Snap-shot: An under-par first-half performance proved too much to overcome as Brentford ended the home side’s unbeaten run at Cardiff City Stadium.
For the second consecutive week it was a case of the Bluebirds leaving themselves with too much of a task, as they found themselves 3-0 down just thirty-three minutes in. Goals from Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray and Jota handed Mark Warburton’s side a commanding lead at the break, before a Cardiff side buoyed by substitute Kenwyne Jones pulled two back in the second period; ultimately falling just short of completing what would have been a memorable comeback.
It was Jones’ goal that followed Craig Noone’s first which made for an edgy final quarter of an hour, but Brentford held on for the three points that took them third.
Chronological Report: After the disappointment of a 5-3 defeat at AFC Bournemouth last weekend, Cardiff City manager Russell Slade made four changes to his starting eleven, with Bruno Ecuele Manga, Fábio da Silva and Federico Macheda returning to the side and former Brentford loanee Kadeem Harris making his long-awaited first league start.
Mark Warburton’s Brentford were unchanged following their impressive 3-1 home win over Blackburn a week ago. The Bees arrived in the Welsh capital fifth in the table, having won six of their last seven Sky Bet Championship fixtures.
The game was barely a minute old when Brentford’s Harlee Dean was flattened by an advancing Kadeem Harris, though after three minutes of treatment, the former Southampton man was ready to continue. A deflected Craig Noone effort after nine minutes landed kindly for visiting goalkeeper David Button, but Brentford took the league when City players were far too slow in closing down Alex Pritchard when Spanish striker Jota had set up the Tottenham Hotspur loanee.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 BRENTFORD (Alex Pritchard 12’)
Harris, who was looking hungry on his full debut for the Bluebirds, then turned a few defenders inside-out on his way to firing an effort wide of Button’s goal. Craig Noone’s shot was deflected straight at Button moments later, but things turned even worse after twenty-two minutes as Alex Pritchard turned provider, taking the Cardiff defence out of the game to allow Andre Gray the opportunity to chip Marshall and double the visitors’ lead. It was Gray’s tenth goal of the season and his seventh goal in his previous eight games.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0-2 BRENTFORD (Andre Gray 22’)
Adam le Fondre missed a glorious opportunity to pull one back five minutes after Brentford had notched their second. Had the former Rotherham and Reading frontman not received the ball with his back to goal, he perhaps might have done better than missing the target with only Button to beat. Jota then should have made it three when he evaded Fábio but fired straight at Marshall. A sweetly-struck Peter Whittingham half-volley followed, but was again none too troubling for Button.
City then conceded again with the most spectacular of the three goals as Jota cut inside before finding the top corner with aplomb on his left foot.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0-3 BRENTFORD (Jota 32’)
After Brentford had harshly contested a drop-ball which had been awarded while John Brayford was in uncontested possession, Alan Judge was booked for an over-the-top foul on Aron Gunnarsson. But for a tremendous save from David Marshall, Jota would have got his second as the Bees broke from an ineffective Bluebirds corner. Federico Macheda was caught on his heels when Button parried Adam le Fondre’s shot in the Bluebirds’ best effort of a depressing forty-five minutes.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-3 BRENTFORD
Mark Warburton replaced Jonathan Douglas with Jon Toral, the Spanish winger on loan from Arsenal. It took three minutes of the second half for Craig Noone to pull one back, the winger heading in Kadeem Harris’ cross.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-3 BRENTFORD (Noone 48’)
Noone had to contend with Button petulantly holding on to the ball to half the restart following the goal. Once the game did get back under way, Alan Judge was afforded too much space in the middle before firing wide.
As the Bees pushed for a third, Brentford left-back Jake Bidwell was shown yellow for a dive in the Cardiff penalty area and Kenwyne Jones replaced Federico Macheda after a frustrating hour for the Italian. Jota then became the latest Brentford player to be shown a yellow card when he elbowed Fábio in an aerial challenge.
With Kenwyne Jones throwing his weight around, le Fondre was again denied from following up the Trinidadian’s knock-down by Button. Stuart Dallas, the Northern Irishman, came on to replace the booked Jota, before Kenwyne Jones pulled another one back for Cardiff. He beat the offside trap after John Brayford pushed the ball behind the Brentford defence.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 2-3 BRENTFORD (Jones 75’)
Declan John was introduced after seventy seven minutes, replacing Fábio at left-back. Bees keeper Button was the next to be booked for accumulated time-wasting ahead of taking a goal-kick. Former Bluebirds attacker Tommy Smith then replaced Andre Gray for the final ten minutes, coming on to a warm reception from the home support.
An excellent run from Kenwyne Jones forced a last-ditch block from the Brentford backline, before Ben Turner pulled off a brilliant challenge to stop Jon Toral from pouncing for Brentford. Jones, who was looking Cardiff’s main threat, skied one into the stands as City sought the equaliser in the five minutes of stoppage time, before Kadeem Harris’ failed attempt to curl a strike. Peter Whittingham had the final opportunity to restore parity, but soon after his attempt landed into Button’s arms, the referee blew the final whistle.
This was only the second time in eighteen attempts that Brentford had travelled to Cardiff and won, but the Bees have also now failed to keep clean sheets in the Welsh capital in any of their last thirteen visits.
Next up for Cardiff is the Boxing Day trip to twelfth place Charlton Athletic, the Addicks also on thirty points, eight from the play-off spots and twelve shy of leaders Bournemouth.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-3 BRENTFORD
Cardiff City: Marshall ©, Brayford, Fábio (John 77’), Ecuele Manga, Turner, Whittingham, le Fondre, Noone, Macheda (Jones 65’), Gunnarsson, Harris. Subs not used: Moore, Connolly, Adeyemi, Ralls, S. Morrison.
Goals: Noone 48’, Jones 75’.
Brentford: Button, Bidwell, Craig ©, Dean, Douglas (Toral 46’), Odubajo, Judge, Gray (Smith 82’), Diagouraga, Pritchard, Jota (Dallas 72’). Subs not used: Bonham, Saunders, Tarkowski, Proschwitz.
Goals: Pritchard 12, Gray 22’, Jota 33’.
Referee: Mr.Graham Scott