Craig Bellamy made the difference for Cardiff as they built on their impressive home form with a dominant second half performance against Neil Warnock’s Leeds.
Leeds fans could perhaps be forgiven for being pessimistic about this fixture – their last win against Cardiff was in 1984 – and those in their good away support were dealt a blow almost immediately when Ross McCormack fell awkwardly during a strong but fair tackle from Jordon Mutch. The former Cardiff forward immediately waved to the bench to signal his discomfort, and after a lengthy stoppage he was stretchered off to be replaced by Luke Varney.
In his programme notes, Malky Mackay said that Cardiff were eager to get back into action following their dismantling of Wolves two weeks ago, but that did not look the case during a first half bereft of any real quality from either side. Heidar Helguson spurned the best chance just before the break, heading over when he found himself completely unmarked from Peter Whittingham’s outswinging corner.
The early loss of McCormack had given Leeds a real lack of attacking options with the ball on the floor and Neil Warnock attempted to remedy this with the introduction of bad-boy El Hadji Diouf at half time, but he was to have little impact, Leeds mostly resorted to direct tactics throughout. Instead, it was Cardiff who started to exert more influence on the match after the break.
Tommy Smith and Craig Noone both repeatedly turned in from their wings to fashion chances, either to be denied by Paddy Kenny in the Leeds goal or scrambled away by their resolute back four. Noone cut inside to beautifully curl the ball 30 yards over the Leeds defence and onto Smith’s foot at the back post, but he couldn’t keep his first time shot down.
Another good opportunity fell to Mark Hudson, who had loitered up front and found Kenny to be equal to his header across goal. A goal would have been a fitting reward for the Cardiff skipper who was simply faultless at the back all match.
As the Bluebirds struggled to make the most of these opportunities, Malky Mackay looked to substitute Craig Bellamy. Bellamy had recently admitted that he was still struggling to come to terms with the death of Gary Speed, but he didn’t show it on the pitch as he looked sharp and determined straight away. It was a free-kick following Tonge’s foul on Nicky Maynard near the corner of the box that gave Bellamy a chance to open the scoring. He did so spectacularly, driving a rising shot into the top corner of the Leeds net, leaving Paddy Kenny to dive at thin air.
Minutes later, Cardiff doubled their lead with a penalty. Maynard wormed his way goal-side of Tom Lees in the box where he went down under pressure. Up stepped Peter Whittingham who smoothly stroked the ball home to make it 2-0.
Just as it was looking to be an easy finish for Cardiff, Leeds’ Jamaican international Rodolph Austin smashed in a free kick from 30 yards, but perhaps Cardiff stopper David Marshall could have done better to keep the shot out. With the home fans wary of a come-back, Leeds tried to remove their deficit but were unable to create any chances better than Lee Peltier’s mistimed header – Cardiff still looked the more likely to take a deserved three points. The Bluebirds now have three wins from three in their ‘lucky’ red kit at home.
Man of the Match: Mark Hudson
Referee: Paul Tierney
01. David Marshall
02. Kevin McNaughton
03. Andrew Taylor
05. Mark Hudson ©
12. Matthew Connolly
07. Peter Whittingham
18. Jordon Mutch (Gunnarsson – 76’)
14. Tommy Smith (Y)
16. Craig Noone (Bellamy – 64’)
22. Heidar Helguson
23. Nicky Maynard (Cowie – 83’)
01. Paddy Kenny
02. Lee Peltier ©
03. Adam Drury (Diouf – 46’)
04. Tom Lees
05. Jason Pearce
08. Rodolph Austin (Y)
10. Luciano Becchio
14. Aidan White
18. Michael Tonge (Y)
25. Samuel Byram
44. Ross McCormack (Varney – 5’)