Snapshot: An early Kike goal was enough for Middlesbrough on Tuesday night as Cardiff City fell to a second consecutive home defeat in four days to leave the home fans frustrated.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær named a side with four changes to face Middlesbrough at Cardiff City Stadium. Bruno Ecuele Manga made his City debut in the heart of defence, but it was not to be a dream start for the Gabon international as Middlesbrough took the lead inside two minutes when Kike converted a whipped in Albert Adomah delivery.
The former Bristol City winger continued to be a thorn in the side of the Cardiff defence in the opening exchanges and nearly provided a second assist, but for the defending of John Brayford. The Bluebirds searched for an equaliser second half, but failed to test DimiKonstantopoulos in the Boro goal. City were reduced to chances from free kicks and corners, but all were well dealt with by the visitors’ defence who held out for their third away win of the season.
Chronological Report: After the disappointing result on the weekend the Cardiff starting eleven looked very different. Tom Adeyemi, MatsDæhli, Juan Cala and new signing Bruno Ecuele Manga made the line-up after missing out against Norwich. There was also room for Danny Gabbidon amongst the replacements after signing for City late in the transfer window.
Cardiff started the game on the offensive and immediately caused the Middlesbrough back line problems as Daniel Ayala was forced to bring Tom Adeyemi down outside the area. City filled the box for the resultant free kick but was cleared with ease.
As the ball was cleared it allowed Albert Adomah to break from his own half, reach the by-line, and cross the ball into the Bluebirds area. The ball agonisingly missed the head of Peter Whittingham and Kike was waiting to smash the ball passed David Marshall from five yards out.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 MIDDLESBROUGH (Kike, 2 minutes)
It could have been even worse just minutes later when Adomah once again got the best of Matt Connolly on the right flank, but this time John Brayford was on hand to keep the deficit at just one goal.
With fifteen minutes on the clock Cardiff started to gain more of a foothold in the game. Some neat build up play allowed Kenwyne Jones to hold the ball up, turn and shoot, but it was blocked and went out for a corner. A trademark in-swinging Whittingham delivery followed and was headed just over the crossbar at the near post by Juan Cala.
The next twenty minutes passed with little incident other than a few crosses by Boro, which were well dealt with by the City defence. Damia Abella picked up a caution before the break after a reckless challenge saw him go through the back of Mats Dæhli on the halfway line. The fans were calling for a red card, but their shouts were in vain.
With little more than five minutes left in the half Kenwyne jones produced an impressive turn and slotted the ball behind the Boro defence. A footrace ensued between Macheda and Ayala with the former Norwich defender coming out on top. With the ball going out for a corner Whittingham once again produced an in-swinging corner which was deflected narrowly wide of the far post by Macheda.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
Substitution: Cardiff City: Macheda replaced by Gunnarsson (45 minutes)
The Bluebirds were sent out onto the field early and with a change in personnel as Aron Gunnarsson replaced Federico Macheda for the start of the second half. The substitute had an immediate impact as a deep cross from the Iceman narrowly evaded the head of Jones. City retained the ball and Connolly played another searching ball into the area, this time an Adeyemi header called the Boro backline to block the effort from travelling goalwards.
Middlesbrough once again looked to catch City on the break after a set-piece, this time Adam Clayton forcing a fine save out of Marshall, who managed to parry the ball away from the onrushing Boro attackers after the visitors quickly broke from a Bluebirds’ corner.
Substitution: Cardiff City: Dæhli replaced by Le Fondre (58 minutes)
Cardiff started to pile the pressure on, looking for an equaliser and came close on the hour mark. After some neat build up play from a throw-in, Pilkington played an enticing driven cross across the goalmouth, but no City attacker was there to tap into an empty net. Middlesbrough were then forced into a substitution as Abella had to be stretchered off from the field of play.
Substitution: Middlesbrough: Abella Replaced by Nsue (63 Minutes)
Substitution: Middlesbrough: Vossen Replaced by Tomlin (66 Minutes)
Substitution: Cardiff City: Pilkington replaced by Guerra (73 minutes)
With just under twenty minutes for City to rescue the resultCardiffmade their third and final substitution with Pilkington making way for Javi Guerra. With three strikers on the field City resorted to a four-three-three formation. The gamble nearly immediately paid off when a long free kick was headed down by Jones to the feet of Cala who could only lash it wide.
City were starting to turn the screw with the three strikers combining well with Whittingham. A cushioned header from Guerra, after a pinpoint pass from Whitts, found Jones five yards out. But as he was about to shoot he was penalised for being offside.
With clock displaying eighty-four minutes Peter Whittingham had another opportunity to pump the ball into the penalty area, though once again Boro cleared and broke quickly. Tomlin released Adomah who in turn attempted to release Clayton, but Marshall was alert to the threat and produced a fine sliding block.
Substitution: Middlesbrough: Kike Replaced by Bamford (87 Minutes)
The loudest cheer of the night came on eighty-eight minutes when the Ninian Stand thought Aron Gunnarsson had scored. Much to their disappointment the ball had hit the station behind the goal and hit the back of the net after narrowly going wide of DimiKonstantopoulos’ post.
With six minutes displayed by the fourth official Cardiff continued to push forward and with time running out Gunnarsson surprised Cardiff City Stadium by using his long throw. It was cleared back to Aron who forced a save out of former City loanee Konstantopoulos.
With the seconds ticking away Cardiff had two late corners, which even saw David Marshall pile into the box looking to produce an equaliser. It was not to be and Cardiff lost for the second time in four days at Cardiff City Stadium.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
Cardiff City: Marshall, Brayford, Cala, Manga, Whittingham, Jones, Macheda (Gunnarsson), Connolly, Adeyemi, Pilkington (Guerra), Dæhli (Le Fondre). Subs Not Used: Moore, Eikrem, Burgstaller, Gabbidon.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Abella (Nsue), Friend, Ayala, Leadbitter, Clayton, Kike (Bamford), Reach, Vossen (Tomlin), Omeruo, Adomah. Subs Not Used: Gibson, Whitehead, Wildschut, Blackman.
Referee: Graham Scott