Cardiff City returned to winning ways with a hard fought 2-1 victory over Charlton Athletic.
City Start fast
The visiting Londoners arrived in the Welsh Capital without a win in their previous four matches. Cardiff likewise were looking to get back on track after consecutive defeats, so both sides were looking to make a statement as the game began. The Bluebirds started brightly in the sunshine at Cardiff City Stadium with Joe Mason nearly springing the offside trap to get in one-on-one.
City were dominating the early play and Anthony Pilkington stung the palms of keeper Nick Pope with a rasping drive from the edge of the box. Soon after Sean Morrison had a double chance to open the scoring for Russell Slade’s side. Firstly, his header from a Peter Whittingham corner was headed off the line by Jordan Cousins and secondly following a penalty box scramble he hooked the ball goalwards but City failed to force it in. Shortly after, Morrison could have had a hattrick when he diverted a Whittingham free kick just over the bar.
Russell Slade's continued their dominance as Kenwyne Jones shrugged off Charlton’s Morgan Fox and fired a dangerous ball into the area which Joe Ralls couldn’t quite connect with. The ball then spilled out to Pilkington who saw his shot blocked.
After this spell, Charlton started to grow into the game. Centre back Bauer had a great chance cleared off the line, Kenwyne Jones there to deny him. The Trinidadian was continuing his habit of heavily influencing the game at both ends of the pitch.
It really was turning into an entertaining end-to-end affair at Cardiff City Stadium with excellent chances arriving at regular intervals.
Another debatable decision
Both sides were understandably unable to maintain the ferocious tempo of the game’s early moments. Before too long, a Tony Watt header sparked the contest back into life and it took an absolutely outstanding save from Simon Moore to deny the Scotsman from close range. Not to be outdone by their London opposition, City went up the other end and Pilkington struck a powerful shot that was deflected over.
Then came the half’s big talking point, Pilkington picked out the run of Joe Mason with an exquisitely timed through ball, the Cardiff number ten was bearing down on goal. He then attempted to round the ‘keeper Pope, as he did so he appeared to be caught by the goalkeepers flailing arm and went down. It looked for all the world that the referee would point to the spot. Instead, to the horror of the Cardiff faithful, referee Andrew Madley’s arm pointed in the opposite direction and he proceeded to book Mason for simulation. A huge call that looked like it could make a difference to the match, especially after Charlton's start to the second period.
First blood to the Addicks, before the Bluebirds bite back
The second half began in a similar vein with both teams pushing to open the scoring. Unfortunately for Cardiff, it was Charlton that made the breakthrough. The goal came with the half still in its infancy as half time sub, Karlan Ahearne-Grant was on hand to fire the ball past Simon Moore into the back of the Bluebirds net, immediately vindicating the decision of Guy Luzon, the Charlton manager.
Rather than lick their wounds, the Bluebirds hit straight back. They piled on the pressure around the Charlton penalty area and almost immediately had a very strong shout for a handball in the box. Yet again however, referee Andrew Madley was unmoved and refused to point to the spot. City kept going however and soon found the goal that their play had richly deserved. Following a scramble in the penalty box, Mason nipped in ahead of the defender to slot in a goal from close range and level the match. Cardiff had the bit between their teeth now and it took a brave block to deny Pilkington’s shot from the edge of the six-yard box.
Charlton came back into it with Fabio tripping the lively Tony Watt near the touchline and it took a strong block from Pilkington to stop the dangerous ball causing real havoc. Next Watt rifled a long range shot that Moore could only parry but the 'keeper recovered spectacularly to keep out Cousins who was following in the rebound.
Following the flurry of goals and chances it was proving to be Cardiff who were wrestling back control of the game.
The introduction of Sammy Ameobi, like so often this season, injected fresh impetus into the Bluebirds’ attacking play. A measured ball from Whittingham set him free and he fired narrowly wide from the edge of the area. City were really piling on the pressure now. Ameobi was terrorising the opposition defence with his pace and trickery and he soon won a corner off the back of another mazy run. Whittingham delivered the ball in but it was immediately cleared back to him. Quick as a flash, he controlled the ball superbly and sent it straight back into the danger zone, where stand-in skipper Morrison was on hand to head his second goal of the season and send the home crowd into raptures. Finally, the Bluebird were deservedly in the lead.
Not content to sit back and defend, City were looking to extend their lead, Scott Malone fizzed a ball along the ground and Charlton’s defender, Naby Sarr very nearly diverted the ball into his own, luckily for him, he managed to stab the ball just over the bar. Cardiff were enjoying their best spell of the game.
Into the last ten minutes and Slade's men were still controlling the play, the Addicks had rarely threatened since their goal. Naturally however as full time loomed large, the home side began to sit back and Charlton were seeing a lot more of the ball. Tony Watt had yet another chance to get on the score sheet but headed narrowly wide with minutes remaining. This proved to be Charlton’s final chance of the match as Cardiff’s clever game management saw them through.
City will be happy with their afternoon’s work and thoroughly deserved their victory against a spirited Charlton team.
FINAL SCORE: CARDIFF CITY 2-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Scorers: Ahearne-Grant '49, Mason, ‘53, Morrison ‘76
Cardiff City: Moore, Fábio, Morrison, Connolly, Malone; Pilkington (Noone, 75), Dikgacoi, Whittingham, Ralls, Mason (Gunnarson, 85), Jones (Ameobi, 68). Subs not used: Wilson, Ecuele Manga, Gunnarsson, Revell, Tamas.
Charlton Athletic: Pope, Kashi (Moussa, 86), Bauer, Sarr, Fox, Berg Gudmondsson, Kennedy (McAleny, 59) Cousins, Bergdich (Ahearne-Grant, 46), Watt. Subs not used: Ba, Lennon, Mitov, Umerah, Moussa.