After a woeful start to the season, Neil Harris’ men had managed to turn their early troubles around, winning their previous 4 games. Full of confidence, showing their ability to win games the hard way, Cardiff appeared to be heading back in the right direction, now sitting ninth in the league. The visitors, Swansea City, sat in fourth, coming into this heated matchup unbeaten in their previous three league outings. Without any supporters to stir the atmosphere in the cauldron of animosity that was the Cardiff City Stadium, fans and coaches alike hoped that those players on the field could lift the atmosphere, to live up to the fervour of the South Wales derby.
Certainly coming into the game, there was justification to anticipate vastly differing styles of play. After their pre-season flourishes and passing style of play, Cardiff had transitioned back to their tried and tested directness, opting to get passes forward faster, rather than dominate the ball. Swansea on the other hand were the opposite, a team built on passing from the back, and slowly building attacks.
For the fifth game running, Harris named an unchanged side, a last-minute call being able to name a fit Harry Wilson after his mid-week injury woe, lining up in their now standard 4-4-2.
Swansea, with Steve Cooper, named three changes to the side that drew against Bournemouth, with the experienced Ryan Bennett and Chelsea youngster Marc Guehi coming in for the inexperience of Ben Cabango and Joel Latibeaudiere, with Jay Fulton returning to the starting lineup.
Having received plaudits for their comeback against Stoke in midweek, along with the defensive solidity shown in their previous outings, having not conceded to an opposition player in that time, Cardiff kicked off the derby with confidence.
However, their lackadaisical nature in the opening minutes of games was still haunting them. After a neat passage of play by the Swans, a lofted cross to the back post from Jake Bidwell found its way to Conor Roberts, the Welshman heading it back across goal under pressure from City left-back Joe Bennett. Unable to clear their lines, Jamal Lowe’s weak effort slipped through the legs of Alex Smithies, who could do nothing but watch the ball cross the line.
Yet again, the Bluebirds started the game the slower of the sides, paying the consequences, and going a goal behind within the first 10 minutes. Smithies, who was arguably Cardiff’s hero in the Midlands, should’ve done better.
Though slow, Cardiff were growing into it, attempting to threaten the Swans defence, breaking quickly on the counter as they had done so successfully this season. Swansea born Mark Harris was denied any clear cut opportunity to stamp his authority on the game, his through ball down the line to Kieffer Moore stamped out, though deemed illegally, by Ryan Bennett. A yellow card issued to the Swansea centre back.
Trailing, City couldn’t get a hold of the game, n’or the ball, struggling with the width of Swansea’s full backs, who were feeding off the Cardiff midfield being overrun by the Jacks. A deft through ball looked to trouble City, with Andre Ayew coming inches to running in on goal, only to be fouled by captain Sean Morrison. The skipper received a booking for the offence.
The visitors came close to doubling their lead within the first 20 minutes, a Matt Grimes left-footed curler from outside the Cardiff area rattled the post, which from replays showed a superb Smithies saved had denied the Englishman a wonderful goal.
Subsequently, Cardiff broke again with pace, as Harry Wilson found Kieffer Moore on the edge of the Swansea area, the Welshman seeing his effort blocked well by Marc Guehi. Though this was called back for a free-kick, as Moore was fouled by Bennett. The Cardiff players were in uproar, as they believed the veteran should’ve been handed his marching orders, the former Wolves man lunging into a challenge, impeding on the 6″5 striker, who would’ve felt that the opportunity to score was clear and obvious.
Cardiff appeared to have very little imagination, unable to break down the defensive back 5 of the Swans. Half chances came and went, a Wilson free-kick squandered as it curled over the bar and a Morrison free header that was flicked on to nobody.
Freddie Woodman, in the visitors net, would not have had an easier first half all season.
Halftime: Cardiff City 0-1 Swansea City
Hoping for a stronger second half, the Bluebirds tempo seemed infinitely higher than that of the opening minutes of the first. A soft Joe Ralls yellow card was evidence of this, City pressed high against a stretched Swansea to win the ball, and force their opponents into mistakes.
Cardiff certainly shaped up as the better team after the interval, showing more impetus and nous. This pressure almost paid dividends, a Will Vaulks long throw into the box bounced around, landing at the feet of Moore, who ambitiously back-heeled his effort over the bar. City were certainly improving.
Although, the hosts’ misery was further compiled as the striker was forced into leaving the field, pulling his hamstring as a result of his attempt – Glatzel replacing him.
Confidence grew, and the Bluebirds flying attackers were beginning to have some opportunity, Harris and Ojo, whom had been quiet thus far, linking aptly on the right of the Swansea box, the latter curling an audacious effort inches over the bar. Neil Harris’ men were knocking on the door for the equaliser, to little avail.
And, on 67 minutes, things went from bad to worse for the home side, as a wayward ball looking to be won was picked up outside the Cardiff area by Smith, who was then impeded by Ralls, coming clean through the Swansea midfielder. Already on a booking, the ref had no choice but to hand the midfielder his second yellow, sending City down to 10 men. This was now a mountain to climb.
Almost instantly from this, Cardiff found themselves two goals down, as the rampant 5 man midfield of Swansea City swarmed, taking the ball from Joe Bennett and Will Vaulks, who were found isolated. Lowe, who was brimming with confidence by now, picked the ball up on halfway, driving at the heart of the City defence, cutting inside onto his left, only to trivela it into the bottom left of Smithies goal alla Rivaldo, as Morrison and Nelson stood watching. A real Lowe point for the men in blue.
With the visitors comfortable, and the hosts with very little to give, the game drew to a close.
Fulltime: Cardiff City 0-2 Swansea City
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