Cardiff City fell to a 4-2 defeat to Watford at Cardiff City Stadium in their final match of 2014.
Adam Le Fondre had nodded City into the lead in a promising opening period, as he diverted Peter Whittingham’s free kick past Heurelho Gomes.
However, Watford sprang into life just before the break to hit City twice in quick succession. Adlène Guedioura’s strike was followed up by Odion Ighalo’s close-range header as the Hornets grabbed the half-time advantage.
In the second half, City’s hopes of salvaging anything from the game were thwarted when Guedioura stepped up again to smash a thunderous effort past Marshall from 30 yards. Gabriele Angella’s powerful header then secured the points for the Hornets, before Kenwyne Jones’s late consolation.
Russell Slade made one adjustment following City’s Boxing Day draw away to Charlton, with Bruno Ecuele Manga coming in to replace Ben Turner. In contrast, Watford boss Slaviša Jokanović made six changes to his side, and his men looked the brightest in the opening exchanges as Almen Abdi struck from distance to sting the palms of David Marshall.
The Bluebirds soon swung momentum back in their direction, however, as Sean Morrison created their first sight of goal - controlling Peter Whittingham’s free kick to square the ball across the six yard box. It didn’t quite fall to a City attacker, but Slade’s troops were certainly showing signs of upping the ante.
The home side’s efforts were almost rewarded on fourteen minutes as Craig Noone was brought down in perfect range for a Whittingham strike. City’s number seven stepped up to curl the ball in trademark fashion, but his effort just evaded Heurelho Gomes’s left hand post.
However, just five minutes later, Whittingham had another set-piece opportunity from an even better position. This time, as Whitts whipped the ball towards the far post, Adam Le Fondre out-jumped a cluster of players to divert it into the side netting and establish a City lead.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 WATFORD (Adam Le Fondre, 20 mins)
Cardiff remained on the front foot after the goal, and nearly made it two when Noone struck wide after neat interplay with Whittingham. Le Fondre could have easily doubled his own personal tally too, had he not shot straight into Gomes’s hands after being set up by Kenwyne Jones.
The Hornets were yet to display their undoubted talents in the final third of the pitch as half time approached. However, the visitors finally found an opening when the ball fell to Fernando Forestieri in the box, with David Marshall’s goal gaping.
Somehow, Scotland’s number one managed to prevent the ball from crossing the line but, as it came back into the box, Adlène Guedioura pounced to power the ball home.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-1 WATFORD (Adlène Guedioura, 42 mins)
Suddenly, City appeared to be on the back foot. As the fourth official indicated two minutes of injury time, the ball was whipped in again by Daniel Pudil and Odion Ighalo rose highest to nod past Marshall and seize a half time advantage.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-2 WATFORD (Odion Ighalo, 45 mins)
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-2 WATFORD
At the beginning of the second half, Whittingham and Morrison both saw powerful drives miss the target as the Bluebirds tried to drag themselves back into the match.
Watford were now looking dangerous themselves though, as Ighalo sold a clever dummy and slipped into the box from the left flank. His ball fell to Guedioura, whose effort lacked the venom of his first half strike and was easily gathered by Marshall.
The visitors’ two goal-scorers combined again on sixty minutes after Abdi played Guedioura through down the left with a disguised pass. Ighalo’s effort was diverted past the right hand post, but the Hornets didn’t have to wait much longer for a third goal – and an exceptional one at that.
Cardiff City Substitution: Kadeem Harris replaces Tom Adeyemi (61 mins)
Cardiff City Substitution: Joe Ralls replaces Aron Gunnarsson (61 mins)
It was that man Adlène Guedioura again, as the Algerian international picked the ball up in space 30 yards out. The midfielder didn’t think twice before striking a piledriver in off the crossbar, leaving Marshall with absolutely no hope of keeping it out.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-3 WATFORD (Adlène Guedioura, 63 mins)
Watford Substitution: Ikechi Anya replaces Juan Carlos Paredes (70 mins)
As time ticked away in the second half, City struggled to maintain pressure on their visitors’ goal – the Hornets’ midfielders keeping control of the ball fairly comfortably. There were some signs of revival when Noone cut in and drilled low past the post, but Watford always looked like holding firm for the three points.
Cardiff City Substitution: Federico Macheda replaces Adam Le Fondre (77 mins)
Watford Substitution: Dániel Tőzsér replaces Almen Abdi (77 mins)
Watford Substitution: Troy Deeney replaces Fernando Forestieri (81 mins)
In fact, things were only to get better for the visiting side. After a period of pressure from a corner kick kept City penned into their own half, the ball was whipped in towards the head of Gabriele Angella. The Italian midfielder made no mistake, and powered his header into the corner to rub salt into Cardiff City’s wounds.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1-4 WATFORD (Gabriele Angella, 83 mins)
Despite the score-line, the Bluebirds were able to commit men forward and grab a consolation. Noone did well to skip past his defender on the right flank before playing the ball in to a completely unmarked Kenwyne Jones. The Trinidad and Tobago international directed his header perfectly back across the goalkeeper to improve the score line, although it was too late to inspire any thoughts of a comeback.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 2-4 WATFORD (Kenwyne Jones, 90 mins)
With five minutes of injury time, Watford saw out the game professionally, and even forced Marshall into one more save when Ighalo went clear through. The Scot did superbly to block with his legs and prevent a Hornets fifth moments before the final whistle blew – the score remaining 4-2 to the visitors.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-4 WATFORD
Cardiff City: Marshall; Brayford, Manga, Morrison, John; Adeyemi (Harris), Gunnarsson (Ralls), Whittingham, Noone; Le Fondre (Macheda), Jones. Subs not used: Moore, Fábio, Connolly, Turner.
Watford: Gomes; Paredes (Anya), Hoban, Cathcart, Angella, Pudil; Munari, Abdi (Tőzsér), Guedioura; Ighalo, Forestieri (Deeney). Subs not used: Bond, Doyley, Murray, Vydra.