Warnock hails Cardiff's response to Sala tragedy

Cardiff City supporters display tributes for Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala ahead of the Premier League match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. Also, a minute's reflection was held before kick-off.
Cardiff City supporters display tributes for Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala ahead of the Premier League match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. Also, a minute's reflection was held before kick-off.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Cardiff manager Neil Warnock said he was proud of his team despite losing 2-1 at Arsenal on Tuesday. It was the first time the Premier League side played since a plane carrying the club's record signing Emiliano Sala disappeared over the English Channel.

The Argentinian, 28, was on his way to the Welsh capital to join his new team on Jan 21, just two days after completing a £15 million (S$26.6 million) move from French Ligue 1 club Nantes.

Ahead of the game, Warnock described the past week as the toughest of his career, but admitted it had been cathartic for the team to play at the Emirates Stadium.

A minute's reflection was held before kick-off and the visiting fans unveiled a banner that read: "We never saw you play and never saw you score, but Emiliano, our beautiful bluebird, we will love you forever more."

Both captains also laid a bouquet of flowers each on the pitch, while Argentina shirts and flags were waved in the away section.

Admitting there were "more important things" than losing a football game, Warnock said: "Tonight in the circumstances, we've only worked on the system for 24 hours.

"They couldn't have given me any more and I'm really proud to be their manager.

"I can't explain really how it has been this week. But you've not wanted to get out of bed because everything was miserable. Nobody could actually do anything about it. It's been really difficult."

He also paid tribute to Sala by confirming the club had no plans to dip into the transfer market again to replace him as "Emiliano was the one I worked on for a couple of months".

While Cardiff will not augment the squad with another striker, Warnock admitted they needed "a couple of defenders to supplement because we are short in numbers".

The away side ultimately were made to pay for defensive lapses despite having been the better side before half-time, with Bobby Reid missing two big chances.

Arsenal finally clicked into gear after the break, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotting home a penalty for his 15th Premier League goal of the season after Sead Kolasinac was tripped in the box.

Alexandre Lacazette then sealed a vital three points as the Gunners bid to finish in the top four.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who came off the bench, nabbed a consolation goal for Warnock's men.

Cardiff defender Sol Bamba told the BBC that some players are now scared to fly, saying: "We travel by plane and some of the lads have been thinking 'I don't want to go on it anymore'.

"The gaffer... and the club have been good in terms of bringing someone in to talk to if we need to."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Warnock hails Cardiff's response to Sala tragedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe