Goals from Bruno Ecuele Manga, Kiko Macheda and Kenwyne Jones ensured Russell Slade’s 100% win record at Cardiff City Stadium remained intact against Leeds United on Saturday.
The Bluebirds took a two goal lead through Manga and Macheda before being pegged pack by Souleymane Doukara, forward Jones added a further goal late on to secure victory.
A minutes silence was held in the Cardiff City Stadium with this fixture being the last home game before Remembrance Sunday, a silence respected by both sets of fans alike.
Leeds made one change from their last outing against Wolverhamton Wanderers with Doukara coming in for Oliviera. City lined up with an unchanged starting XI but with one change on the substitutes bench with Kenwyne Jones being recalled. A major talking point occurred just over an hour before kick-off as Neil Redfearn was confirmed to have signed a contract to become permanent manager at Elland Road.
Once the game kicked off it was Cardiff who started the brighter. Adam le Fondre was causing the Leeds backline problems, especially Jason Pearce, as the Leeds captain gained an early booking for hacking the striker down on the edge of the area. From the resulting free kick, Peter Whittingham forced United keeper Marco Silvestri to make a save diving low to his left. He could only palm the ball out for a corner but luckily for Redfearn’s men they dealt with Whittingham’s corner kick with relative comfort.
City continued to press with Craig Noone delivering testing balls into the Whites’ penalty area. The first was headed away straight back to Noone who then produced the second. The ball landed on the head of the onrushing Gunnarsson who could only loop his header to the waiting Silvestri, who was then fouled by le Fondre as he tried to apply some pressure.
The Yorkshire side did create a chance of their own 18 minutes in. Stephen Warnock produced a cross from the left, which was met by Welsh international Steve Morison. His header was directed over David Marshall’s bar from 10 yards out.
It didn’t take Cardiff long to pile the pressure back onto the visitors. Whittingham’s dead ball deliveries continued to cause problems with le Fondre being in the thick of the action once again. This time his header from a City corner was just too high from his back post attempt.
With half hour on the clock it was still the home side pressing. John Brayford with a trademark run down the right wing found Federico Macheda in the box. The opening was quickly shut as his shot was blocked by the United defence.
Russell Slade’s team were finding a lot of joy down the flanks with Noone forcing yet another player to illegally halt his run. Not for the first time Whittingham and le Fondre combined from a free kick, this time the striker’s header was glanced wide.
On the stroke of half time, Cardiff came close to finding the opening goal. Some neat hold up play from Macheda allowed him to lay the ball off to Anthony Pilkington. A burst a pace from the Republic of Ireland international gave him space to fire a low drive in the area, which cannoned agonisingly wide of the near post off Jason Pearce.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-0 LEEDS UNITED
Substitution: Cardiff City: Anthony Pilkington replaced by Joe Ralls (45 minutes)
City started the second half as they ended the first, looking dangerous on the attack. The fresh legs of Joe Ralls were involved from the outset. He found space on the wide left and his delivery avoided everyone in the box and was retrieved by Craig Noone on the far side. He then produced a ball of his own, which narrowly missed the head of the lurking Macheda.
Peter Whittingham’s left foot was proving to be a real threat for City. Five minutes in the second half he latched onto a bouncing ball and released a well-struck half volley, which dipped just too late, travelling just over the crossbar.
Joe Ralls gained the first Cardiff caution in what was now turning into an intense affair. This was followed by a frantic period of play, which saw the game opening up and becoming increasingly end-to-end and some heavy challenges being made.
With the tempo now increased it was Slade’s men who were benefitting. Cardiff continued to pepper the box with crosses and won yet another corner. Whittingham once again stepped up and whipped in a left footed cross which found its way to Craig Noone on the edge of the area. He then returned the ball back into the penalty area and a leaping Sean Morrison nodded the ball from the back post into the centre where Bruno Manga produced a pinpoint header into the bottom corner of the net.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 LEEDS UNITED (Bruno Ecuele Manga, 60 minutes)
After taking the lead the Bluebirds were not happy to settle with a slender 1-0 lead and continued to throw bodies forward and create chances. With a sustained period of possession, City’s Italian front man picked up the ball just inside the Leeds half. With space opening up in front of him Macheda drove forward, to the fringe of the United box, and unleashed a powerful strike. Once again, the ball cannoned off Jason Pearce, but unlike in the first half the ball flew past Silvestri and into the net.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 2-0 LEEDS UNITED (Federico Macheda, 67 minutes)
Substitution: Leeds United: Steve Morison Replaced by Chris Dawson (69 Minutes)
After a fast paced and highly charged quarter the game slowed slightly. This triggered both managers to make changes to try and get a foothold.
Substitution: Cardiff City: Federico Macheda replaced by Kenwyne Jones (75 minutes)
Substitution: Leeds United: Tomasso Bianchi replaced by Casper Sloth (75 Minutes)
With Redfearn’s men now facing a two-goal deficit they started to press. While under pressure and trying to clear their defensive lines an attempted clearance was charged down and collected by Souleymane Doukara. With the ball at his feet he charged into the left side of the box and cut the ball pack to centre where the sprinting Alex Mowatt controlled and produced a fine side foot finish into the top right corner of the goal, well out of the reach of the diving David Marshall. Leeds United now well and truly back in the game.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 2-1 LEEDS UNITED (Alex Mowatt, 77 minutes)
Substitution: Cardiff City: Adam le Fondre replaced by Ravel Morrison (80 minutes)
With the game now competitive again, the play was not as open as the early exchanges of the half. City were then handed a chance out of nothing. A long punt forward by Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson caused a mix up between keeper Marco Silvestri and defender Giuseppe Bellusci. Kenwyne Jones was there to take advantage, blocking Silvestri’s clearance, gathering the ball and calmly slotting the ball into an empty net. The two-goal cushion was restored.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 3-1 LEEDS UNITED (Kenwyne Jones, 83 minutes)
Substitution: Leeds United: Gaetano Berardi replaced by Sam Byram (85 Minutes)
Fresh from scoring, Jones was proving to be real nuisance and won countless headers and aerial battles. He also had a chance to get a second goal just as the game was entering injury time. The ever-present Whittingham producing a cross from a half volley and found the head of the towering Trinidadian whose header flew across the face of the goal and just wide.
Four minutes were added on but this did not panic the home team. The game played out with Leeds barely getting a touch of the ball and with the home fans cheering every successful pass. Cardiff City are now unbeaten in the last sixteen meetings in all competitions in a run that stretches back to 1984.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 3-1 LEEDS UNITED
Cardiff City: Marshall ©, Brayford, Fabio, Manga, Whittingham, le Fondre (R Morrison), Noone, Macheda (Jones), Gunnarsson, Pilkington (Ralls), S Morrison. Subs Not Used: Moore, Connolly, Maynard, Gabbidon
Leeds United: Silvestri, Warnock, Bellusci (Byram), Pearce, Berardi, Bianchi (Sloth), Morison (Dawson), Cook, Mowatt, Doukara, Antenucci. Subs Not Used: Taylor, Tonge, Montenegro, Cooper