REPORT: VILLA 2-0 CITY
Second-half strikes from Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna and Libor Kozak confounded Cardiff City to a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park.
An even first-half made way for the Bluebirds to enjoy much of the second period, before Bacuna won and excellently converted a Villa free-kick from distance with just a quarter of an hour to go. Polish International Kozak made sure of the points for the home side with his close range header six minutes from time.
Two late clinical strikes were ultimately the difference in the West Midlands, with the Bluebirds more than matching the home side for much of the game; a first-half free-kick from Gary Medel diverted just wide of the near post by Kozak, the closest City came.
City boss Malky Mackay made one change to the side that triumphed 1-0 in last Sunday's South Wales derby victory as Aron Gunnarsson replaced Jordon Mutch in the Bluebirds' starting-11.
After an impeccably observed minutes silence to honour Remembrance Day before kick-off, City 'keeper David Marshall was quickly getting his palms test. He first denied an offside Kozak before parrying a long range effort from Karim El Ahmadi a few minutes later.
City weathered the early storm before Villa's Polish International almost inadvertently put the Bluebirds in front; Medel's driven free-kick from distance diverted just inches wide of the far post by Kozak who almost rippled his own net.
There was more confusion in the home defence soon after as Nathan Baker and Villa stopper Guzan unduly left it for each other to deal with; an oporuntistic Gunnarsson looked to cut in and convert only for Villa's American 'keeper to get just enough on the ball to divert it away from danger.
Bellamy later tested Guzan from a long range free-kick before El Ahmadi hit another long range effort just wide. Both sides would go into the break on level terms.
HALF-TIME: Aston Villa 0-0 Cardiff City
There were no changes for either side at the break, but it was Malky Mackay's side who looked the brighter following the interval. An early free-kick from Whittingham cleared everyone including the on-running Kevin Theophile-Catherine at the far post.
Ten minutes into the second period, Fraizer Campbell was brought on for Peter Odemwingie to work the Villa defence, but it was the home side who had the next chance. Countering quickly from a Cardiff free-kick, Ashley Westwood hit an opportunistic effort just inches wide of David Marshall's far post.
Mutch would replace Gunnarsson just after the hour mark for the Bluebirds, but it would be the home side who grabbed the all important first goal as Bacuna won and converted a Villa free-kick from distance, fifteen minutes from time.
Moving from his full-back berth following the introduction of Matt Lowton by Paul Lambert, Bacuna raced clear of the City midfield before being brought down by Gary Medel, as the Chilean picked up his first yellow card of the season from referee Martin Atkinson for the challenge. From 30-yards out, Bacuna curled his free-kick excellently past David Marshall.
Nicky Maynard replaced Craig Bellamy for the Bluebirds to push for the equaliser. But it was the home side who would get the important second goal and secure all three points, Kozak rising highest at the near post to head past Marshall after a period of Villa pressure six minutes from time.
Whittingham, on his return to his former club, almost gave City a consolation in the last seconds of stoppage time from a free-kick but it was to end in a first defeat in three games for the Bluebirds at Villa Park.
FULL-TIME: Aston Villa 2-0 Cardiff City
Cardiff City: Marshall, Taylor, Caulker (C), Turner, Whittingham, Medel, Odemwingie (Campbell, 55), Gunnarsson (Mutch, 65), Cowie, Theophile-Catherine, Bellamy (Maynard, 82). Subs not used: Lewis, Hudson, Kim, Noone.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, El Ahmadi (Lowton, 74), Westwood, Sylla, Tonev, Benteke, Kozak (Bowery, 88). Subs not used: Steer, Helenius, Herd, Johnson, Robinson.
Goals: Bacuna (76), Kozak (84).