Wednesday 14 December 2016

Cardiff City 2 Wolves 1: What Happened Really?

Premier League

Matt Doherty had given Wolves a second-minute lead but Cardiff were vastly improved in the second half and after Matthew Connolly's 69th-minute equaliser - which was controversial in that it came from a corner that shouldn't have been given - there only looked to be one winner.

The most dispiriting aspect of this defeat from a Wolves perspective was just how predictable it felt.

Wolves were in control for most of the first half - they looked comfortable with everything had to throw at them and they were in the lead thanks to a very rare early goal (their first this season).

But then everything disintegrated. Cardiff moved up a gear after the break and Wolves seemed clueless as to how to stem the tide of attacks.

Their game management was poor, they invited pressure and couldn't get any respite at the other end.

It was a bit of a mess, if truth be told, and Cardiff were very good value for the two goals they scored without reply.

For Paul Lambert, January can't come soon enough. Yes Wolves' squad is very well resourced in terms of numbers and indeed individual quality, but in terms of nous, of experience, of know-how, the cupboard looks pretty bare.

That's a pretty damning indictment seen as £14million was spent last summer, for Wolves to accrue 22 points from 21 matches.

Lambert made two changes from the team that drew 4-4 with Fulham on Saturday.

Richard Stearman, who was ineligible against his parent club, came back into the defence in place of Kortney Hause, while George Saville replaced Conor Coady in midfield and Harry Burgoyne continued in goal with Carl Ikeme still out injured.

At an eerily quiet Cardiff City Stadium there weren't high hopes of seeing much quality on the pitch - but Doherty dispelled that myth with a stunning strike inside just two minutes.

Nothing much seemed on when he ambled inside from the left flank, but the Irishman unleashed a rocket from all of 25 yards and keeper Ben Amos could only help it into the net.

It was Doherty's second goal in two games. And it was also the first time Wolves had netted in the opening 15 minutes of a match this season. They became the 92nd and last team in English football to do so.

Thereafter the first half was a complete non-event.

Cardiff gradually began to enjoy more possession, although the primary tactic of launching the ball into the box (either via a cross, a set piece or an endless succession of long Aron Gunnarsson throws) was meat and drinks for Stearman and Danny Batth.

The latter seemed to have a magnet in his forehead, such was the frequency with which he headed the ball clear.

Burgoyne didn't have a save to make in the first 45 minutes, with a nervous punch from another Gunnarsson throw his only action of note.

Wolves tried to play as a high a line as possible with Stearman's presence a big factor in their impressive organisation.

Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro were the outlets on the counter attack although it wasn't quite clicking for them and the resultant lack of action in both boxes was glaring. Not that that should be a surprise given their respective league positions, with Wolves 19th and Cardiff 22nd going into the game.

Costa, who had picked up a knock from a poor Lee Peltier challenge early on, was withdrawn at half time with Joao Teixeira his replacement in a straight swap on the right.

Whatever Neil Warnock said to his team at half time clearly worked - the Bluebirds began the second half a different team and a 20-minute onslaught ensued.

First off Burgoyne made a terrific save to tip substitute Craig Noone's shot wide after the Cardiff man skinned Dominic Iorfa.

Fellow substitute Kenneth Zohore was inches over with an acrobatic scissor-kick from a knocked-down long throw. Peter Whittingham;s free kick was saved by Burgoyne and Noone whistled an excellent effort just wide.

It was one-way traffic - and the ball just wasn't sticking up front at the other end. Wolves were also struggling to get a grip in midfield.

When Cardiff's equaliser came after 69 minutes it was hardly a surprise, although there was more than an element of misfortune about it from a Wolves perspective.

Zohore's wayward shot didn't look like it touch a Wolves player but referee Andrew Madley awarded a corner - Whittingham whipped it in, Batth missed the flight of the ball and Matthew Connolly headed home. It also looked like Burgoyne was impeded.

Wolves, with Bright Enobakhare and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson now on, looked to rally.

They came desperately close to taking the lead again almost immediately but George Saville's shot from a corner was somehow saved by Ben Amos.

Wolves' attacks were far too sporadic though and there was a depressing inevitability about their winning goal, which came just four minutes from time when Pilkington was given freedom to pick his spot from the edge of the box with the defence awol again.

Four minutes were added on but an unlikely equaliser never came. Neither did an attempt on Amos' goal. Lambert has a lot of work to do.



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