Report: Burton Albion 0-1 Cardiff City
Kenneth Zohore's superb curling effort secures victory for City on opening day...
Neil Warnock's side lined up at Burton Albion with a five-man defence. Joe Bennett and Lee Peltier playing as full-backs either side of a central defensive three of Sol Bamba, Bruno Ecuele Manga and Sean Morrison. The Cardiff City boss gave competitive debuts to Lee Tomlin and Neil Etheridge. Aron Gunnarsson, Joe Ralls, Junior Hoilett and Kenneth Zohore were also given the nod on opening day.
The Bluebirds had the ball in the back of the net with just six minutes on the clock when Zohore expertly converted Bennett's cross from the left side. Unfortunately for Zohore and City, the assistant referee had already raised his flag, ruling out this clinical finish.
The host enjoyed strong spells of possession in the opening period without really threatening the clean sheet of new City shot stopper Etheridge. Jackson Irvine's powerful effort on 40 minutes drifted well over the bar before the two teams exchanged their best chances late in the half.
Forward Zohore was played in behind the Burton Albion defence for the first time, playmaker Tomlin with a deft pass to beat the defence, but Ken's curling effort from the edge of the box drifted wide of goal on 42 minutes. Warnock's men were nearly punished on the counter just one minute later when Lloyd Dyer found Marvin Sordell free inside the penalty box. A great interception from Bamba ensured the first half would end goalless.
Neil Warnock's Cardiff City side came out for the second period determined to make their mark on the match - and were unfortunate not to go ahead inside five minutes of the restart. Canadian international Hoilett forced a fine stop from our former loanee Stephen Bywater before the experienced 'keeper made an even stronger save from the resulting corner kick, somehow keeping out Bamba's close range volley.
The introduction of Loïc Damour and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from the substitutes bench after 65 minutes opened up the match as City did everything they could to secure an opening day away win. The latter, recently signed from Rochdale, latched onto Damour's wonderful backheel after 82 minutes before lashing a powerful shot over the bar from just inside the area. Mendez-Laing was involved again three minutes later, feeding fellow debutant Danny Ward, but his shot was cleared by Jake Buxton.
The Cardiff City pressure continued, and the away side were finally rewarded for their positive football with a winning goal with just three minutes left on the clock. Danish U21 international and 2016/17 top goalscorer Zohore received the ball from Damour wide on the right, breaking infield before unleashing an unstoppable low drive that flew into the bottom right corner of the net - much to the delight of the travelling 1,755 City fans.
Referee Geoff Eltringham announced five minutes would be added on, but the Bluebirds held strong to secure a first opening day win since 2012.
FINAL SCORE: BURTON ALBION 0-1 CARDIFF CITY (Zohore, 87’)
Burton Albion: Bywater, Warnock, Mousinho (Sbarra 89'), McFadzean, Murphy, Lund, Akins, Dyer (Varney 78’), Sordell (Akpan 64’), Buxton, Irvine. Subs Not Used: Campbell, Naylor, Palmer, Barker.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Morrison, Manga (Damour 65’), Bamba, Bennett, Peltier, Ralls, Gunnarsson, Hoilett (Ward 80'), Tomlin (Mendez-Laing 65’), Zohore. Subs Not Used: Murphy, Richards, Halford, Pilkington.