Cardiff City fell to a 3-0 home defeat on Boxing Day as they were put to the sword by Southampton’s England internationals.
The Saints put in a dominant display in the capital and netted three times without reply before the half hour mark. A quick-fire Jay Rodriguez double was followed up by Rickie Lambert’s strike to put the game beyond City’s reach with less than half an hour on the clock.
Cardiff improved in the second period but were unable to build up consistent pressure on the Southampton goal, leaving the full-time score unchanged.
The visiting Saints started the match in South Wales desperate for three points having not recorded a win in their previous six league games. The Bluebirds, however, were looking to carry on from their positive performance in the second half at Anfield, and kicked off in front of a raucous Cardiff City Stadium atmosphere.
The visitors started the brighter - enjoying some early possession high up the pitch in the opening exchanges. But it was Cardiff who carved out the first chance of the game.
Craig Noone whipped a fierce in-swinging delivery into the box after David Marshall released Campbell down the right. The ball found Whittingham unmarked in the box, but City’s number seven was unable to adjust his body in time and fired his volley off target.
Cardiff were made to pay for their failure to convert just minutes later as Adam Lallana was sent clear to the right of the City goal. The England international surged forward before squaring perfectly for the onrushing Rodriguez, who made no mistake with his finish to break the deadlock.
City aimed to respond quickly but struggled to keep hold of the ball, and five minutes later were powerless to prevent Southampton from doubling their advantage. It was that man again as Rodriguez dispatched the ball through Marshall’s legs, this time set up by a Lambert pinpoint cross.
The Bluebirds looked close to pulling one back when Jordon Mutch saw a fine header from Whittingham’s free kick saved by the fingertips of Gazzaniga. The offside flag was raised, however, and minutes later the Saints stopper did well to claim another Whittingham free kick as City searched for a foothold in the game.
Unfortunately, it was fast becoming a nightmare opening half for the home side as Southampton looked to put the game beyond City’s reach before the half hour mark. This time a well worked short corner caused confusion in Cardiff’s box and Lambert popped up to rifle the ball home, making it three nil to the visitors.
The Bluebirds needed to respond quickly if they were to have any chance of salvaging a result from the match. They did threaten next from an unlikely source as Andrew Taylor’s low drive deflected off Jose Fonte to cause trouble for the visiting ‘keeper; Gazzaniga managed to claw it out for a corner though, of which City were unable to take advantage.
Théophile-Catherine was putting in a hard shift down the right flank and almost set up a goal for his side as his low cross was turned just wide by Maya Yoshida. But the Bluebirds were unable to get one back and went in to the changing rooms trailing by three goals to nil at the half time whistle.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0 – 3 SOUTHAMPTON
Malky looked to change things in the second half as he brought on Danish international Andreas Cornelius in the hunt for a second half response. It looked to have made a difference as City started on the front foot with a couple of dangerous set pieces.
That was shown on fifty minutes as Gazzaniga was called upon twice in quick concession to keep out threatening Whittingham deliveries. From the resulting corner, Cornelius was unlucky to glance his header just wide with almost his first involvement.
At the other end Marshall did well to deny both Shaw and Cork as the match turned into more of an end to end affair. As Cardiff countered, Campbell raced clear on the Southampton goal from his ‘keeper’s long ball but was unlucky to be called back, having been adjudged to have committed a foul on his marker.
As the match entered its final third the Bluebirds found it hard to attack with enough purpose to break through the visitors’ defence. Théophile-Catherine did brilliantly to head a menacing cross clear from the face of goal though, preventing a fourth goal for the Saints.
There’s no doubt that City’s performance in the second half was an improved one. Nevertheless, they didn’t do quite enough to really threaten Gazzaniga in the visitors’ net as they started to push more men forward.
Both Caulker and Théophile-Catherine threatened late on as the Bluebirds looked for a consolation goal. However, the Saints defence remained resolute in the final five minutes and prevented the Bluebirds from getting on the score sheet, sending the supporters home devoid of any Christmas spirit.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0 – 3 SOUTHAMPTON
Teams - Cardiff City: Marshall, Théophile-Catherine, Caulker (C), Turner, Taylor (John 60), Whittingham, Gunnarsson (Kim 80), Mutch, Noone, Odemwingie (Cornelius 46), Campbell. Subs not used: Lewis; Hudson, Cowie, Maynard.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, Fonte, Lambert (Gallagher 90), Davis, Rodriguez (Ramírez 86), Cork, Lallana (C) (Ward-Prowse 80), Chambers, Shaw. Subs not used: Davis, Fox, Hooiveld, Reed.
Attendance: 27, 929 (Cardiff City Stadium)