Cardiff 4-1 Luton
Cardiff City move back to the top of the Championship after a 4-1 hammering of Luton Town. Manager Dave Jones opted to recall Glenn Loovens in place of Roger Johnson in the centre of defence. Johnson will feel unfortunate to be dropped and questioned Dave Jones over his decision to which Jones could only reply that he didn`t know. Jones picked the pairing he thought would win the game and Johnson will now have to wait patiently for his next opportunity, it is very re-assuring however to have a player of Johnson`s calibre and form on the bench.
The first opening of the game fell to Luton when captain Steve Robinson fired over from just 10yards after a poor clearance from Kerrea Gilbert. An early goal would have been especially valuable to settle the team after the Plymouth nightmare and it duly came on 8 minutes. A corner from the right found Riccy Scimeca free at the far post and his towering header was goalbound but for a deliberate handball by Luton`s Lewis Emanuel. The defender was dismissed for a deliberate handball and Darren Purse slotted home the resulting penalty. There was a long delay between the penalty decision and the actual taking but Purse kept his nerve well having been criticised this season for earlier missing a penalty as well as a needless sending off and several mistakes. Purse was in determined mood but was perhaps guilty of trying too hard when after 12 minutes he lunged into Rowan Vine barely 6 inches outside the area. Vine was not completely in control of the ball and Purse did not need to go to ground especially in such a dangerous area and was lucky his rash challenge resulted only in a booking and not a penalty. The Hatters` Rowan Vine was booked for dissent after clumsily charging into a Paul Parry at full pace, Parry was set to outstrip 2 defenders until he was completely taken out by Vine. A cheeky switch pass from McPhail found Chopra free on 16 yards but his shot was weak and Beresford gathered.
Richard Langley received a mixed reaction on his Ninian Park return but when Paul Parry skinned the Jamaican International leaving him sprawled on the turf, a loud cheer was heard. McPhail had a good chance for his first City goal after good work by Chopra but his attempted dink around the keeper was far too weak. Chopra spurned another chance from 8 just yards this time hitting his shot high over the bar. On the half hour City scored the goal of the game as Chopra picked up possession in centre-field and spotted space on the right, Chopra squared and the ball was met first time by PAUL PARRY who hit a magnificent curling shot low and perfectly into the bottom corner. The shot was crisp and a well positioned Beresford could do nothing about it, a truly memorable goal from City`s in-form winger.
At 2-0 City looked truly comfortable and were dominating, Loovens went close with a header and Ledley`s storming run led to a Scimeca shot over the bar. Carlos Edwards, quiet for much of the match beat Gilbert and Vine should have done better from the pull-back. As the 4th official put up his board however, Luton scored a goal from nothing. Vine battled through several challenges on the edge of the area and bulldozed his way clear, the finish was good low and across Alexander but McNaughton and Loovens should really have stopped Vine, the bounce was lucky for Vine but it sent Luton in with hope and ensured Cardiff had more work to do.
City were guilty of some slack passing after the restart and looked distinctly nervous but Scimeca again shot over after a neat move. Luton changed formation, heartened by their goal, bring on Coyne at centre back and switching Carlos Edwards to left wing-back. Any nerves were calmed just before the hour mark when Stephen McPhail clipped a left foot cross to the back post where Thompson has pulled away from his marker. Thommo sent a good knock-down across goal where MICHAEL CHOPRA was on hand to smash into the top right corner from 6 yards - no chance for Beresford. Luton lost belief and their few spectators were dejected but several City fans were heard to exclaim that they wouldn`t be happy until we were 4 goals to the good with less than a minute to go after the 'Home Park Horror show`. Any lingering fears were allayed on 76 minutes when substitute Malvin Kamara was freed by an intelligent Gilbert pass and crossed for MICHAEL CHOPRA to smash home his second (and fourth in 2 games).
Purse and Loovens were solid, especially in the air, and both made timely clearances to avoid danger. Richard Langley was picked out free just 6 yards out but his point-blank header was superbly tipped over by Alexander, Langley however had been given offside and was roundly jeered. A particularly loud enquiry of Langley as to the current score was answered as he held 4 and 1 fingers in front of his chest showing good character but the response merely drew louder boos from the City faithful whereas Chopra`s ayatollah was much more enthusiastically greeted.
Chopra was denied his first City hat-trick after running from halfway, he was clear but was pursued by 2 defenders and could only chip into Beresford`s arms when off balance and Leon Barness blocked another goalbound Chopra shot.
Paul Parry went off to a standing ovation and there was time for Willo Flood to play two excellent balls inside Luton`s defence.
4-1 then the final score and a well deserved victory for Cardiff. The task was made easier by the sending off but City were positive and threatening throughout capping a professional performance with their 7th goal in 2 games. Alan Lee`s goal for Ipswich helped keep Birmingham to a draw and send City back to the top of the league, teams like Luton are never easy to beat and the Bluebirds can be pleased with the result and performance alike.
The sponsors man of the match went to Chopra and deservedly so and most of Cardiff`s good play went through the lively striker. His intelligent runs have created openings for all the players and he capped off a fine performance with 2 more goals making him joint top scorer in the Championship with Earnshaw and Rasiak.