The Bluebirds were narrowly beaten in front of the Sky Sports cameras, with a controversial first-half penalty decision crucial in Birmingham’s 1-0 victory.
Both teams looked lively in the opening minutes, with 700 travelling fans watching ‘City make a solid start. Minutes after Tony Watt had scuffed his shot across the box, the Scot found Anthony Pilkington at the back post with a delicious ball. The winger nodded it down towards Kenwyne Jones; however the ball was hastily cleared before Jones could get on the end of it.
After his introduction as a substitute following a knock to Sean Morrison, Bruno Ecuele Manga came close to getting on the end of a Joe Ralls free-kick from six yards out. Unfortunately, the defender was unable to make the connection he would have hoped for, with the ball looping over his head and out for a goal-kick. After 21 minutes, a curling cross was deflected into the path of Jones, whose header was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Tomaz Kuszczak.
The Bluebirds maintained their attacking push throughout the first period. Irishman Pilkington came close to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark, as his deflected effort dipped over the crossbar. With five minutes remaining in the half, Sammy Ameobi took on his man and cut inside into a central position, although his effort on goal was comfortably held by Kuszczak.
THAT KEY DECISION
As the break approached, the hosts won a free kick in the Cardiff half, which was swung in towards the far post. David Marshall seemed to collect the ball, but couldn’t keep hold of it. The ball was hooked back towards the goalmouth, and was met on the half volley by James Vaughan. Matt Connolly flew in with a brave block, taking the ball in the face to deny the hosts the lead. However, a penalty kick was awarded to Birmingham City for handball. Substitute Paul Caddis tucked home the spot-kick, earning his team a half-time lead against the run of play.
SECOND HALF CHANCES
The Bluebirds applied attacking pressure in the early stages of the second half, hoping to get back on level terms. Matthew Connolly ventured into the Blues’ penalty box, but saw his pass cleared away. Tony Watt again played through Pilkington following a mazy run, but the ball was taken off the toes off the midfielder as he entered the box. Pilkington had a good opportunity after 64 minutes; stabbing Lee Peltier’s low pass across the face of goal; and agonizingly just wide of the post.
The two Cardiff loanees combined with twenty minutes remaining, producing a big opportunity for an equaliser. Watt advanced forward with the ball, before spotting the run of Ameobi, and playing the ball into his feet. The 23 year old attacker could only curl the ball wide, as ‘City kept searching for a goal. Watt continued to look menacing, as he slid a ball into the six-yard area, which was almost inadvertently deflected into his own net by Jonathan Spector. The on-loan Charlton man had an attempt of his own after 75 minutes, firing wide from the right hand side of the area.
At the other end, Demarai Gray looked to score a second, but couldn’t keep his effort down from the edge of the box. Gray fired another shot goalward with seven minutes left, which was deflected into the path of David Davis. With space and time, the midfielder somehow managed to fire his effort across the box and out for a throw in. Young talent Gray stung the hands of Marshall with a powerful attempt, although the ‘City stopper palmed the ball away to safety. Scott Malone launched a late offensive for the Bluebirds, with a curling effort from the edge of the area bringing a fine save from Kuszczak. However, the resulting corner came to nothing, with the full-time whistle signaling an undeserved defeat for Cardiff, ending a four game unbeaten run.
FINAL SCORE: BIRMINGHAM CITY 1-0 CARDIFF CITY
Birmingham City: Kuszczak, Spector, Lowry (Halford 79’), Eardley (Caddis 25’), Morrison, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Gray, Maghoma, Toral (Davis 69’), Vaughan. Subs not used: Legzdins, Shinnie, Solomon-Otabor, Brock-Marsen.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Malone, Morrison (Manga 9’), Connolly, Ralls, Gunnarsson (Whittingham 79’), Pilkington (Noone 79’), Ameobi, Jones, Watt. Subs not used: Moore, Fabio, O’Keefe, Mason.