Cardiff City rose further up the Sky Bet Championship table with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City – Eoin Doyle netting his first in a City shirt.
On the front foot
The Bluebirds kicked off with three changes to the side that held AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday evening. David Marshall, Joe Ralls and Scott Malone were the men recalled for a fine afternoon in the Welsh capital, while Federico Macheda pulled up in the warm-up to miss out on the chance to play against his former side – Kenwyne Jones a last minute change to the original named team.
The fresh Cardiff City line-up came out of the traps with real purpose too, pinning Gary Rowett’s men back into their own half in the opening 15 minutes.
Kenwyne Jones and Sean Morrison both went close, as they moved the ball with urgency and built up a period of consistent pressure on the visitors’ goal. Birmingham held firm to come out of that spell unscathed though, and looked most dangerous when the ball was with the fleet-footed Demarai Gray.
The best chance of first period was to come on the half-hour mark as some superb hold-up play from Alex Revell fed Joe Ralls down the right flank. Ralls, who was putting in another impressive performance, cut back on to his left before swinging in a cross to meet the spirited run of Aron Gunnarsson, whose header went narrowly wide of the target.
City cut loose
The first half ended goalless after another Gunnarsson header, this time from outside of the box, almost gave the Bluebirds faithful a chance to celebrate. However, once the second half commenced, they had to wait just five minutes for the opener.
It came from a brilliant, flowing move, started off by Ralls’ crunching tackle in his own half. He found the newly introduced Matty Kennedy, who spread the ball out to Craig Noone on the right. The winger surged forward and played it back to Kennedy, whose squared ball was expertly diverted home by Eoin Doyle.
The goal – Doyle’s first in the shirt – put the wind in City’s sails, and they could have doubled their advantage on two separate occasions. First Kennedy, making an instant impact, showed dazzling footwork to cut inside two visiting defenders before dragging wide. Then Jones capitalised on some slack defending to race through, but shot straight at Darren Randolph.
Soon after, Whittingham and Jones both went close again as the home side upped the ante at Cardiff City Stadium, both firing narrowly wide of Randolph’s goal.
Birmingham were showing signs of promise down the wings through the efforts of Lloyd Dyer, David Cotterill and Clayton Donaldson. However, the Bluebirds backline was invariably on hand to cut out the danger, most notably through the exceptional Bruno Ecuele Manga.
With fifteen minutes remaining, those in attendance at CCS may have been slightly wary of the fact that the score was still just 1-0. Fortunately, those fears were soon put to bed though, as Doyle sped through into the box before being cut down by Jonathan Spector, leaving Graham Salisbury with no option but to point to the spot. Peter Whittingham strolled up and smashed the penalty straight down the middle to double the lead and secure all three points, sending Russell Slade’s side into the international break with seven points from three games.
FINAL SCORE: CARDIFF CITY 2-0 BIRMINGHAM CITY (Doyle, 50; Whittingham, 76)
CARDIFF CITY: Marshall, Fabio, Malone, Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Ralls, Whittingham, Gunnarsson (Kennedy, 45), Noone (Adeyemi, 85), Revell (Doyle, 44), Jones. Subs Not Used: Moore, Gabbidon, O’Keefe, James.
BIRMINGHAM CITY: Randolph, Caddis, Spector (Robinson, 85), Kiernan, Grounds, Cotterill, Gleeson, Davis (Thomas, 65), Tesche, Gray (Dyer, 65), Donaldson. Subs Not Used: Doyle, Novak, Žigić, Shinnie.