Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Cardiff City 1-0 Aston Villa

Premier League

Cardiff City eased their relegation worries with a win over Championship play-off contenders Aston Villa.

Joe Ralls volleyed Cardiff in front from a corner and the hosts missed a flurry of first-half chances.

Villa rallied as Ross McCormack was denied a goal against his old club when his free-kick was tipped on to the bar by Bluebirds goalkeeper Brian Murphy.

Cardiff held on to climb up to 19th - still three points clear of the bottom three - while Villa drop to 13th.

Whereas Cardiff started this game looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone, Villa were aiming to close the six-point gap between themselves and the play-off places.

Steve Bruce's side were woefully off the pace in a first half in which they were fortunate not to concede more than once.

Villa were behind after 16 minutes, as a goalmouth scramble from Joe Bennett's corner saw the ball pop up invitingly for Ralls, who guided his volley through the melee of bodies and into the net.

The visitors struggled to recover from that setback, overrun and outfought by their combative opponents.

Striker Kenneth Zohore had two glorious chances to double Cardiff's lead but volleyed his first against the post and, moments later, dithered when clean through on goal and saw his shot blocked by Jordan Amavi.

Bypassed in the first half, Villa's anonymous midfield pairing of Ashley Westwood and Gary Gardner were replaced by Aaron Tshibola and forward Gabriel Agbonlahor at half-time as Bruce tried to salvage the situation.

The changes gave the visitors some much-needed urgency, and they were inches away from an equaliser when McCormack's dipping free-kick was well tipped on to the bar by Murphy.

Agbonlahor also forced Murphy into a good save as Cardiff started to retreat, defending deeper but resolutely as they resisted Villa's late onslaught.

"I thought we dominated for large periods and all round it was a good performance.

"It was a great atmosphere and the game had everything really. It was like a cup tie and I thought that 30 minutes into the first half we were going to regret the missed chances.

"But in the Championship you need people to stand up when the chips are down and we did that in the second half."

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce: "It was a slow start - it was that slow that we stopped.

"That's two or three times we've done that now and the first half was nowhere near the performance required. The only thing I can put it down to is mentality.

"We're arguably the biggest club in this division and that makes us a scalp but if we don't find the right mentality, we won't achieve what we want."



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