|Cardiff City 0 v 3 Leeds United
Saturday, 13th January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds away form is back with dominant win at Cardiff
Sunday, 14th Jan 2024 12:12 by Tim Whelan
This was the response we needed after consecutive away defeats just after Christmas, and Cardiff City were on the receiving end as we rediscovered the art of how to destroy opposing defences on our travels.
There were a couple of changes to the starting line-up, with Meslier back in goal after his suspension and the debate on social media as to whether we should stick with Klaesson. Ampadu was again in central defence with Cresswell out of favour, and Gruev was the beneficiary of that particular stand-off, getting a start in midfield while Gray returned to right-back.
We’d come unstuck in our last two leagues away from home against sides who battled hard to deny us space, and although we’d beaten Peterborough in the cup we might have expected 12th placed Cardiff to give us a much stiffer test. But the decision to stick with Bamford worked a treat despite his suspect finishing, as his movement pulled their defence in different directions and this gave our other forward players a lot more space.
And Firpo was another much-maligned player who was enjoying himself, doing what he does by getting forward down the left, helped to a huge degree by our dominating the possession to leave him very little defending to do. And on 13 minutes one of his marauding runs began the move that led to our first goal.
Firpo played the ball inside to Rutter, and his pass found Summerville in the middle of three defenders, but the Dutchman’s trickery took him past all of them to get the cross in. The ball bounced off Bamford and then Rutter, but when it came back to Bamford on the floor, he reacted fast enough to stab the ball over the line from close range.
As we continued to dominate Alnwick made good saves from Summerville and Bamford to keep his side in contention, but we finally got the second just after the half hour mark. Summerville again provided the assist with a cross from the same spot as the first. The keeper got a hand to it, but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from getting through to the onrushing Dan James, who completed the simple task of knocking it over the line.
We could have extended the lead still further when Rutter cut inside and sent a powerful left foot shot goalwards, but Alnwick was able to get down and push the ball round the post. All Cardiff had offered was a couple of shots from long range and they were booed off by their own fans at half time. They made a couple of changes at the break, but as the second half began it was more of the same.
Summerville sent a shot narrowly wide, and we went close again after Gray’s superb ball from the right picked James out in the area. With Alnwick well of his line he tried the first time lob over the keeper, which was the right thing to try, but the ball came down onto the top of the crossbar and bounced over. At the other end Cardiff finally forced Meslier to make a save, but then presented us with the opportunity to put the game to bed.
As a corner came over to Rutter the Frenchman was clipped from behind as he controlled the ball, and the referee pointed to the spot. With Piroe off the field it was up to Summerville to take it, and it would have been the perfect penalty if it had been a couple of inches to the right, but unfortunately it came back off the foot of the post.
But we did finally get the third goal with a breakaway in the 88th minute. As the ball was cleared out of defence Dan James won the ball as two Cardiff players got in each other's way and he raced into their half. The attack lost momentum when his ball to Summerville forced the Dutchman a little too wide, but Bamford cleverly stepped over his pull-back, to leave Rutter in space on the edge of the box.
Rutter side-stepped a defender and hammered the ball into the net. And as a tribute to the now departed Ayling, the Frenchman gave a rendition of his guitar-playing goal celebration, even if he doesn’t have the hair to do the job properly. And after the game Daniel Farke paid tribute to the excellent performance when he spoke to the BBC.
"For me it was our most mature performance of the whole season. We've had some electrifying home performances and scored many goals but Cardiff is always a tough place to go. To be so in control of the game, from the first to the last second and to get a third clean sheet in a row, overall I'm pretty happy.”
"We kept them totally quiet in their possession and we dominated the ball and scored three fantastic goals. We should have scored a few more but the win was never in doubt and I was especially pleased with the control." And his opposite number Erol Bulut was unhappy that the home side didn’t come close to the intensity that Preston and WBA showed against us.
"We know about the strong side of Leeds United but my players today respected the opponent too much. We have to at least show more fighting spirit and try more to score. You can lose a game but you have to fight and today was not the case. There were too many individual mistakes. If you make mistakes, quality opponents punish you and we got punished like that."
We certainly needed the win, with Ipswich and Southampton also picking up three points, as did WBA, the closest team behind us. But you could say this away win still leaves us better off, as all three of those teams were playing at home. Sadly, we’re probably a bit too far behind Leicester now for their defeat to be much help to us.
We all know that Leeds need to show a lot more consistency away from home, but maybe we’ve now discovered the way we can make it work, as Bamford’s return to form and fitness makes it a lot harder for opponents to close us down, even if they do play with a ‘low block’. We’ve now got our next three games at home, including the cup tie, but let’s hope we can use this formation to good effect when we next go on our travels.
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