Five of the best: Home Games 2017/18
The Bluebirds will be looking to make Cardiff City Stadium a fortress in the Premier League, as it was in 2017/18. Indeed, City lost only three League matches at CCS throughout the whole of last term, showing the importance of home form towards a successful season.
Connor Pearce takes a look back at our five favourite home matches from our historic promotion-winning campaign…
Cardiff City 3-0 Aston Villa (August 12th, 2017)
We begin with City’s first home game of the campaign, which no doubt helped to set the tone for the rest of the season. Having defeated Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium on the opening day, the Bluebirds returned to the Welsh capital to face one of the division’s strongest sides on paper, who had recently been strengthened by the arrival of ex-England and Chelsea captain John Terry.
Despite Villa’s status as favourites for promotion, they were no match for City’s blistering attack on the warm Sunday afternoon. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing opened his account for the club in the first-half, expertly dispatching a headed effort into the bottom corner. Kenneth Zohore was the creator of the second; bursting into the Villa box before clipping the ball to the unmarked Junior Hoilett, who easily added the second with a simple header. The delighted Bluebirds faithful were made to wait for the pick of the bunch, as Mendez-Laing doubled his tally. The winger received the ball inside the area, cut onto his favoured right-foot and curled a stunning strike into the top corner, sealing the result and continuing City’s excellent start to the season.
Cardiff City 3-1 Leeds United (September 26th, 2017)
United arrived in pole position ahead of this midweek clash, sitting pretty at the top of the Championship table. However, Neil Warnock’s men were not far behind in second place. 27,160 fans flocked to Cardiff City Stadium, sensing that the gaffer may have a trick up his sleeve against one of his former clubs.
A relentless display from the Bluebirds, who showed solidity in defence and a cutting-edge going forward, marks this match as one of their finest performances of the season. The superb Sol Bamba stepped out of his usual back-line position and into midfield, nullifying a Leeds attack which had been the best in the Championship to that point. Kenneth Zohore netted his first goal since the opening day, making a superb front-post run to get on the end of Junior Hoilett’s cross. The Canadian winger soon added a goal of his own – a thunderous strike from twenty yards which dipped in front of Felix Widewald before nestling in the bottom corner. The evening was rounded off with an excellent team goal in the second half. Zohore, Damour, Hoilett and Morrison were all involved around the Leeds area, before the Danish striker slid in to round off a hugely impressive performance which took City back to the Championship summit.
Cardiff City 4-0 Sunderland (January 13th, 2018)
After a tricky Christmas period, City returned to League action at CCS looking to get back to winning ways against Chris Coleman’s Sunderland. The Black Cats languished at the foot of the table coming into this midday match, and so both sides needed the points for very different reasons.
Callum Paterson opened the scoring in the second period, rising above the onrushing Robin Ruiter to nod home a brave header. The lead was doubled by Joe Ralls later in the half, who burst forward from a Sunderland corner to fire home from Kenneth Zohore’s pass. Paterson netted his second with a sweetly-struck half volley after Zohore’s free-kick was blocked, whilst Anthony Pilkington added to the emphatic scoreline with his first goal of the season. This victory proved to be a huge turning point in the Bluebirds’ season; it ended a five-match winless streak in all competitions and launched the vital thirteen-game unbeaten League run which saw City solidify themselves as promotion favourites.
Cardiff City 2-1 Nottingham Forest (April 21st, 2018)
As the Championship season entered its final phase, each victory became even more valuable in the race for promotion. Separated by a matter of points, City and Fulham were in a two-way tussle for second spot with only three games remaining. The Whites took the upper hand on matchday 43 with a convincing 3-0 away win over play-off chasing Millwall, meaning the Bluebirds needed to defeat Nottingham Forest the following day to regain an automatic promotion position.
The returning Joe Ralls made a crucial difference for Neil Warnock’s men, getting the assist for Sean Morrison’s opener after thirty-five minutes. Luck briefly abandoned City as the second half began; Kenneth Zohore’s seemingly-perfect chip was denied by the foot of the post, only for Liam Bridcutt to make the most of Forest’s let-off and equalise two minutes later. However, from another set-piece, Aron Gunnarsson threw himself at the ball inside the Forest box, exemplifying the determination that has carried the team through the season. He volleyed home the vital winner to put the Bluebirds back in the driving seat.
Cardiff City 0-0 Reading (May 6th, 2018)
After a gruelling season, Neil Warnock’s men knew the task in hand when they arrived at CCS on the final day of the season. A win would secure promotion to the top flight, although Premier League football would also be confirmed by bettering or matching Fulham’s result at Birmingham City.
Spurred on by a record Cardiff City Stadium crowd, the Bluebirds dominated the early proceedings against the Royals, who themselves were not guaranteed of Championship safety. However, as word spread of Birmingham’s two-goal lead against the Cottagers, the tense nature of the afternoon transformed into a party atmosphere. On the pitch, Junior Hoilett and Kenneth Zohore went closest to breaking the deadlock, but all eyes were on the score-line at St. Andrew’s. The full-time whistle sparked scenes of jubilant celebration, as the city celebrated a deserved return to the Premier League.