Craig Conway's first half strike was enough for City to secure a 1-1 draw at Burnley and secure the Championship trophy in the process. Malky Mackay was thrown up in the air by his players after the final whistle as the Club completed one of the finest weeks in its history.
Cardiff were by far the better side over the opening forty-five minutes, and they took the lead through a memorable Craig Conway goal, the winger cutting inside after being fed by Kim Bo-Kyung and popping the ball sweetly into the top corner of the net. The only sour note of the first half for the Welsh side were two ugly arms thrown in Kim’s direction by Burnley’s Ross Wallace, the one-cap Scotland international incredibly lucky not to be taking an early shower on two first-half occasions.
Knowing what was at stake, the second half was mostly about keeping possession for the Bluebirds, a plan which frustrated their hosts no end until they grabbed an equaliser. David Edgar got the Clarets' goal in injury time, not long after a wonder save from Marshall had denied Danny Ings. It did nothing to hamper the City celebrations though, as Malky Mackay’s side ensured some silverware would soon be heading across the Severn Bridge and into CF11.
Cardiff City looked to complete a special week in the history of the football club by clearing what manager Malky Mackay referred to on Friday as the “final hurdle” of the season, to win the second tier title for the first time since the Club’s formation in 1899 as Riverside A.F.C.
Second-placed Hull City’s 0-0 draw with Bristol City at KC Stadium on Friday evening placed them six points behind the league leaders, but more importantly it meant that Cardiff needed to collect just a solitary point in any of their remaining three fixtures to clinch the league title.
Cardiff entered the match undefeated in ten meetings with our friends from Lancashire, having won four of those ten, but with the home side just three points above the nPower Championship drop zone in seventeenth position, the Clarets certainly had something to play for. The reverse fixture at Cardiff City Stadium had seen the Bluebirds get their biggest win of the season - Joe Mason, Craig Noone, Matthew Connolly and Aron Gunnarsson with City’s goals in a 4-0 win.
Andrew Taylor captained City for the second time this season as Craig Bellamy started on the bench. Craig Conway played in Bellamy’s place, while Simon Lappin was also on the City bench.
Kevin McNaughton was given a rare shooting opportunity less than a minute after kick-off, but the Scot, whose image was plastered all over the national press after his celebrations on Tuesday, put the ball high and wide. Rudy Gestede, making his fiftieth league appearance for the Bluebirds, was much closer with a volley out of nowhere sixty seconds later, hitting the roof of the net and ensuring Clarets keeper Lee Grant was wide awake.
On the ten-minute mark, interplay from Gestede and Kim allowed Aron Gunnarsson to fire wide to Grant’s right post, before Jordon Mutch headed over from a Craig Conway corner soon after. Conway brought a save from Grant at the conclusion of a City break started by a fine tackle from McNaughton on the edge of his own penalty area. Ross Wallace had the first effort for the home side with the clock nearing twenty minutes, but the ball was deflected kindly off Andrew Taylor for David Marshall to collect.
City were on the attack again straight after, as Kim put the ball wide. The South Korean went down in the penalty area under pressure from Junior Stanislas, but referee Stuart Attwell did not deem that a penalty was necessary. Dean Marney, the midfielder who has Premier League experience with Hull City, hooked a shot horribly wide down the other end.
After Kieran Trippier scuffed a tame cross into the hands of David Marshall, City went straight up the other end to take the lead. Craig Conway picked up a Kim forward-pass, cut inside and delightfully curled the ball into the top-right corner of the net.
GOAL: BURNLEY 0-1 CARDIFF CITY (Craig Conway, 27 mins)
The first play after the goal saw Burnley’s Stanislas drag the ball wide to the enjoyment of the away fans, who had become even more vocal after watching their side take the lead. After Welsh international striker Sam Vokes had conceded a corner, Kim was floored by a raised arm from Ross Wallace, which the official failed to spot. Wallace then blasted a free-kick at the Cardiff wall allowing for another Conway break. It would have ended in a second goal but for a last-ditch head from Trippier with Gestede incoming.
Trippier got himself booked for scything down the ever-dangerous Conway, and Leon Barnett headed the resulting corner over the bar. City were heavily on top of their opponents, as proved when Kim and Conway linked up again, the former Dundee United winger not far off from getting a second terrific goal with his fortieth minute shot.
Ross Wallace was making no friends as he again clashed with Kim just before the break. Making no effort to play the ball, Wallace appeared to throw his arm into the face of Kim, but again the referee decided not to act. That was the final action of note in a first half that the league leaders had a firm control over, Malky Mackay’s side now just forty-five minutes away from confirming their league title.
HALF TIME: BURNLEY 0–1 CARDIFF CITY
Burnley Substitutions: Martin Paterson on for Ross Wallace, David Edgar on for Junior Stanislas. (46 mins)
Withdrawing both of his wide men at half-time (including Ross Wallace), Sean Dyche changed his formation for the second period. One of his replacements was Canadian international defender David Edgar, who made six appearances in a loan spell at Swansea City in 2010. The other replacement, striker Martin Paterson, was quickly involved in the action as he turned in the penalty area and had a shot deflected over by Vokes.
Ten minutes into the first half, Conway had the first shot of the half, but dragged his effort wide to the left like Gunnarsson and Kim before him in the first period. Sam Vokes couldn’t get any power on a header that fell into the arms of Marshall on the hour. City defended solidly every time the Clarets entered their penalty area, the back four not looking perturbed by the steadily increasing Burnley pressure.
Cardiff Substitution: Craig Bellamy on for Craig Noone (67 mins)
A headed opportunity for Paterson was put over the bar by the Northern Ireland international, as Marshall remained untested in the City goal. A timely touch from Barnett was enough to clear a cross from Danny Ings with twenty minutes left on the clock.
Cardiff Substitution: Don Cowie on for Jordon Mutch (74 mins)
The referee was under no doubt that Dean Marney required a booking for going down over the leg of Gunnarsson in the penalty area. While there was contact between the two players, it was by no means enough to bring Marney down. Burnley’s frustration was showing as Paterson was correctly ruled offside just minutes later.
After Dean Marney tried to pull Kim off the floor by the scruff of his neck, Kim was booked for his reaction. Marney was replaced immediately after, but Kim’s reaction will likely have been explained by the rough treatment he had been subjected to in the first half.
Burnley Substitution: Keith Treacy on for Dean Marney (83 mins)
Craig Bellamy took the resulting free-kick, which hit the side of Gestede’s head and bounced harmlessly away from the goal. The referee’s cards would likely have been out of his pocket again had Trippier not already been cautioned after his cynical foul on Conway.
After watching the game as a spectator for the majority of the opening eighty-five minutes, Marshall pulled off a wonder-save from Ings at point-black range, City’s goalkeeper outlining his credentials ahead of the upcoming Player of the Year awards. It was a shame, then, that he couldn’t keep his nineteenth clean sheet of the season as Edgar headed in Trippier’s cross to equalise for the home side as the clock ticked over to ninety minutes.
GOAL: BURNLEY 1-1 CARDIFF CITY (David Edgar 90+1 mins)
The goal simply meaned that both sides got what they wanted from the game: Burnley were one point further away from the drop zone, while Cardiff were confirmed as the champions of the nPower Championship 2012/13.
FULL TIME: BURNLEY 1-1 CARDIFF CITY