Cardiff City slipped to their first defeat in six as Wolves came away 1-0 winners at the Cardiff City Stadium.
After a promising first half performance, the Bluebirds trailed at half time as Bakary Sako guided home a low cross on the break.
City pushed for an equaliser in the second period, but were dealt a blow when Peter Whittingham saw red for a second bookable offence. Despite a flurry of late chances for the spirited Bluebirds, Wolves held firm to secure a third successive victory.
The Bluebirds came out of the Cardiff City Stadium tunnel determined to continue a strong recent run that had seen them go five Championship matches unbeaten. They started brightly too, playing the ball out from the back and pinning Wolves into their own half.
City’s first sights of goal came early on, but Eoin Doyle couldn’t quite evade his marker to get an effort away, before the towering Sean Morrison saw his header from a Peter Whittingham corner fly just over the bar.
There was plenty of endeavour on display from Cardiff’s attacking players, and Wolves’ highly-rated young defender Dominic Iorfa set up a long afternoon for himself when he took out Craig Noone to enter the book on seven minutes.
At the other end, an expertly timed intervention from Morrison thwarted a clever corner-kick move from the visitors, who certainly had the potential to cause City problems on the break.
This was a strong early performance from the Bluebirds, as they looked comfortable in possession whilst keeping the ball in the oppositions half. They would, however, have been weary of a Wolves side that had scored eight goals in their last two games. Indeed, unfortunately for City, when the visitors earned their first real opening of the match, they took the chance with precision.
Former Arsenal man Benik Afobe evaded two men to break free in the middle of the park before spreading the ball out to Rajiv van La Parra on the right flank. When the Dutch winger centred it low across goal, Bruno Ecuele Manga was only able to stab it to the lively Bakary Sako, who to powered the ball home in front of the Canton Stand for 1-0.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 WOLVES (Bakary Sako, 26 mins)
After taking the advantage, Wolves managed to slow down the pace of the game and maintain possession of the ball. Indeed, neither side did quite enough to carve out a decent chance on goal as the half-time whistle approached. With just the one minute of injury time, a snap shot from Doyle which flew over Tomasz Kuszczak’s bar saw the score at the break remain at 0-1.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 WOLVES
City came out for the second half hoping to recapture their form of the opening 25 minutes of the match. Despite asking some questions of the visitors’ back line, Kuszczak wasn’t called into any serious action in the opening minutes.
The game was beginning to open up once more, leading to half chances falling either way. First, the fleet-footed Afobe headed wide from Sako’s fierce delivery, before Whittingham tried his luck from a long-range free-kick, but only stung Kuszczak’s palms.
Wolves substitution: Nouha Dicko replaces Rajiv van La Parra (59 mins)
City’s best chance of the game yet was to fall in the 60th minute when Iorfa brought down Noone on the left wing once again. The young full back was lucky to remain on the pitch following this late challenge, and sensing the danger, Jackett substituted Iorfa at the next opportunity. Whittingham stepped up to whip it in to the six yard box, but after Kenwyne Jones rose superbly, the number nine’s trademark header bounced just past the near post.
Wolves substitution: Matt Doherty replaces Dominic Iorfa (63 mins)
Cardiff City substitution: Conor McAleny replaces Eoin Doyle (63 mins)
Cardiff had David Marshall to thank for keeping them in the game soon after, as a misplaced defensive pass put Afobe clear through on goal. Scotland’s number one leaped into action and used every inch of his frame to keep the ball out though.
After that save, City looked to have every chance of salvaging something from the match. However, they were soon playing catch up as they were reduced to ten men. Whittingham was the man to see red for the Bluebirds, sliding in late on Matt Doherty having already been booked. With referee Robert Madley having already shown leniency regarding Iorfa’s challenge on Noone, the home support made their feelings clear following this decision.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Bluebirds were nearly level when Kuszczak misjudged a high ball, almost allowing Morrison to capitalise. Three Wolves defenders were back to cover though, and managed to scramble the ball away after it came perilously close to crossing the line.
Indeed, the Bluebirds kept pushing, with their wingers looking lively, and maintained pressure on the Wolves goal throughout the next ten minutes. With Sako and Afobe still stretching the City defence at the other end, the match was evenly poised as full time loomed.
Cardiff City substitution: Alex Revell replaces Matty Kennedy (78 mins)
With just three minutes left on the clock, Cardiff were left cursing their luck as they came so close to finding that elusive equaliser. With the entire Wolves side back in their half, Noone pumped the ball in from the right after spotting Morrison’s superb late run. The centre-half didn’t have to break his stride, but agonisingly diverted the ball inches past the post.
Wolves substitution: Ethan Ebanks-Landell replaces Benik Afobe (88 mins)
In the final seconds, Kuszczak again failed to take a high ball and, after some aerial pinball in the box, the ball was diverted goalwards off a Wolves head. Unfortunately for City, their goal seemed to be living a charmed life with Richard Stearman clearing the ball off the line to maintain their clean sheet and secure all three points.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0-1 WOLVES
Cardiff City: Marshall, Connolly, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Peltier, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Kennedy (Revell), Noone, Doyle (McAleny), Jones. Subs not used: Moore, Adeyemi, Ralls, O’Keefe, Macheda.
Wolves: Kuszczak, Iorfa (Doherty), Batth (c), Stearman, Hause, McDonald, Price, Edwards, van La Parra (Dicko), Sako, Afobe (Ebanks-Landell). Subs not used: McCarey, Golbourne, Henry, Evans.
Attendance: 21,685 (2,061 away fans)