The Sky Blues had a frustrating 3-1 loss at Cardiff City Stadium, with the goals of Kieffer Moore and Josh Murphy.
City recovered in the second half, generating a flurry of opportunities, and Dom Hyam scored a well-deserved goal for Mark Robins. However, Moore’s early double and Murphy’s effort, shortly after the restart, had already sealed the home side’s win.
As the snow swirled around Cardiff City Stadium, both teams were aiming for a fast start to avoid the cold weather, setting an end-to-end kick-off pace.
Cardiff’s Will Vaulks got the first meaningful shot of the day, dragging the ball across the post. But the Sky Blues soon found success from deep down, from their own center-halves; Dom Hyam manipulating the spaces in Cardiff’s formation to take the ball up the field and set City on the offensive.
The men of Mick McCarthy gave the Sky Blues an early scare in 12 minutes. A curling free-kick was struck by goalkeeper Kieffer Moore, hitting Aden Flint to take home the ball at the back, but the defenseman had strayed outside City’s protection.
Still, Cardiff managed to march on, when a few seconds later Perry NG shot wide as Cardiff, again, tried their luck from a distance.
The Sky Blues found it difficult to crack through Cardiff’s compact back five, backed by the defensive centre pairing of Vaulks and Marlon Pack, but managed to look for an opening.
However, a well-functioning goal between Josh Murphy and Kieffer Moore gave Cardiff the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Intercepting a pass in the centre of the ground, Murphy played a ball to Moore from the left side. Moore, pacing his run well to beat the offside trap, checked back to go around the recovery of Leo Ostigard and slot the ball past Marko Marosi.
City’s uphill struggle doubled in size, just eight minutes apart, when Moore scored his first-half brace. Marosi was apparently trapped in the build-up, trying to clear a long shot, but the match went on. Seizing the open target, the ball rolled to Cardiff’s star striker, who scored his second of the day.
After a moral-sapping 10 minutes, Gus Hamer looked to reinvigorate the Sky Blues flame. Receiving a ball from Julien Dacosta, he played a give-and-go with Callum O’Hare inside the box, before he fired a shot across the nearby post.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-0 SKY BLUES
Disaster started to hit for City shortly after the break, when Josh Murphy contributed to the woes of the Sky Blues. Ng caught the defence off guard with a short free-kick on the outside of the box, playing Josh Murphy on the right side of the area. The Cardiff player had an excellent finish and arrowed the ball down to the far corner.
The City’s fortunes were best exemplified by Leo Ostigard, refusing to give up. Leaping for Sam McCallum’s free-kick, the center-half header came smashing down the bar and rolled off the line – in what appeared to be a win.
The opportunities tended to come in the way of the Sky Blues, as they maintained a steady pressure in the opening stages of the second half. Having seen Ostigard’s earlier performance, this time Michael Rose was leading the ball across the target, with only a stellar defence from Cardiff’s backline denying O’Hare a golden opportunity.
In answer, Murphy almost took the game out of the picture with his second half. Misjudging the flight of the ball, Marosi was beaten to the ball by the Cardiff winger, who almost scored from the narrowest angle, but saw that his shot was cleared off the line.
Cardiff’s defence was not given a minute’s rest when the game went past the hour mark. Dacosta has discovered O’Hare on the ri
Curtis Nelson bore the brunt of the next Sky Blues effort, halfway through the centre, making two critical blocks that looked like the defenseman was winding. With City determined to make their mark on the tie, Michael Rose also saw his header from a free-kick saved by Phillips as the final stages approached.
Dacosta was the next player to be rejected by the Cardiff Keeper, after a well-worked pass with O’Hare. Playing a one-two on the edge of the box, the wingback found itself 10 yards out and steered the ball to the far corner, prompting a clever save from Phillips. More valiant blocks from Ng and Sean Morrison were expected to avoid a rebound.
City finally made its well-earned breakthrough by Dom Hyam in the 81stminute. Combining with center-back partner Kyle McFadzean, who headed back across the goal from Matty James’ floated free-kick, Hyam stabbed the ball home.
A spirited second-half effort saw City get the goal they needed, but it couldn’t save them from slipping to defeat in South Wales.