Villa 2-0 Cardiff match report: Bacuna/Kozak earn win
Late goals from Leandro Bacuna and Libor Kozak gave Villa a welcome victory in their first league match against Cardiff since 1975.
Dutch full-back Bacuna broke the deadlock against the Bluebirds with a superb 76th-minute free-kick after he had been fouled 30 yards out.
And Czech Republic striker Kozak produced his first Villa Park goal since his arrival from Lazio with a fine header following good work by Aleksandar Tonev and sub Matt Lowton.
Paul Lambert's men were good value for maximum points, with the Welsh outfit barely threatening throughout the second half.
A bright start by Villa was epitomised by an effort which wouldn't even have counted.
A linesman's flag was raised for offside when Kozak's header from a Ciaran Clark cross was tipped away by David Marshall.
But it was a statement of intent by the home side, who created several other good chances during the opening 15 minutes.
Karim El Ahmadi moved on to Christian Benteke's pass to unleash a tremendous drive which was parried by Marshall, while Yacouba Sylla's determination saw him win possession before delivering another fierce shot which was again well saved by the keeper.
And when Benteke tried his luck from 25 yards, he was also thwarted as Marshall dived to tip the ball behind for a corner.
Not that Villa had it all their own way.
Skipper Ron Vlaar needed to make a crucial challenge when Cardiff captain Steve Caulker was well positioned, and after Kozak had headed away Gary Medel's deep free-kick, Brad Guzan had to race from his line to save at Aron Gunnarsson's feet.
After that whirlwind start, the game went strangely quiet for a lengthy period, and it was the half-hour mark before there was another goal attempt, Guzan making a routine save to hold Craig Bellamy's free-kick from just outside the penalty area.
El Ahmadi's willingness to shoot from distance almost brought a reward when his low drive from 25 yards skidded only narrowly off target, but Tonev didn't fare so well in the 44th minute.
Bursting through the middle with Kozak and Benteke in good positions either side of him, the Bulgarian midfielder elected to shoot - and fired well over the bar.
Kozak started the second half as he had started the first, meeting Bacuna's inswinging cross from the right with a fine downward header.
This time there was no question of offside - but Marshall was again equal to the task as he tipped the ball away for a corner.
Either side of that, former Villa midfielder Peter Whittingham produced a couple of threatening free-kicks for the visitors, with Villa relieved to see the second one flash narrowly wide of the far post.
Ashley Westwood wasn't far off target with a long-range drive after a Benteke-Kozak move had broken down, while a swift counter-attack ended with Benteke sending a header just wide from El Ahmadi's cross.
But in the 76th minute the deadlock was broken as Villa ended a goal drought which had last four matches.
It was fitting that Bacuna should score because he had won possession in his own half before exchanging passes with Kozak and embarking on a powerful run that was halted when his shirt was tugged 30 yards out.
The full-back's disappointment turned to delight when he curled the resultant free-kick inside the left-hand post, leaving keeper Marshall rooted to the spot.
Eight minutes later it was 2-0.Clark collected the ball on the left-hand edge of the penalty area and slipped a short pass to Tonev.
The midfielder's cross was partially cleared but sub Matt Lowton nodded back across the face of goal for Kozak to send a well-placed header into the bottom corner.
Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark; El Ahmadi (Lowton 74), Westwood, Sylla, Tonev; Kozak (Bowery 88), Benteke. Unused subs: Steer, Helenius, Herd, Johnson, Robinson.
Cardiff City: Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor; Cowie, Whittingham, Medel, Gunnarsson (Mutch 65); Odemwingie (Campbell 55), Bellamy (Maynard 82). Unused subs: Lewis, Hudson, Bo-Kyung, Noone.