Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cardiff City 3 Manchester City 2

Gunnarsson scores Cardiff's first goal on a memorable day in South Wales

What: Cardiff City vs. Manchester City, Barclays Premier League

Where: Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales

When: 25 August 2013

When I sat down -- or, more accurately, lied down -- to watch Cardiff vs. Man City, I expected a spirited fight from the home side but a relatively comfortable victory for Man City, who looked the best of any team last week with their commanding 4-0 victory over Newcastle. 45 goalless minutes later, I realized I needed to give the Premier League new boys more credit. Though Cardiff did not look particularly impressive in losing 2-0 at West Ham last weekend, they won the Championship by eight points last season and owner Vincent Tan opened his pocketbook over the summer, breaking the club's transfer record three times to bring in Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel. They looked every bit as likely to score as Man City, and though they fell behind on 52 minutes after a moment of quality from Edin Dzeko (who somehow squeezed a screamer of a shot between two Cardiff defenders), they were level just eight minutes later. Kim Bo-Kyung streaked down the right side of the box and sent in a perfect ball to Fraizer Campbell, whose initial attempt was blocked by City keeper Joe Hart. But neither Hart nor his defenders could clear the rebound and Aron Gunnarsson pounced on their hesitation, smashing the ball into the City net. 

From there, City were exposed on a pair of corner kicks, with Campbell heading home each time. Hart got caught in no-man's-land on the first one, failing to punch clear, while Campbell simply beat his man for the third goal. Alvaro Negredo pulled one back for City on 90 minutes, but Cardiff held firm through six minutes of stoppage time for a famous win in their first Premier League match at home. Some scattered thoughts on the match:

  • Campbell's speed gave the City defenders some real problems at the back. City clearly missed injured captain Vincent Kompany at the back, as Campbell was able to get in behind Joleon Lescott several times. A few poor decisions from the linesman meant that Cardiff couldn't always finish their moves, but Campbell always looked the most threatening player to score and his two goals were well-deserved.
  • After they were untested at the back by Newcastle on Monday (just one shot on goal), we got a better look at City's defense and the signs weren't terribly promising. Cardiff looked much better organized at the back despite facing much more firepower, and Hart turned in another shaky performance following his game for England against Scotland last week. He'll need to be in better form than this if England want to qualify and do anything at the World Cup.
  • Cardiff did exactly what a projected bottom-half team should do at home in the Premier League. They were unafraid of the occasion and took it to City, knowing that they could get a point and ending up with all three. Now they must show that they're able to get points consistently at home. It's harder to get fired up for Southampton or Sunderland at home in December, but those matches count just as much as the one they played today.
  • Cardiff have got to come up with a better name for their stadium. Even a sponsored name would sound better than the boring Cardiff City Stadium. I love the names of old grounds that don't even sound like stadiums -- Old Trafford, Highbury, Stamford Bridge. When I hear those names, I think exclusively of football (though I am aware that Old Trafford is also a cricket ground). While coming up with an iconic name like those would be difficult, almost anything is better than Cardiff City Stadium. 

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