Two chances. Two goals. That was the tale of the day at Hillsborough where Don Cowie’s strike on the stroke of half-time and Matthew Connolly’s second-half header were enough to see Cardiff City past a struggling Sheffield Wednesday side.
It certainly wasn’t pretty and the Owls effectively set their stalls out to make things difficult for Cardiff. But Cowie, re-installed to the starting eleven added an energy to the middle of the park and the embryonic defensive partnership of Ben Nugent and Leon Barnett coped admirably and set the solid platform on which City were able to claim all three points.
It was just the tonic ahead of the international break, added to with losses for chasing Watford and Hull City.
It was the home side, battling for their Championship lives, who settled quicker at home to the league leaders and had much the better of an opening twenty minutes which saw City sloppy in possession and unable to build any kind of momentum. Manchester City loanee Jeremy Helan tested David Marshall early on, drifting in from the left and striking low but right at the Scottish stopper.
It wasn’t just City, but the game in general that struggled to gain any kind of momentum for large periods. Leroy Lita had a penalty appeal turned down when he tumbled whilst weaving in between the new centre-half pairing of Ben Nugent and Norwich loanee Leon Barnett. Cowie had to receive a spell of lengthy treatment when he caught an accidental, stray arm in midfield and Nugent showed his strength as a defender to stand Lita up in the area and force him into a shot from a difficult angle which was duly blocked by the City youngster.
With the game seemingly drifting uneventfully towards a half-time stalemate, up popped Cowie with a vital strike. Bellamy delivered a wicked in-swinging corner towards the near post that was only cleared as far of the edge of the box where Cowie waved off the attentions of Whittingham and drilled a shot through the amassed crowd in the Wednesday box and eventually over the line.
Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 1 Cardiff City (Don Cowie 45mins)
HT: Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 1 Cardiff City
Cardiff immediately looked to be playing with more impetus, tempo and width from the very start of the second-half. Twice in quick succession Bellamy and Fraizer Campbell were able to get some space in behind one either channel, yet on both occasions they were thwarted by tremendous covering tackles by Miguel Llera and Reda Johnson.
City’s first sight at goal for the second-half arrived through some fine work by Matthew Connolly. He broke up play magnificently in midfield with a scything tackle and then picked himself up to spray a brilliant ball in behind Johnson for Bellamy to chase. However, with Craig in space wide on the right, Campbell was nursing a knock back on the edge of the area and so frustratingly he had no target to aim for inside.
Sheffield Wednesday Substitution: Gary Madine for Danny Pugh (57mins)
When Cardiff’s second arrived, it did so with alarming ease from the home side’s point of view. Much like the opener it was a wonderful delivery that was the catalyst, this time an in-swinging free-kick from the right by Whittingham that was met just yards out by Matthew Connolly and he powered his header low and through the legs of Chris Kirkland.
Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 2 Cardiff City (Matthew Connolly 65mins)
Sheffield Wednesday Substitution: Jermaine Johnson for Jeremy Helan (68mins)
Much like the away match at Wolves, Cardiff almost immediately gave away a free-kick on the edge of their own area having just gone 2-0 up. Leon Barnett the guilty culprit, however this time David Marshall was able to watch Miguel Llera’s curling effort and touch it over the bar as it headed for the top left-hand corner.
Sheffield Wednesday Substitution: Chris Maguire for Michail Antonio (77mins)
Cardiff were now not only two goals to the good, but controlling possession and territory in much the way the home side had in the opening exchanges. As things got increasingly scrappy and combative, Craig Bellamy was just one of a number of players booked. In Craig’s case for leaving his foot in during a tackle with Reda Johnson which drew scorn from the stricken opponent, who had to be restrained from seeking retribution by team-mate Chris Kirkland.
Cardiff City Substitution: Tommy Smith for Craig Bellamy (82mins)
Cardiff City Substitution: Craig Conway for Peter Whittingham (85mins)
Cardiff City Substitution: Rudy Gestede for Heidar Helguson (87mins)
With the score at 2-0 and just minutes left on the clock, Wednesday finally produced a moment to cut open Cardiff’s new look defence. Lita, incredibly quiet up to that point, got in behind and slid the ball home only to turn and see the nearside linesman with his flag raised for offside.
Then, with seven minutes of injury time raised by the fourth official, Marshall was called into action and duly obliged with a great treble save. The first was instinctive off Llera’s header, the second diving into traffic to scoop away the subsequent loose ball. Then finally, with the ball turned back in, a close-range shot struck his standing leg and deflected away to safety.
FT: Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 2 Cardiff City