Cardiff City picked the most opportune time possible to record their first win by a two-goal margin in the Barclays Premier League, as the Bluebirds produced a vital 3-1 victory over bottom club Fulham at Cardiff City Stadium.
Captain Steven Caulker produced an unlikely double by scoring either side of a Lewis Holtby equaliser for the Cottagers, and a Sascha Riether own-goal put Cardiff out of reach in the second half.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær brought Jordon Mutch, Craig Noone and Kenwyne Jones into his starting line-up as he made three changes from last week’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. In Fulham’s first visit to Cardiff City Stadium, Cottagers manager Felix Magath included captain Brede Hangeland after he suffered a head injury in last week’s derby defeat to league leaders Chelsea.
An overhit through ball by Fraizer Campbell was just too hard for Mutch to catch in the game’s first meaningful opportunity on seven minutes. Ashkan Dejagah fired into the side netting from the right two minutes later, with both sides looking to go on the attack in order to aid their cause in the fierce relegation battle with ten games remaining until the end of the Premier League season.
The Bluebirds started to turn it on around the quarter-hour mark, as Campbell worked himself some space and unleashed a great shot that had former Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenburg diving to his left to tip the ball away. Konstantinos Mitroglou, Fulham’s Greek record signing, who joined from Olympiakos in January, tested David Marshall with a low shot a minute later.
Campbell’s ball over the top was just too hard for Jones to chase on twenty minutes, before Noone evaded a number of Fulham challenges before shooting wide. Jones then headed into the hands of Stekelenburg from a Mutch cross, before Noone repeated his earlier effort by shooting off target. Kim Bo-Kyung’s shot was deflected to Stekelenburg on the half-hour.
Mutch shot over before Mitroglou headed wide under pressure from Ben Turner. Mutch’s low centre was smashed goalwards by Kenwyne Jones for Stekelenburg to make the save, right before the Bluebirds took the lead in first-half injury time. Steven Caulker tapped home after Craig Noone’s cross was deflected to give the Bluebirds a huge boost going into the second half.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 FULHAM
Having seen his side go behind late in the first half, Fulham manager Felix Magath sent on Swedish international striker Alexander Kačaniklić in place of John Arne Riise for the second period. Mutch needed to generate more bend on his effort to get the ball around Stekelenburg, while Marshall saved low to his left from Lewis Holtby, the man on loan from Tottenham. Kenwyne Jones headed just wide before Greek Giorgos Karagounis replaced the Iranian Ashkan Dejagah five minutes into the second half.
Kačaniklić fired wide on the break before Kim’s shot his Johnny Heitinga, with Kim Bo-Kyung booked for a late tackle on Karagounis on fifty-five minutes. Fulham were level on the hour – Lewis Holtby netting after Johnny Heitinga flicked on Karagounis’s corner, but the sides were on terms for just six minutes, as Stephen Caulker headed his second of the game, his fourth of the season and his third against Fulham for the Bluebirds.
Keiran Richardson did well to get himself in between the ball and Fraizer Campbell as Cardiff quickly went in search of a third, and that was just what they got moments later, when Jordon Mutch’s header was saved by Stekelenburg only for the rebound to hit German defender Sascha Riether and roll over the line for an own goal.
Mats Møller Dæhli replaced Campbell in the break in play after the Bluebirds’ third goal, with Darren Bent replacing Cauley Woodrow, the man who had spent time earlier in the season on loan at League 2 Southend United, a few minutes later. Marshall made a great save from Mitroglou as the Whites nearly pulled one back on seventy-five minutes.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem replaced Gary Medel shortly before the disappointment for the 1,541 travelling Fulham fans was amplified by Steve Sidwell’s headed goal being flagged offside with eight minutes to play. Kim Bo-Kyung was closed down as his shot trickled easily into the hands of Stekelenburg, before Mitroglou and Bent produced similar efforts for Marshall to collect.
Kévin Théophile-Catherine replaced an injured Ben Turner as the clock ticked past ninety minutes, before Dæhli fired wildly wide following a lung-busting break from inside his own half. That was the final chance, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær led the Bluebirds to victory in the Barclays Premier League for the second time.
This was the Bluebirds’ third successive league win against Fulham, and also marked the first time Cardiff had done the double over a top-flight opponent since September 1961. Fulham also took their winless run to nine, their longest in the top flight. Cardiff are now up to eighteenth on twenty-five points, level with next-highest side West Bromwich Albion.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 3-1 FULHAM
Cardiff City: Marshall, Caulker (capt), Turner (Théophile-Catherine 90), Medel (Eikrem 81), Jones, Campbell (Dæhli 72), Kim, Noone, Mutch, Fábio, John. Subs not used: Lewis, Juan Cala, Zaha, Bellamy.
Goals: Caulker 45’, 67’, Riether OG 71’
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riise (Kačaniklić 46), Heitinga, Hangeland (capt), Sidwell, Holtby, Richardson, Mitroglou, Dejagah (Karagounis 50), Woodrow (Bent 76), Riether. Subs not used: Stockdale, Kvist, Zverotić, Burn.
Goals: Holtby 59’
Attendance: 26,796 (1,541 away)