Date: 3rd February 2019 at 6:43pm
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Written by northstandmark

It was an evening that started in poignant fashion, as our travelling supporters filed past the impressive floral tributes to Emiliano Sala outside the Cardiff City stadium. And once in the turnstiles, many took up the offer of wearing daffodils on their coats, boxes of the tokens of support left for Cherries fans to pick up.

An impeccable minutes silence (as you’d expect) gave way to a roar of energy from our hosts as the match started. And this was probably the moment we lost the game. As in contrast to Cardiff’s intensity, we looked lifeless from the off.

Almost immediately Artur Boruc was called into action to prevent what looked a likely goal when Oumar Niasse was all too easily sent clear through on goal. Boruc keeping that effort out with his legs, continuing his recent heroics.

You’d hope that early let-off would awaken the Cherries, but no. Minutes later a routine cross into the box met Steve Cook with his arm in the air, and there was little complaint about the resulting penalty decision. This time, not even the Big Pole could save us, as he dived right and the ball was sent down the middle by Bobby Reid.

The only comfort was knowing that with only 5 minutes on the clock, there was a lot of football left to be played. Early goals don’t always work out well. But Bournemouth needed to get into this game quickly and show some fight. But instead, Boruc was again called upon when Niasse resumed his running at our flat-footed back line and sent a dangerous ball across the face of Boruc’s goal.

That fast Cardiff start eventually gave way to prolonged periods of Cherries possession. After forcing Chelsea into a lot of ponderous ball retention midweek, now it was our turn to go largely sideways with no penetrative effect. Cardiff still looked far more lively on the counter-attack.

Bournemouth did put together our two closest efforts on goal all night midway through the first half, as first Ryan Fraser fired narrowly wide with a curled effort. Before Andrew Surman forced Cardiff keeper Etheridge to tip a 25-yard effort onto the crossbar.

King looked to be through on goal from the left-hand side, having shrugged off a defender fouling him in the process, until the constantly frustrating Jonathon Moss bizarrely concluded that King had done the fouling. Moss blew for a free kick with Joshua bearing down on goal, in one of those decisions where you can’t believe the ref has seen the same incident as you. The assumption from our crowd was that Moss had pulled the play back for the foul on King, which would have been frustrating enough. But when the ref turned and pointed for a free kick the other way, the disbelief was audible.

This little bright period ended and Cardiff saw the first half out with another good chance. Yet another cross came into the Cherries box and looked well teed up for Paterson to slot in at the far post, but for a desperate clearance by Smith. It was all too easy for Cardiff to cause us trouble with fairly routine play: let us have a bit of possession, smother our midfield and inevitably win the ball, and break down the channels.

The defensive cover and organisation provided by Gosling and Surman on Wednesday was all gone here. They would have expected to play more positively anyway than compared with Chelsea’s midfield, but in going behind so early there was never any option for us to sit deep here. Smith and Clyne weren’t nearly as effective in containing the wide areas without that backup from midfield.

The second half started immediately with Cardiff doubling the lead. I was still down under the stand finishing my pint…But I gather Bobby Reid was more alert than any Bournemouth defender and ran through on goal and around Boruc for a tap-in. Like me, I think our team was still having their half time chat.

This made the task all the harder now. Having not shown much in the way of creativity in the final third so far, with Cardiff’s lead doubled they could sit even more compactly, and allow us all the possession we liked, knowing we weren’t looking likely to score.

In an attempt to freshen up the midfield, Howe introduced Ibe and Lerma for Stanislas and Gosling, and up top Mousset for Solanke. But this made little difference. Ibe went on a few jinking runs here and there, but Cardiff were so organised that Ibe was just swamped with defenders that he was never going to get through. Lerma seemed unusually timid and subdued when midfield cried out for aggression and energy. Mousset, unfortunately, made no impact.

There isn’t really a lot to write about the second half. Bournemouth huffed and puffed a bit, but with around 70 minutes on the clock, it was clear we’d run out of ideas and run out of mental and physical energy. Whereas Cardiff riding a wave of emotion had reserve tanks of both. The home fans helping their side through the last 20 minutes of the game with a constant dedication to the late Sala.

The clock was wound down in expert fashion, Cardiff absorbing pressure and winning free kicks, some soft and cynical, others just rightly so due to frustrated Cherries challenges.

The full-time whistle was greeted with another emotional roar from the home crowd, marking a thoroughly deserved victory. It remains to be seen whether Cardiff will survive this season, but if they can keep that energy and organisation going, then they will continue to be tricky opposition to beat.

Bournemouth needed to play the occasion far better. We should have been prepared for the atmosphere, and it shouldn’t have been any surprise that Cardiff would start hard and fast. We should have setup to contain that start first and foremost. We needed to stand up to that start better, counter if possible, before slowly working our way into the game with what quality on the ball we usually have.

For the experienced Cook to give a silly penalty away was frustrating, when he’s one of those old heads you’d hope would help the rest of the side manage the occasion. Gosling and Surman also fall into this senior pro category, yet they showed nothing like the aggression needed in a combative midfield area. Lerma might be a bull in a china shop at times, but you have to wonder if a fit Lerma would have made far more of an impact. But for Boruc, the game would have been over inside 15 minutes.

Solanke clearly wanted to make an impact on his debut, and too often came looking for the ball in midfield trying to make things happen, leaving us with not enough up front to break down a resilient Cardiff backline. Hard to blame Solanke when there was precious little other creativity on offer. But in the absence of our usual intricacy, as the usual triangles weren’t coming off, I would have liked us to try a more old fashioned approach. Getting the wing men to the byline and aiming for Solanke in the box. But you can’t do that if Solanke is back in midfield trying to support Surman and Gosling. There’s some work needed to stitch him into the side, which is to be expected I suppose.

The lack of any impact from the bench will worry Eddie. We screwed up the start of the game, that happens. And we screwed up the restart. Which also happens. But when all else fails, you want to know that you can change things up from the bench. Except our replacements were just more of the same.

Rest up some legs for a week and brush off that Chelsea game-plan, because it’s only Liverpool away up next….!

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