Campbell’s double spells trouble for chastened Manchester City
Striker’s brace gives Cardiff City first top flight home win for 51 years
Cardiff City’s Fraizer Campbell scores his side’s third goal against Manchester City. Nick Potts/PA Wire.
So much for Manuel Pellegrini insisting there was no chance of Manchester City underestimating Cardiff. There was little evidence that message got through to Pellegrini’s players on an afternoon that was as chastening for Manchester City as it was glorious for Cardiff.
The Welsh club’s first top-flight home game for 51 years will live long in the memory in these parts after two goals from Fraizer Campbell and another from Aron Gunnarsson delivered a thrilling victory.
If the result would have been nigh on impossible to predict beforehand, it seemed even more unlikely after Edin Dzeko thumped a wonderful 25-yard shot beyond David Marshall seven minutes into the second half to give the visitors the lead. The natural assumption at that point was that Manchester City, who had looked strangely subdued in the first half, would go through the gears and take the game away from Cardiff. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.
Cardiff played at a remarkable intensity in the opening 45 minutes and they summoned more courage and spirit to haul themselves back in the game when Gunnarsson swept home to equalise. From then on it was all about Campbell. He twice lost his marker Pablo Zabaleta to nod home from corners, with Joe Hart not exactly covering himself in glory on the first, when the England goalkeeper flapped at Peter Whittingham’s delivery.
The home team still had to endure a nervous finale. When Alvaro Negredo, a replacement for Dzeko, sent a towering header past Marshall in the second of six minutes of added time. Negredo came close to pinching another but the striker was unable to turn the ball home at the far post.
There were raucous scenes at the final whistle as Cardiff supporters celebrated their first home win at this level since West Ham United were vanquished 3-0 at Ninian Park in 1962.
It was a sweet moment for Malky Mackay, his indefatigable players, the supporters who have been through some bleak times and Vincent Tan, the eccentric Cardiff owner who has caused controversy by changing the kit colour but also transformed the club’s fortunes. Tan sanctioned €33.4m of spending this summer as Cardiff broke their transfer record three times, yet it was Campbell, a €700,000 signing from Sunderland in January, who stole the show.
A surprise England debutant 18 months ago, when Stuart Pearce handed him a full cap against Holland, Campbell has never put forward a convincing case in the past that he belongs at this level. He had managed only seven goals in 70 Premier League appearances before the start of this season.
For Pellegrini, the inquest will centre on City’s poor defending – Joleon Lescott and Javier Garcia never looked comfortable in central defence in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany – and questions must now be asked about Hart.
City were also poor in other departments. The fluidity and freedom that characterised their 4-0 win over Newcastle on Monday night was missing against a Cardiff side that worked tirelessly and got their tactics spot on.
Mackay crowded the centre of the pitch with players when City had the ball, denying opponents that play narrow and with little natural width the chance to cut through them.
On one of the few occasions when Cardiff stood off Manchester City, they were punished. Fernandinho rolled a ball into Sergio Aguero’s feet and, with a deft backheel, the Argentinian found Dzeko, who dropped into a pocket of space about 25 yards out. One sumptuous swing of the right boot later and the ball was arching into the top corner of the net.
Within eight minutes Cardiff were level. The impressive Kim Bo-kyung escaped on the right flank and delivered a low centre that Campbell swept towards goal. Hart blocked with his feet but Gunnarsson was first to the loose ball and gleefully rammed home.
If that was not exactly in the script, it was nothing compared to what followed.
– Guardian Service