Sunderland 1-2 Cardiff City (report)
Cardiff travelled the long journey North to play Sunderland at the fantastic Stadium of Light. The noise from the PA system during the build-up was deafening but the 700 or so Cardiff fans were certainly making their presence felt. Glenn Loovens was passed fit as the swelling around his eye socket improved and the bone was found not to be chipped so Cardiff lined up as against Derby. Graham Kavanagh returned from a hamstring injury to take a place on the bench and the former-Bluebirds favourite was given a rousing reception by the travelling fans.
Cardiff City made their characteristic good start at a fast tempo and Chopra signalled his intentions with an early snapshot flying over. It was not long though until the first goal was scored, Paul Parry and James Chambers combined on the right and the cross between the centre-backs was tucked away by the onrushing MICHAEL CHOPRA for the goal he craved against his hometown clubs rivals. Cardiff had started the better but the lead did not last long as Tobias Hysen, in for the suspended Ross Wallace, crossed for big striker Chris Brown to head home. Steve Thompson had a shot blocked and Alexander was alert to gather several crosses as the game was broken up by numerous fouls.
In the 37th minute, Cardiff restored their lead with a very similar goal to their first. It was again Parry who cut inside and found, nipping between Collins (Neil) and Varga was MICHAEL CHOPRA to slot home with the help of the left upright. Chopra first touch was crucial and he showed good composure to finish and net his second of the night.
HT Sunderland 1-2 Cardiff City
The second half started more slowly and Kevin Campbell replaced the injured Steve Thompson. Few clear chances for either side followed but a nasty collision between Brown and the outrushing Alexander halted the game briefly but the Scot was fit to continue. On 69 minutes Alexander was at full stretch to deny a fantastic Tobias Hysen shot. The Swede showed excellent technique to hit a shoulder high volley towards the top corner but Alexander flew and got a solid hand behind it.
Cardiff were managing to stifle the Black cats and restricting them to hopeful crosses, Cardiff conceded several corners but all were dealt with by Purse and Loovens. Kavanagh came on to a warm reception from both sets of fans and the pacy Grant Leadbitter replaced Liam Lawrence. On 75 minutes Cardiff had a good chance to wrap up the game as they broke quickly with Joe Ledley. Chopra`s intelligent run made space for the winger but his shot flew under as Dwight Yorke belied his years and made up excellent ground to pressure Ledley.
Leadbitter was causing problems and won several corners as Cardiff failed to clear their lines. No clear chances fell to Sunderland but two dangerous goalmouth scrambles followed and one shout for a Darren Purse handball was denied by referee Boyeson. Graham Kavanagh`s set-pieces looked dangerous as Sunderland began to dictate possession and Cardiff were unable to break out of their half but remained tireless in closing down and harrying every Sunderland player. The discipline and determination was noticeable in the Cardiff players and despite some pressure, they were resolute and did not look like cracking. A Chambers attempted backheader with 5 minutes left was short and the Watford loanee had to race to recover and clear for a corner. Malvin Kamara replaced the injured McNaughton who appeared to be clutching his chest as he departed and Joe Ledley reverted to left-back for the closing few minutes. Kamara became a useful outlet as Cardiff look to close the game out as he took possession well into the Sunderland half and used the space he had as Sunderland tried to press. Michael Chopra picked up a needless booking as injury time began for a foul on Lewin Nyatanga and was promptly clattered by Danny Collins.
Cardiff managed to see out the 4 minutes injury time without serious incident and took the three points back to South Wales. They deserved the win after great performances throughout the team. It was a good side and Sunderland tried hard and tested Cardiff but the Bluebirds were exemplary and a brilliant team performance was the key while Chopra`s presence in front of goal proved the matchwinner with his well taken brace. A very good 3 points over a team with bags of potential and a manager to push them all the way. The early goal helped City and they can be pleased with an excellent days work.
FT: 2-1 to the Bluebirds!!!