Cardiff City put on a dominant display to see-off fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers on Friday evening.
It was one-way traffic inside the opening forty-five minutes, with City taking a slender advantage into the break courtesy of Mark Hudson's thirtieth minute header.
And although Blackburn came out brighter in the second half and equalised through Joshua King, Craig Bellamy re-established City’s lead just before the hour mark with an expert finish.
After a short period of even play it became evident that City had weathered the storm – a fact further emphasised when Joe Mason made it 3-1 with five minutes left to play.
And when Kim Bo-Kyung stroked home a fourth shortly before the final whistle, it meant that City had extended their lead to four points at the top of the npower Championship – and thrashed a dangerous rival in the process.
It wasa tentative opening on a wintery night at Ewood Park, with Craig Conway heavily involved for Cardiff early on. Firstly it was his great tracking run that prevented Blackburn delivering a cross from the right after Jordan Rhodes had been allowed to run and work the ball wide for the first time. Then, minutes later he looked to quickly turn away from his marker as Andrew Taylor dropped a clever throw-in at his feet. Conway was felled and it gave Craig Bellamy the chance to swing over a free-kick but it drifted high of its intended target at the back-post and safe.
It was the home side who were handed the first real sight at goal when Mauro Formica wrong-footed Mark Hudson five yards outside the Cardiff area and forced the City captain into a clumsy challenge. Along with offering the hosts a shooting opportunity from a dangerous position, the yellow card handed out by referee Simon Hooper represented Hudson’s fifth of the season and meant an automatic one-match ban. As for the free-kick itself, the Cardiff wall stood firm to deflect the initial shot and there were also red jerseys on hand to block the follow-up effort.
The match may not have settled into an kind of groove, and certainly no side were having the better of things as of yet, but on the twenty minute mark City poured forward on the counter-attack and looked far more like themselves. Whittingham freed Don Cowie wide on the right whose deep cross eventually arrived to Craig Conway wide on the left. He in turn picked out Andrew Taylor on the overlap and only fine defending from two Rovers players prevented Craig Noone from turning the cross home at the back-post.
Finally, moments before the half-hour mark the game sprang to life with two incidents. Firstly young Blackburn defender Jason Lowe was booked following a petulant reaction to clash with Craig Bellamy which saw tempers boil over and several players clash in the centre-circle. Once the melee was calmed, Cardiff struck. The ball was worked right to Noone who picked out Mark Hudson as he darted in-front of his marker Scott Dann and guided a header down and past Paul Robinson.
Blackburn Rovers 0 - 1 CARDIFF CITY (Mark Hudson 30’)
The goal highlighted City’s advantage in the wide areas, and a similar move very nearly doubled the lead minutes later. Craig Conway, looking lively and confident on the Cardiff left, looked to have lost possession whilst trying to turn away from two defenders. He managed to recover his feet and flash a ball across though which Heidar Helguson was mere inches away from making contact with a back-post header.
Cardiff were now firmly in the ascendancy and twice came inches away from doubling their advantage before the break with Craig Noone the catalyst on both occasions. Firstly, he picked out a run of Craig Bellamy with a glorious ball in behind the Blackburn back-four, the former Welsh captain drifted onto his left and unleashed a vicious shot back across goal which rattled the cross-bar. Then in the next wave of Cardiff attack, Noone picked up a rebound on the edge of the Rovers area and curled a delightful effort just wide of the far, bottom corner with Paul Robinson rooted to the spot.
HT: Blackburn Rovers 0 - 1 CARDIFF CITY
Blackburn Rovers Substitution: Colin Kazim-Richards replaced Markus Olsson (46mins)
Moments after blazing a decent chance high into the stands, Joshua King, Cardiff’s tormentor in chief for Hull City in a heavy home defeat last season, pulled Blackburn level. The on-loan Manchester United forward raced onto a ball in-behind the right-back position and calmly slotted the ball past David Marshall in the Cardiff goals.
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 - 1 Cardiff City (Joshua King 50’)
A period of heavy, intense pressure from the home side followed during which time Cardiff really could have found themselves behind as Colin Kazim-Richards saw a firm strike deflect narrowly wide and Rovers bombarded the City box with a series of corners. Cardiff defended stoutly though, and were back ahead in the blink of an eye.
Craig Bellamy picked up the ball on the edge of the area, played a one-two with an advanced Heider Helguson and took the return pass onto his left, outside a defender, before firing back across Paul Robinson.
Blackburn Rovers 1 - 2 CARDIFF CITY (Craig Bellamy 56’)
It was David Marshall in action next though as Rovers responded well and poured forward with intent. He produced a great save to re-adjust in mid-air to Jordan Rhodes’ deflected shot and beat it away. Rhodes was alert to the rebound though and his square should have been fired home by Formica at the back-post but instead he crashed his effort off the bar.
Cardiff City Substitution: Kim Bo-Kyung replaced Craig Noone (70mins)
Blackburn Rovers Substitution: Fabio Nunes replaced Mauro Formica (70mins)
Jordan Rhodes had looked alert all evening in spite of his sides paucity and there was a contentious moment midway through the second-half as he and Hudson tangled on the edge of the Cardiff area and tumbled to the floor. Referee Simon Hooper was quick to wave away all Blackburn protestations though.
Cardiff City Substitution: Joe Mason replaced Craig Bellamy (82mins)
Blackburn Rovers Substitution: Ruben Rochina replaced Dixon Etuhu (82mins)
With Blackburn continuing to look dangerous going forward, Cardiff hit them on the break for a decisive third. Joe Mason, fresh off the bench, took a Heidar Helguson flick-on in his stride which wrong-footed his marker and allowed him to bare down on Robinson, one-on-one, and calmy slide the ball past the former England ‘keeper.
Blackburn Rovers 1 - 3 CARDIFF CITY (Joe Mason 83mins)
Just a minute later and the City faithful were delirious. Kim Bo-Kyung pounced on a loose pass in midfield and broke away, receiving a return pass off Helguson on the left, which registered as his third assist of the second-half when the South Korean finished cooly across Robinson.
Blackburn Rovers 1 - 4 CARDIFF CITY (Kim Bo-Kyung 85mins)
Cardiff City Substitution: Rudy Gestede replaced Heidar Helguson (90+3mins)
FT: Blackburn Rovers 1 - 4 Cardiff City
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