Cardiff City vs. Manchester City: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Cardiff City ignored the pre-match odds to stun Manchester City on Sunday afternoon and claim a memorable 3-2 Premier League victory.
With the Welsh side playing in their first home game in England's top flight in 51 years, man-of-the-match Fraizer Campbell scored twice to seal victory after Aron Gunnarsson earlier cancelled out Edin Dzeko's fine opener.
Man City had plenty of chances in the closing stages but could not find the two goals they needed, with substitute Alvaro Negredo's first goal in English football not enough to steal a point for Manuel Pellegrini's club.
Cardiff named a familiar side for their first home game of the season, with Gary Medel and Steven Caulker the two additions to the personnel that Malky Mackay led to promotion last season.
The visitors, meanwhile, had a problem in defence. Lacking other options, Pellegrini pressed Javi Garcia, a central midfielder by trade, into the heart of defence alongside Joleon Lescott.
It was to be an issue that cost City.
The first half was a generally drab affair, with Man City showing little cohesion in midfield and attack as Cardiff, buoyed by a raucous crowd, pushed forward with fervour. Peter Whittingham scared Joe Hart with one dangerous free-kick before the England goalkeeper was forced off his line to charge down Campbell as he slipped through on goal.
Campbell looked like the best player on the pitch in the first half, terrorising the somewhat uncertain Garcia, but it was City who emerged with a renewed vigour in the second half. They would soon take the lead, Edin Dzeko firing a beautiful strike into the top corner from 30 yards after an astute back heel from Sergio Aguero.
The sense was that, propelled by that moment of class, the title challengers would subsequently run away with matters—just as they did against Newcastle United in their opener. But Cardiff had other ideas, Gunnarsson stealing an equaliser after reacting quickest when Campbell had seen a close-range effort blocked by Hart.
Having been the (somewhat inadvertent) provider, the stage was then cleared for Campbell to become the main man. Whittingham, whose deliveries had looked dangerous all game, fired in a beautiful corner on 79 minutes—one that the former Manchester United striker roared in to power home from two yards out.
Hart will face some scrutiny after missing his punch, but there were also suspicions of a foul on Garcia from Ben Turner—one that was either not spotted or ignored by referee Lee Probert.
Just under 10 minutes later, and from the opposite flank, Campbell repeated the trick—this time substitute Don Cowie the provider as the forward rose above Pablo Zabaleta to beat Hart for a second time.
By now the crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium was making a deafening noise, but City were not about to give up. They put up sustained pressure and cut the deficit two minutes into injury time, as Negredo rose magnificently to redirect David Silva's cross beyond David Marshall.
By then, however, time was against the visitors—and when Aguero spurned a half-chance, it was clear Cardiff would take a remarkable three points.
"They had a centre-midfielder playing centre-back, so you know you might get an opportunity there," the hero of the hour, Campbell, said afterward.
"Some great deliveries into the box today, and it was a great team performance. It was very special, but the most special thing is getting the three points.
"We're going to be underdogs for a lot of the games this season, but as we've shown today, we've got great determination, and hopefully that will see us through."
Pellegrini, understandably, was somewhat less content—although he insisted that it was only two set-piece deliveries that had cost his side, not poor performance or errant selection:
I think we played against a very difficult team. It was difficult for us to try to score, but when we scored the first goal I think we could have been better after that.
But the set pieces decided the match. Football is like that. I think Cardiff won the match, but I think we played better.
No, that (central defence) was not the problem the whole match. Cardiff are a difficult team who counterattack, but it was just two balls that decided the game.
Pellegrini's opposite number, Mackay, nevertheless seemed to feel his side had exposed City's frailty, one created by an injury to Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic's lack of full-match fitness.
"We were fantastic to a man and deservedly won the game," Mackay said. "I think he (Campbell) gave Javi Garcia a very tough time during the game.
"We've worked hard on set pieces and guys that can aggressively attack the ball, and Fraizer is one of them."
Key Player Grades
Fraizer Campbell: A
The day's man of the match enjoyed a profitable afternoon, making the most of City's defensive issues. He tortured Garcia throughout the first half, seeming to sense his positional uncertainty and exploiting it to great effect.
But it was actually only in the second half—and away from Garcia's attentions—that he got his goals, showing great technique and positioning to rise and meet two set-piece deliveries with authority. There may be questions asked about his first strike, but there will be none about Campbell's display.
Javi Garcia: C
Do not expect to see the Spaniard pressed into defensive service on too many more occasions. The midfielder by trade clearly looked out of his comfort zone, and Cardiff exposed his difficulties in taking all three points.
Garcia was not all bad, however, and deserves some credit for his attitude once his side went two goals behind—he was one of the most prominent players driving the visitors forward in search of the strikes needed. Couple that with the obvious determination with which he tried to fulfill duties he was clearly not perfectly suited to, and he deserves some leniency in judgement.
Kim Bo-Kyung: B+
Could the South Korean prove to be one of the surprise packages of the season?
Just 23, Kim looked composed beyond his years and produced a bit of skill that even David Silva would have been proud of, having wriggled free down the right to provide the initial cross that led to Gunnarsson's equaliser.
A diligent box-to-box presence, Kim was worth every part of the standing ovation he received when he exited shortly before the final whistle.
Joe Hart: C
The England goalkeeper may avoid greater scrutiny due to Garcia's more obvious woes, but he really should face serious questions from Pellegrini for another underwhelming display.
A couple of first-half saves were forgotten by the time he completely missed Whittingham's corner for Campbell's first strike, while he surely could have done more to prevent the striker heading home a second.
Hart does not appear to have been in "good" form for a while now. With a World Cup getting ever closer, his issues will be as much a concern for Roy Hodgson as Pellegrini.
Cardiff now must reset their sights on a Capital One Cup visit to Accrington Stanley in midweek before they host Everton next weekend. Manchester City, meanwhile, will hope to regroup in time for the visit of another promoted side, Hull City, on Saturday.
All gifs courtesy of 101greatgoals; all quotes transcribed from Sky Sports.
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