Printer Friendly

Boxing clever as Bellamy shows best to help freeze out the Sky Blues.

Byline: STEVE TUCKER

BOXING DAY has not been kind to the Bluebirds down the years, but this dismissal of Coventry never looked in doubt. A frigid home crowd came expecting a late Christmas present and that is what they got with Dave Jones' men back to near their best with periods of fast-flowing possession play which left the visitors trailing in their wake.

It was a most welcome three points for Cardiff. A victory which saw them move back into the top two and one executed in a fashion which left one wondering why they could not play like this all the time.

For the skill and determination they showed here had been sadly lacking during their recent poor spell.

This was the Bluebirds' first victory since they put Scunthorpe to the sword back on November 13.

And if they have still been lingering at the top of the table it has been as much about the rest of the Championship's ineptitude as Cardiff's own excellent early-season form.

Cardiff started like the Polar Express and never really loosened their icy grip on Aidy Boothroyd's Sky Blues, even if they did have an understandable case of the jitters midway through the second half as the scoreline remained almost inexplicably at 1-0. That first goal came thanks to a determined opening 20 minutes in which the recent under-performers seemed to finally step back up to the plate. A quick Andy Keogh free-kick freed skipper Craig Bellamy down the left channel. Bellamy pulled the ball back across goal and there was Seyi Olofinjana arriving to blast home with the composure of a seasoned striker.

That was already an established pattern in the game. Bellamy was back to imperious form again and probably putting in his most effective shift for his hometown club since arriving on loan in September. He tormented the Sky Blues down the left and right-back Richard Keogh was having a torrid time trying to deal with him.

Even when midfielder Jordan Clarke tried to help him out, doubling up could not thwart a truly-scintillating Bellamy.

Time and time again the Wales international got down the left wing, setting up a host of chances in the process.

As early as the second minute, Bellamy fired across, but Chopra was unable to get anything on it.

It was the route which eventually led to the opener, but there should have been more.

After 31 minutes, Bellamy was left beating the turf in frustration as yet another great cutback from him went under-used by his team-mates.

But the main reason the Bluebirds were stuck with their slender single-goal lead was a string of top-class saves from Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.

Westwood pulled off some incredible stops, although he was getting plenty of opportunity to show off his talents as the Bluebirds peppered the Coventry goal with festive offerings.

A hooked shot by Chris Riggott, of all people, was turned away by Westwood at full stretch and then Chopra beat the offside trap, but was somehow denied by Westwood again.

In the first period, the Bluebirds looked to have a much better shape and understanding about them than they had at any time since back in October when wins were rolled out with almost careless abandon.

This was all the more remarkable considering they were without the man who has proved their talisman this season, Jay Bothroyd.

It was decided not to risk Bothroyd as he recovers from a recent hamstring problem, while wideman Chris Burke and midfielder Danny Drinkwater had succumbed to a bug which had swept through the Cardiff camp over the Christmas period.

Whereas in the past the loss of Burke and Bothroyd, in particular, might have led to grave doubts about Cardiff's ability to function, here that did not seem to matter.

Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say this was the Bluebirds' best performance without Bothroyd.

Of those who stepped in, Stephen McPhail provided some neat touches and forward momentum and the oft-maligned Keogh had his best game since arriving on loan from Wolves, even if he does lack precious composure in the box.

The confident swagger spread throughout the whole side with the Cardiff defence looking as rigid as it has for some time.

Mark Hudson was excellent, as too was tenacious full-back Kevin McNaughton and Riggott, finally making his debut for the Bluebirds, put in the sort of solid shift which bodes well for the future.

Riggott was not afraid to shout when the occasion suited him and he looked to develop a good understanding with Hudson, the one ready to mop up any danger the other might have missed.

Not that there was too much threat offered by Coventry. On this evidence, the fact that if the visitors had won this they would have gone level with Cardiff on points seemed absurd, such was the gulf in class between the two.

In the first half, the only threat was a Richard Wood header which David Marshall eventually pushed away, but perhaps not as convincingly as he might have liked.

But as long as the lead was just one you suspected the Bluebirds were going to have to live on their nerves a bit.

Just before the hour, Boothroyd brought on strikers Freddy Eastwood and Clive Platt, with the routinely-booed Marlon King shifting out wide in a three-pronged attack.

It wasn't helping that Westwood had continued his Gordon Banks impression in the second period, denying Bellamy and Chopra with another couple of miraculous interventions.

Coventry thought they had scored on 64 minutes, but Lukas Jutkiewicz was adjudged to be offside when he got the final touch on a King shot and Eastwood fired into the side-netting after a Marshall blunder.

But it was the superb Bellamy who put the game beyond doubt.

His 83rd minute strike took a massive deflection off James McPake, probably the only way to beat the inspired Westwood.

Bellamy, too, was so concerned about the referee having a word with Richard Keogh about an earlier tackle (and the hapless Keogh did round off a forgettable day with a yellow card) he forgot to celebrate.

The Bluebirds fans did though, it seemed the only way to keep warm and although it wasn't the most immediate concern, Bellamy's fourth goal of the campaign also sealed City's first Boxing Day win in 11 years.

Although Cardiff have got far more important ghosts to put to bed this season, it's not a bad place to start.

CAPTION(S):

Cardiff City''s Seyi Olofinjana celebrates his goal with a snowball fight Cardiff skipper Craig Bellamy takes on Jordan Clarke during his virtuoso display yesterday
COPYRIGHT 2010 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 27, 2010
Words:1106
Previous Article:Jones is delighted at Cardiff display.
Next Article:Rodgers' men have to find a quick response from this.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters