Saturday 21 September 2019

Doleful but proud, Warnock reflects on Sala loss as Cardiff return to the pitch

The Bluebirds were overcome by Arsenal, but the boss said the team “couldn’t have given me any more”.

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock was proud of his players’ performance in their first match since the disappearance of Emiliano Sala (Ben Birchall/PA)
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock was proud of his players’ performance in their first match since the disappearance of Emiliano Sala (Ben Birchall/PA)

By Matt McGeehan, Press Association Sport

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock felt proud of his players’ performance in honouring Emiliano Sala, despite a 2-1 loss at Arsenal.

The Bluebirds’ first game since the disappearance of the aeroplane carrying Argentinian striker Sala and pilot David Ibbotson was a sombre occasion, with the relegation-threatened visitors trying to seize on the Gunners’ defensive uncertainty.

However, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half penalty and Alexandre Lacazette’s solo strike saw Arsenal prevail to move level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s stoppage-time effort proving mere consolation.

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Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were remembered at the Emirates Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)

“We spoke about it before the kick-off: for Emiliano we ought to try to put a performance in,” Warnock said.

“I know we’ve lost a game of football, but there are other more important things.

“I can’t explain how it’s been this week. You’ve not really wanted to get out of bed, because you know what’s coming.

“Everything was really miserable. Nobody could actually do anything about it.

“In the circumstances, we’ve only worked on it for 24 hours, the system and everything.

“They couldn’t have given me any more. I’m proud to be their manager.”

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Cardiff boss Neil Warnock thanked the supporters after the loss at Arsenal (Nick Potts/PA)

Two days after Sala’s transfer to Cardiff in a £15million deal from Nantes, the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane carrying the Argentinian and Ibbotson disappeared over the English Channel.

An official search was called off last Thursday, with funds raised to conduct a private exploration.

Tributes at the Emirates Stadium included a daffodil by Sala’s name in the Cardiff squad list on the matchday programme, the Bluebirds’ mascot Daffyd wearing a shirt sporting the striker’s name and numerous supporters’ banners.

The biggest read: ‘We never saw you play and never saw you score, but Emiliano our beautiful Bluebird we will love you forever more.’

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Arsenal head coach Unai Emery described the Cardiff match as “very emotional” (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal boss Unai Emery said: “Last week I was thinking maybe we cannot play, but the situation is continuing.

“Continuing finding Emiliano Sala, continuing the competition and it is a very emotional match.”

Warnock added his plan was to try to add defensive reinforcements prior to Thursday’s closure of the transfer window.

He added: “I don’t think we’ll be doing anything striker-wise – we took two months on Emiliano.

“I can’t see anybody at the moment that we can get, with all the rules and regulations, that’s better than what we’ve got.

“We’re still trying to bring in one or two defensive players.”

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Unai Emery refused to discuss a rumoured loan deal for Barcelona’s Denis Suarez after Arsenal’s win over Cardiff (Mike Egerton/PA)

Emery refused to be drawn on a potential loan deal for Barcelona’s Denis Suarez, insisting his sole focus had been on the match.

“If we can sign one player to come and help us that is good for us,” he said.

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