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Cardiff 3-2 City

It was another one of those days...

Cardiff draw level
Cardiff draw level
Michael Steele
After the immense satisfaction of the Newcastle fixture in terms of result and performance, City dipped below their expected level to give Cardiff a morale boosting victory so early in their debut EPL campaign. You have to give credit to the home side for the way they approached the match and their tactics therein, but City lost this from a strong position in the 2nd period, with Edin Dzeko’s long range strike seemingly laying the groundwork for an important 3 points in the embryonic ‘race for the title.’ It was not to be as Cardiff came roaring back to equalise and then forge further ahead through one time United forward Fraizer Campbell. Alvaro Negredo’s stoppage time header was mere consolation. It was a sobering Sunday afternoon for a Bank Holiday weekend.

So where did it go wrong for the Blues? Obviously, to concede two goals from corner kicks in one afternoon is something of a rarity and therefore an abomination. It simply should not happen. Joe Hart, who up until the moment of the 2nd goal had performed well, including a great point blank save in the prelude to Cardiff’s 1st strike was undoubtedly at fault, seemingly more concerned with shifting the Cardiff player in front of him than tracking the flight of the ball. It was another error to add to a growing list for England’s number 1 over the last 12 months or so. Hart is obviously a very good goalkeeper but the inconsistencies are becoming a problem and it was interesting to hear quotes attributed to David Platt post game that Mancini and the club had earmarked Begovic of Stoke City to replace him, had they remained at the club. Joe will have this season to prove to Pellegrini that he does not need to follow his predecessors train of thought.

Pablo Zabaleta has also come out and blamed teething problems in the transition from zonal to man marking as the cause of City’s downfall here. The point is possibly a valid one but the reigning player of the season will know that he erred badly in allowing Campbell to tower above him and take the result away from City. It was a rare and hopefully isolated mistake. Defensively City had not appeared so resolute throughout the game, as one would perhaps expect with Javi Garcia and Lescott the central defensive partnership. Whilst the Englishman performed relatively well in handling the Cardiff threat, Garcia again added further fuel to those who feel he is not up to the required standard, even less so when employed in the backline rather than his customary defensive midfield role. Without Vincent Kompany City are vulnerable. Another commanding world-class centre half should be sought and quickly, with the transfer deadline a week away.

Offensively, this was more akin to last season’s levels than the cut-and-thrust of the Newcastle game. Again credit to Cardiff for their work rate, closing down and overall tactical discipline. Star performer last time out, Jesus Navas, was suffocated out of the game on the right flank as he continually faced two and sometimes even three red shirts. Whilst Silva was bright and arguably City’s standout performer, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho never really dominated the central areas to give City the foothold they required. Gary Medel and Aron Gunnarsson, scorer of the 1st goal, swarmed around the City midfield closing and harrying impressively throughout. When City did get into promising areas - and there were plenty of occasions where they did so – the frustrating tendency to overplay was in evidence. Sergio Aguero was insistent on taking one touch too many and Dzeko – despite his great strike – was much more on the periphery than the last match. Negredo pepped up the forward line and will be pushing hard for a starting berth soon enough.

And so Manuel Pellegrini would have had plenty of thinking to do on the long journey back from South Wales. Not that the experienced coach would have had held such sentiments beforehand - but had there been any complacent assumptions on the limited threat posed by teams expected to operate at the lower level of the EPL, then this outcome would have removed them swiftly. It was a reminder of the range of qualities required to prevail week in week out against a range of opponents. It is not just the stylistic drubbings at home that secures success in this league, but the gritty, ugly displays too. Or so the cliché goes. The recent record against newly promoted sides is not all that impressive. Saturday will present the chance to start to put that record right, with Hull City Tigers next up at the Etihad Stadium.

Standout performer: David Silva