A Peter Whittingham header earned three vital points for Cardiff City as the Bluebirds saw off West Bromwich Albion by a goal to nil in a close-fought encounter at Cardiff City Stadium.
City 'keeper David Marshall also proved key in the victory, his last minute save from Shane Long maintaining City's lead and making sure Malky Mackay's men took maximum points from this encounter.
This one was always going to be a competitive fixture, with both sides in need of points having gone five Premier League matches without a win. Steve Clarke’s Albion, who made the journey to the Welsh capital in the midst of a run of three consecutive defeats, arrived in Wales just one point and one place above Cardiff City in the table.
Peter Odemwingie, who scored for West Brom against the Bluebirds in an FA Cup Third Round tie at the Hawthorns in 2012, returned to Malky Mackay’s starting eleven to face his former employers as one of three changes to the line-up. Andrew Taylor, who was sidelined with a calf injury, came in for Declan John, while Craig Noone received his first start in the Premier League as the Bluebirds opted for an attacking line-up. Albion welcomed back defender Jonas Olsson, who served a one-match suspension against Norwich City last weekend, while Victor Anichebe and Nicolas Anelka both missed out respectively due to illness and a groin problem.
Whittingham, who had scored in each of his previous two encounters with West Brom, had a free-kick saved by Welsh international goalkeeper Boaz Myhill after just three minutes, with midfield partner Gary Medel firing over from the resulting corner.
The visitors’ first chance of any note came when defender Gareth McAuley’s looping header came to a rest on the roof of David Marshall’s net – the offside flag had already been raised regardless.
Ben Turner was on hand to block a Shane Long effort on seventeen minutes, but confusion between the centre-back and his goalkeeper almost allowed the Republic of Ireland striker a chance moments later, the City pair just doing enough between them to clear City's lines, though Marshall had to save from Taylor’s backpass.
With Fraizer Campbell at full stretch to head Noone’s cross, the Cardiff City striker came just short of connecting with the ball on twenty-seven minutes, with Jonas Olsson heading it behind for a corner. A second corner came quickly after the first, and City went much closer to converting this one, as Steven Caulker, unmarked on the far post, side-footed wide to the relief of the Albion defence.
Gary Medel did well to stop the marauding right-back Billy Jones from penetrating the Bluebirds’ defence, after the former Crewe and Preston defender had wriggled away from Taylor and Turner. Medel was booked for tripping Morgan Amalfitano shortly after, with the combined efforts of Caulker, Turner and Marshall foiled the away side repeatedly from the subsequent set-piece.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0–0 WEST BROMWICH ALBION
As the heavens opened during the break and the rain poured down on the Cardiff City Stadium pitch, Boaz Myhill was quickly called into action to save a Whittingham free-kick to open the second period. Billy Jones was booked by referee Howard Webb for an over-the-top challenge on Medel on fifty minutes, with another fizzing Craig Noone cross headed behind before Myhill again made a save from City’s corner.
The Baggies had chances of their own, Marshall made a brilliant save from Brunt, before Sessègnon hit one over on the half-volley on the hour. Amalfitano, the Frenchman on loan at Albion from Marseilles, had to clear under pressure after his goalkeeper elected not to help him while under pressure from Odemwingie, but City were in front within moments.
Craig Noone, on the right-wing, produced a cross which Whittingham bravely headed past a helpless Myhill and into the net, his third goal in as many games against West Bromwich Albion and the Bluebirds’ first goal since Kim Bo-Kyung’s late equaliser against Manchester United three weeks ago.
The lead was nearly doubled soon after, as Odemwingie collected a goal-bound Caulker header which bounced up and came down just out of the Nigerian’s reach.
Youssouf Mulumbu’s deflected effort bounced just wide of Marshall’s post as Cardiff City hearts were in mouths on sixty-nine minutes. Albion boss Steve Clarke, introduced Scott Sinclair and highly-rated striker Saido Berahino for Amalfitano as he sought to avoid a fourth straight defeat for his side.
Mutch twice cut inside and rifled over as the fans gasped at his technique on seventy-three minutes. There was a let-off for the Bluebirds as the ball fizzed through Marshall’s box without any Albion players able to make the most of the opportunity. Malky Mackay made his first substitution with ten minutes remaining as Nicky Maynard came on in place of Fraizer Campbell.
Noone and Kévin Théophile-Catherine combined to clear a Long cross as Albion piled on the pressure with less than ten minutes to go, before an unbelievable save from Marshall was the foil of Long, who was well-placed to head goalwards from Mulumbu’s flick-on. Sessègnon also fired wide on eighty-seven minutes.
Medel was replaced by Aron Gunnarsson, with Shane Long replaced by former Watford striker Matěj Vydra, the Czech Republic international striker. Peter Odemwingie gave way to Kim Bo-Kyung for the game’s final change.
With four additional minutes signalled, Kim Bo-Kyung sought to run down the clock with an excellent run down the left wing which delighted the home supporters, who had needed the relief after an intense period of West Brom pressure.
Sessègnon put one wide from twenty-five yards to make things interesting, but the Bluebirds held on for a huge three Barclays Premier League points, their first in six games. Cardiff had beaten West Brom at home for the first time since Boxing Day 1960, also ending a run of seven without victory against the Baggies.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Cardiff City: Marshall, Théophile-Catherine, Turner, Caulker (capt), Taylor, Whittingham, Medel (Gunnarsson 87), Mutch, Noone, Odemwingie (Kim 90), Campbell (Maynard 82). Subs not used: Lewis, Hudson, Cornelius, Cowie.
Goals: Whittingham (66)
West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Mulumbu, Yacob (Sinclair 74), Amalfitano (Berahino 73), Sessègnon, Brunt, Long (Vydra 88). Subs not used: L. Daniels, Gera, Morisson, Lugano.
Attendance: 26,636 (Cardiff City Stadium)