Cardiff City came into the game at The Den looking to bounce back from their difficult loss in the Severnside derby prior to the International Break. In their way were a resolute Millwall, who hadn’t won in three, The Bluebirds struggled to a 1-1 draw.
This match promised to be a torrid affair, both teams being in poor form, with the home side struggling in front of goal, and the away outfit having several defensive woes. Coming into the game, Millwall had failed to score in their previous three matches, with former Bluebirds’ striker Kenneth Zohore breaking the deadlock against Preston. Cardiff’s undoing were their habit of conceding first, falling behind in seven of their previous eight games.
Much of the pregame buildup had been focused on Neil Harris’ first trip back to The Den since leaving for the Bluebirds’ a year previously. Though dominating for the majority of their 1-0 loss against Bristol City, Cardiff felt the need to make just the one change, with Robert Glatzel chosen to partner Kieffer Moore in the attack.
Millwall were forced into making two changes from their goalless draw at Hillsborough, with Mahlon Romeo and Connor Mahoney missing out due to injury. Shaun Williams addition in Rowett’s starting lineup signified a change to a more defensive 4-2-3-1 shape for the Lions.
From the offset, neither team looked to dominate the game, with City having the line share of possession and Rowett’s outfit being the well-organised, defensive unit that is expected of Millwall. However, the first opportunity fell to the home side, with Ryan Woods’ shot from distance stinging the palms of Alex Smithies.
With Neil Harris’ aspirations for the team, attempting to transition to a more possession based game, the clash in styles was apparent to see. The Bluebirds first chance came in the 6th minute, with Glatzel chesting the ball down inside the box, swivelling and firing his left footed attempt wide of the post. The German was searching for his first goal in 13 games.
A battle ensued in the centre of the park, with both midfields trying to get a firm hold of the game, the first quarter of the game was seldom of any clear goal-scoring opportunities. On 25 minutes, Junior Hoilett tried his luck from range, after some clever interplay with Marlon Pack, however his effort sailed wide of the net.
Against the run of play, the Bluebirds found themselves a goal down, as Shaun Williams delivered a dept cross into the box, with the Lions paying dividends from the aerial threat of Matt Smith. The header looped over Alex Smithies after yet another defensive mix-up between Curtis Nelson and Sean Morrison.
Looking to respond instantly, Bartosz Białkowski excellent right-handed tip over the bar the only thing stopping Robert Glatzel from a headed equaliser.
A frustrating first half, Neil Harris’ return to The Den wasn’t turning into the fairytale he had been hoping for.
Halftime: Millwall 1 – 0 Cardiff City
The hosts almost doubled their unlikely lead immediately after half time, Jed Wallace turning provider this time with a succulent cross towards the back post, met by the head of Ben Thompson, who put it over the bar, completely unmarked.
The game was threatening to fall out of the reach of City, with a last-ditch recovery tackle from the captain Sean Morrison the only thing stopping the hosts from a two goal cushion. A fast-paced counter-attack led by Wales goalscorers Harry Wilson and Kieffer Moore looked to level the game on 51 minutes, however the striker’s effort creeping wide.
The visitors desperately attempted to claw their way back into the game, with any sort of defensive stability being sacrificed for attacking threat. Chances came at both ends of the field, firstly with another effort from Ben Thompson curling wide of the post, and then with Cardiff fullback Joe Bennett firing a powerful effort into the side netting.
A frustrating evening for Robert Glatzel ended on 75 minutes, as he was replaced by Josh Murphy, the pacey winger looking to exploit the tired legs of Millwall, and combine with the fluidity and pace of Wilson and Ojo. Although often criticised for his inconsistency, Murphy’s ability shone through on 80 minutes, as his inch perfect pass between the lines slotted in Moore, who, full of confidence, raced onto it, rolling into the bottom left corner of Białkowski’s goal.
The goal was the late spark needed for City to smell the blood in the water, peppering the Lions’ goal with several efforts in the dying moments. Firstly, Josh Murphy was involved again, his delightful cross into Harry Wilson, whose point-blank effort was somehow kept out by Millwall’s Polish stopper. Moments later, Białkowski denied Moore of a second, tipping the striker’s header over the bar.
With the Bluebirds throwing men forward, Bödvarsson broke with pace, curling his effort wide in a one on one, with Alex Smithies making up for his earlier mistake for the Lions’ goal.
In the fourth minute of added time, all three points looked to be heading back to South Wales, as Joe Bennett’s header was heading in before being cleared off the line. Although a full-hearted late surge, Neil Harris’ side were forced settle for a point.
Cardiff fans will be hopeful that the late showing can be applied earlier on in games, with the final 20 minutes showing the attacking potency of the Bluebirds, heading into a meeting with Championship new boys Coventry.
As for Millwall, they’ll be hopeful of a similar defensive solidity against early league leaders Reading.
Fulltime: Millwall 1 – 1 Cardiff City
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