – and truly that touched as well.
"This was probably the most emotional week I've had in football," Bellamy said afterwards. "The tension hit me on Thursday – I felt it like you didn't believe.
"The manager saw it and told me to relax, told me I didn't need to score a hat-trick. All that experience counted for nothing today. I was more worried about this match than any before. It was made for Doncaster to come and upset the party."
Instead, it was Bellamy who popped the corks. With six minutes left, he stepped up and unleashed a 35-yard free-kick into the net. It was right on target and right on cue.
"To finish it off like that, I can't explain," he said. "It really is hard to describe that free-kick and what it meant. I've grown up here. My house is here. My family is here."
And so too, is a city full of Bellamy worshippers. Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, tried manfully to deflect some of the attention towards the other players who were more influential in this victory. "We didn't want it to be the Lord Mayor's Show," said Jones, who confessed to calling over Bellamy for at least one "kick up the arse".
And he was right, the man of the moment probably wasn't the man of the match. Chris Burke, on the other flank, nudged that award. Before he came on for Michael Chopra in the 32nd minute, Doncaster had actually enjoyed the best chances. Four minutes later, Jay Bothroyd scored his first of two and the script they all wanted was in the writing.
Bellamy had a hand in that deadlock-breaker, after a neat one-two with Seyi Olofinjana. But it owed more to Wayne Thomas's mistake. In that moment, Bellamy's own errors in the opening minutes were forgotten. He had arrived at the ground at 12pm to beat the crowds and the three-hour countdown seemed to affect him as passes went astray and at least one chance went begging.
But the more the game progressed the more he found his feet and the more the nerves left him. And when Bothroyd headed in his second in the 62nd minute, after a quite perfect Burke cross, the stage was set. First Bellamy delivered a 70-yard pass – that he confessed to being speculative – which dropped at the feet of Burke to clinically convert. Then, after the inevitable booking, came the grandstand moment and soon after Jones took him off to "ensure he got the applause he deserved". "I'm just amazed Man City have got 25 better than him," said the Doncaster manager, Sean O'Driscoll.
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