The Sky Blues suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium, through goals from Kieffer Moore and Josh Murphy.
City rallied in the second-half, creating a flurry of chances, and Dom Hyam grabbed a deserved goal for Mark Robins’ side. However, Moore’s early double and Murphy’s effort, immediately after the restart, had already sealed victory for the home side.
As the snow swirled around the Cardiff City Stadium, both teams looked for a quick start to avoid the cold weather, setting an end-to end tempo from kick-off.
Cardiff’s Will Vaulks had the game’s first meaningful shot, dragging the ball wide of the post. But the Sky Blues soon found success from deep, via their own centre-halves; Dom Hyam exploiting the spaces in Cardiff’s formation to carry the ball up the field and set City on the attack.
Mick McCarthy’s men did give the Sky Blues an early scare on 12 minutes. A curling free-kick was flicked on by targetman Kieffer Moore, finding Aden Flint to volley the ball home at the back post, but the defender had strayed beyond City’s defence.
Still, Cardiff continued to march forward, as seconds later Perry NG fired wide as Cardiff, again, tried their luck from distance.
The Sky Blues found it challenging to break through Cardiff’s compact back five, supported by the defensive midfield pairing of Vaulks and Marlon Pack, but continued to probe for an opening.
However, a well-worked goal between Josh Murphy and Kieffer Moore gave Cardiff the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Intercepting a pass in midfield, Murphy played a through ball towards Moore from the left flank. Moore, timing his run well to beat the offside trap, checked back to go around the recovering Leo Ostigard and slot the ball past Marko Marosi.
City’s uphill battle doubled in size, just eight minutes later, as Moore scored his first-half brace. Marosi was seemingly fouled in the build-up, while attempting to clear a long throw, but play continued. Seizing on the open goal, the ball rolled to Cardiff’s star striker who netted his second of the game.
Gus Hamer looked to reignite the Sky Blues’ spark after a morale-sapping 10 minutes. Receiving the ball from Julien Dacosta, he played a give-and-go with Callum O’Hare inside the box, before firing a shot wide of the near post.
Pushing forward to reduce the deficit before the interval, City captain Matty James was narrowly denied his first goal for the club. With the ball falling to him in the box, six yards from goal, only a last-ditch block from Curtis Nelson prevented James getting on the scoresheet.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-0 SKY BLUES
Disaster continued to strike for City immediately after the break, as Josh Murphy added to the Sky Blues’ woes. Ng caught the defence off-guard with a quick free-kick on the edge of the box, playing Josh Murphy in on the right-side of the area. The Cardiff attacker provided an impressive finish and arrowed the ball low into the far corner
Refusing to give up, City’s fortunes were best exemplified by Leo Ostigard. Leaping for Sam McCallum’s free-kick, the centre-half’s header came crashing down off the bar and bounced off the line – in what looked to be a certain goal.
Both O’Hare and Hamer had attempts at goal, as City continued to respond to their shock start; the latter stinging Cardiff ‘keeper Dillon Phillips’ gloves with a volley from 20 yards out.
The chances continued to come the Sky Blues’ way as they kept a relentless pressure in the opening stages of the second-half. Having seen Ostigard’s earlier success, this time Michael Rose headed the ball across goal, with only stellar defending from the Cardiff backline denying O’Hare a gilt-edge chance.
In response, Murphy almost put the game beyond doubt with his second of the half. Misjudging the flight of the ball, Marosi was beaten to the ball by the Cardiff winger, who almost scored from the tightest of angles, but saw his effort was cleared off the line.
Cardiff’s defence were not given a minute’s rest as the game moved past the hour mark. Dacosta found O’Hare on the right flank, who cut a low cross from the byline. Only more last-second defending stopped Max Biamou from scoring at point-blank range.
Curtis Nelson bore the brunt of the Sky Blues’ next efforts, midway through the half, making two crucial blocks that looked to have winded the defender. With City determined to leave their mark on the game, Michael Rose also saw his header from a free-kick saved by Phillips, as the final stages neared.
Dacosta was the next player to be denied by the Cardiff ‘keeper, following a well-worked move with O’Hare. Playing a one-two on the edge of the box, the wingback found himself 10 yards out and steered the ball towards the far corner, forcing a smart save from Phillips. More heroic blocks from Ng and Sean Morrison were needed to prevent the rebounds.
City finally got their well-earned breakthrough in the 81st minute through Dom Hyam. Combining with centre-back partner Kyle McFadzean, who headed back across goal from Matty James’ floated free-kick, Hyam stabbed the ball home.
A spirited second-half performance saw City get the goal their play deserved but could not stop them from falling to defeat in south Wales.
FULL-TIME:CARDIFF CITY 3-1 SKY BLUES
Goals: Kieffer Moore (31’, 39’), Josh Murphy (46’), Dom Hyam (81’)
Yellows: Aden Flint, Max Biamou, Sean Morrison, Joe Bennett
Cardiff City XI: Dillon Phillips (GK), Perry Ng, Sean Morrison (C), Aden Flint, Curtis Nelson, Joe Bennett, Will Vaulks, Marlon Pack, Harry Wilson (Colwill, 90’), Josh Murphy (Bacuna, 72’), Kieffer Moore.
Unused subs: George Ratcliffe (GK), Ciaron Brown, Joel Bagan, Tom Sang, Mark Harris, Isaak Davies, Max Watters
Sky Blues Xl: Marko Marosi (GK), Julien Dacosta, Michael Rose, Leo Ostigard (McFadzean, 60’), Dom Hyam, Sam McCallum (Shipley, 78’), Matty James (C), Gustavo Hamer (Walker, 60’), Callum O'Hare, Jamie Allen, Max Biamou (Gyokeres, 78’).
Unused subs: Ben Wilson (GK), Josh Pask, Ben Sheaf, Will Bapaga, Amadou Bakayoko