A bad ending

Adrian Robson at Wembley in 1991

Cardiff City 3 – Birmingham City 2

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Another game on the treadmill that is the Championship at the moment resulted in Blues falling to defeat to the odd goal in five in an eventful, roller-coaster kind of a game at the Cardiff City stadium.

Back to a 4-2-3-1 and a side very close to that which won so handsomely at Reading a week ago, the only differences being Jukey for Hogan up front and Clarke-Slater filling in for the banned Pedersen.

Choosing centre back Clarke-Salter to play left back in the absence of Pedersen and the injured Friend initially rebounded on Karanka as the Chelsea loanee gave the ball away disastrously on nine minutes in a dangerous position. Cardiff made the most of his terrible pass which put Blues on the back foot and caught the defence out of position and when the ball came to him Glatzel beat Etheridge convincingly.

No more than Cardiff deserved, though. Blues hardly had a sniff of it in the first twenty minutes. But they then got a hold in the game and Dutch Mike and Sunjic started winning the ball and we started to see Sanchez and Leko on the ball.

For the first of many times in the game it swung as Blues started probing. Their increasing pressure paid off with a quality goal from an unexpected source.

After a sustained bout of pressure, the ball went into the box. Despite the Cardiff centre-half being all over him, Jukey held the ball and then laid if off. Of all people it was Roberts who picked it up and unleashed an untypical shot into the corner of Smithies’ net.

From there on in to half time it was all Blues as they controlled things in midfield and looked a real handful going forward.

“… the best goal we’ve scored this season.”

The second period started scrappily with Cardiff just about edging it, but on 57 the momentum moved back in Blues favour as a result of the best goal we’ve scored this season.

Blues broke out of defence and played the ball in a controlled manner forward into Jukey. Jukey laid it off to Sanchez, still only midway into the Cardiff half. The Spaniard set off on a run towards goal, including one sublime step inside, before unleashing an unstoppable shot from near the edge of the box. Some way to open your account for the club.

Against type, Karanka went for the kill, bringing on Halilovic and Bela for the ineffective Toral and Leko. The changes, though, seemed to have the opposite effect as it was Cardiff’s turn to dominate proceedings.

The home side were getting the ball into Blues’ box, particularly from set pieces, and the defence was looking increasingly wobbly. A bit of pinball saw the post hit and the ball cleared of the line by an unwitting Cardiff forward, before another penalty area skirmish resulted in yet another penalty being awarded against us.

The Sky commentator pointed the finger at Clarke-Salter for handball, but, I’ll admit, I didn’t spot it. Whatever, it was all academic as Etheridge kept up his pleasing penalty saving habit, this one the best of the lot as he dived to his left to keep out Glatzel’s spot kick.

You felt that this was going to be our night, but the reprieve was short-lived. A fantastic ball from Pack caught Bela asleep and Clarke-Salter nowhere to be seen as Wilson got the wrong side of our winger inside the box and finished nicely with a cross shot.

You felt that this wasn’t going to be our night, and it came to pass.

Typical of the game, it was Blues who then stepped up the pace, with Sanchez testing Smithies and Bela curling one wide from distance. Just as it looked as if Blues were the more likely to grab a winner, Cardiff did just that.

More heavy bombardment from Cardiff resulted in a corner. When it came over the defence had finally gone to pieces, Morrison found himself unmarked on the back post and he gleefully headed home.

So Blues keep up their record of never having won at the Cardiff City stadium, but in a very entertaining game they were desperately unlucky to go home form south Wales with nothing.

Joys

  • Good comeback after a terrible start to the game
  • Two goals away from home not to be sniffed at
  • Jukey’s contribution to both goals shows how he can be used effectively in a 4-2-3-1
  • Another Etheridge penalty save

Sorrows

  • Surprisingly unable to deal with Cardiff’s aerial bombardment in the second half
  • Clarke-Salter at left back
  • Bela’s tracking back
  • Terrible start to the game
  • Toral and Leko’s lack of impact

Player ratings

Etheridge – 7

Terrific penalty save. Not sure where he was for Cardiff’s winning goal.

Colin – 6

Steady yet unspectacular. Would have liked to see more of him going forward.

Clarke-Salter – 5

Didn’t work in our current problem position. Gave the ball away terribly for the first Cardiff goal, AWOL for second.

Roberts – 7

An unexpectedly good goal for the leveller. Should have been dealing better with Cardiff lumping it into the box in the second half, that’s his day job.

Dean – 6

Leader of a defence which let in three bad goals.

Kieftenbeld – 6

Helped get Blues back into the game after the bad start, but wasn’t able to drive the team forward in the same way as recently.

Sunjic – 7

Thought he had a good game imposing himself on the game after the first twenty minutes. Went over his head a bit in the second half as Cardiff went longer.

Sanchez – 8

MoM for that goal alone. Would be great if he can add goals to his game on a regular basis.

Leko – 6

Ran up a lot of cul-de-sacs and never really affected the game.

Toral – 6

Pale shadow of the guy who played last week at Reading. Clearly needs to add consistency to his game because he was a bit of a passenger here.

Jutkiewicz – 7

Contributed to both of the goals with his hold up play.

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