Brighton & Hove Albion vs Cardiff City
NO GOALS FOR EITHER SIDE AT AMEX
Having picked up maximum points on the first day of the season against Huddersfield Town, the Bluebirds took to the field against Brighton hoping to get some early momentum going on their travels.
This encounter proved to be very different to the previous game, however, as the fans at the AMEX stadium were treated to an open, attacking match, with many chances falling to both sides.
Heidar Helguson went closest for the Bluebirds in the first half. A breathtaking lobbed pass from Peter Whittingham released Andrew Taylor down the left. However, after his low cross fell perfectly to Helguson six yards out, the Iceman failed to find the target. In an eventful first half a Hudson header was also cleared off the line and Whittingham's spectacular free kick was well saved by Kuszczak; Ashley Barnes and Craig Noone threatened for the home side.
The fast tempo of the first half continued for much of the game, and gilt-edged chances fell to both sides. Efforts from former Valencia defender Bruno, Craig Noone and LuaLua could all have earned the three points for Brighton in this lively encounter.
But new boy Etien Velikonja nearly won it for Cardiff. After Mason's volley was well saved, the Slovenian was first to the rebound, but saw his shot stick to the body of Kuszczak, leaving the score at 0-0.
Cardiff City kicked off against Brighton with an identical starting eleven to that which started against Huddersfield the previous Friday. They started the game well, retaining possession in midfield and happy to keep the ball on the ground. Heidar Helguson was used as an effective outlet from the outset.
Mark Hudson recently spoke of his team's potential to perform very well away from home, with the likes of Bellamy to counter attack at pace. And signs of this were shown early on as, after the Albion had earned a couple of early corners, City countered well and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of a decision from the assistant referee - Bellamy ruled offside having been put through by Helguson.
New boy Jordon Mutch soon showed exactly why Malky Mackay recruited him this summer as his impressive skill on the right hand side earned the Bluebirds' first corner of the game. In-swinging corners from both Bellamy and Whittingham proved to be very dangerous last time out, and this seemed to be the case again this evening. Whittingham's corner was placed right on the head of Mark Hudson, who was unlucky not to double his tally for the season - his goal-bound effort headed off the line, with Kuszczak stranded.
It seemed that Brighton were still yet to come out of the traps after fifteen minutes as they had to deal with wave after wave of Cardiff pressure. During this time, half chances fell to Bellamy and Cowie, but nothing seriously troubled the former Manchester United stopper. One opening then fall to Brighton, though Ashley Barnes' shot from twenty yards was easily saved by last week's man-of-the-match Marshall.
The Seagulls then fired another warning shot to the City defence as Craig Noone shot over the bar from the corner of the eighteen yard box, but it was Cardiff who would carve out the best chance of the game so far. A brilliant trademark lobbed pass from Peter Whittingham freed Andrew Taylor in plenty of space on the left wing, and his low cross seemed to put it on a plate for lone front man Heidar Helguson. However, with the goal gaping, he fired the ball over the bar from six yards out to keep the score at 0-0.
Prolific striker Craig Mackail-Smith then won a corner for the Seagulls after neat play with his strike partner Ashley Barnes. And, having taken it short, Mackail-Smith himself was brilliantly thwarted by the City number one, after Andrew Crofts left the ball to him, stepping over a low cross. Just moments later a defensive lapse then allowed Barnes to run completely clear of the back four. Andrew Taylor got back brilliantly though to make a last ditch intervention.
If Brighton had taken a while to get going, they were certainly in full flow now as they created several chances through very lively winger Noone on the right. During this period, Barnes, Bruno and Noone himself were all unlucky not to open the scoring for the home side.
Cardiff appeared to have withstood a long spell of Brighton pressure and were soon to provide one of their own. Bellamy was showing his premiership class in the first half of this encounter, attacking with pace from the left hand side. And the Bluebirds were to create several openings - mainly originating from Bellamy and Whittingham. The most notable of these fell to Whittingham himself who stung the palms of 'keeper Kuszczak, at full stretch to keep out his long range free kick.
This was proving to be a very open encounter and, with many chances falling to both sides, a repeat of last year's 2-2 draw looked on the cards. However, City were just shading it as Bellamy, Taylor and Mutch were seeing plenty of ball down the left hand side as half time approached. Neither side were able to break the deadlock in the opening forty-five minutes, however, despite the plethora of chances.
HALF TIME: BRIGHTON 0-0 CARDIFF CITY
Substitution Cardiff: Joe Mason on for Jordon Mutch
Part of Malky's footballing philosophy involves pushing both full-backs well forward when possible, and both McNaughton and Taylor were providing good attacking options down the flanks for the Bluebirds at the start of the second half. Unfortunately, several of their crosses just evaded strike partnership Helguson and substitute Joe Mason. However, it was Whittingham's direct approach which caused the most problems for the south coast outfit. His disguised shot from the rightdipped narrowly over following a short corner, before another long range drive flew just past of Kuszczak's left hand post.
Brighton have recruited well this summer, bringing in players from clubs such as Valencia and Manchester City. Former Valencia defender Bruno, a player with a wealth of La Liga experience, saw his effort from distance force another top drawer save from Marshall as it was driven low through a crowd of players. A series of corners for the Albion put some more pressure on City's defence, without threatening to put them ahead.
Substitution Brighton: Kazenga LuaLua on for Ashley Barnes
The excellent tempo from Cardiff's first half attacks was less evident early in this second period. However, neat passing and movement from Whittingham, Gunnarsson and Mason kept Cardiff in the game, while Marshall made another good save from the very dangerous Noone at the other end.
Another spell of Brighton pressure seemed ominous for the Bluebirds as they struggled to retain the ball as well as in the first half. Despite Cowie's great effort from distance, it felt as though a change was really needed to freshen things up. Malky turned to winger Craig Conway, giving him his first league appearanceof the campaign, following a terrific pre-season.
Substitution Cardiff: Craig Conway on for Craig Bellamy
Substitution Cardiff: Etien Velikonja on for Heidar Helguson
Another player who gave a good account of himself in preseason was Etien Velikonja and, after Mackay had brought on the Slovenian, he wasted no time in getting in on the action. When Whittingham prodded the ball through to Joe Mason on the edge of the box, the young Irishman's volley was well saved by Kuszczak. Velikonja was following in though, and was incredibly unlucky not to see his effort hit the back of the net as the ball stuck under the body of the fortunate Albion goalkeeper,only to see Kuszczak re-gather.
Substitution Brighton: Vicente on for Craig Noone and Ryan Harley on for Gary Dicker
Cardiff had got themselves well and truly back in this game and, although Kazenga LuaLua went close for Brighton, Don Cowie was very unlucky not to get on the end of fellow Scotsman Craig Conway's cross at the far post. This open, end to end match was nearing a close, however, and it was surprising that neither side had managed to break the deadlock.
New substitute Vicente, another former Valencia player, is known as the 'dagger' in his native Spain, and he very nearly put the Bluebirds to the sword in the closing moments. His classy skill earned the Albion a free kick twenty-five yards out, and the midfielder stepped up to take it himself. Marshall, who was having another fine evening, stood strong though, meaning that this encounter remained one of the most exciting 0-0 draws that you will see.
FINAL SCORE: BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 0-0 CARDIFF CITY