Match: Cardiff City v Aston Villa
Date: January 2, 2017
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Attendance: 21, 391
Weather: 5C, sunny
Joe Ralls (16 mins)
Villa suffered defeat in their opening match of 2017, away at Cardiff City.
With Jonathan Kodjia unable to feature due to his Africa Cup of Nations commitments with the Ivory Coast, Ross McCormack led the line with Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah in supporting roles.
Grealish, who had to be withdrawn just after half-time in Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Leeds after picking up a knock, carved Villa’s first real opportunity – a fine individual run and strike – goalkeeper Brian Murphy equal to it.
Neil Warnock’s men capitalised on their first spell of sustained pressure – Joe Ralls firing home from close range after a corner was only partially cleared.
In what was a competitive end to the opening 45, Junior Hoilett saw an attempt saved by Mark Bunn before Lee Peltier did well to pick out Kadeem Harris – the latter fired over.
At the other end, Ashley Westwood could not keep down his effort from distance while a last-ditch intervention from Bluebirds skipper Sean Morrison prevented McCormack from converting.
The claret and blue goal led a charmed life as Cardiff could and arguably should have extended their lead.
Kennneth Zohore hit the woodwork, former Villa man Joe Bennett’s follow-up was cleared off the line before a last-ditch block from Jordan Amavi thwarted Zohore when through once more.
Steve Bruce introduced Aaron Tshibola and Gabby Agbonlahor at the interval and both made an impact.
Firstly for Cardiff, though Aron Gunnarsson latched onto a misplaced pass but could only fire wide.
That seemed to spark Villa into life.
On 63 minutes, McCormack’s well-executed free-kick crashed off the crossbar.
Moments later, Agbonlahor twice saw attempts clawed away after a lighting-quick Villa counter-attack and clever attacking move.
To their credit, the claret and blues, who also brought on Rushian Hepburn-Murphy for the final eight minutes continued to pile forward but were thwarted by a resolute and committed City backline.
CARDIFF: Murphy, Peltier, Bennett (Connolly 82), Morrison (C), Ecuele Manga, Ralls, Bamba, Gunnarsson, Harris, Zohore, Hoilett (Noone 37). Unused subs: Wilson, Richards, Pilkington, Lambert, Huws.
VILLA: Bunn, Hutton, Chester (C), Baker, Amavi, Gardner (Agbonlahor HT), Westwood (Tshibola HT), Adomah, Bacuna, Grealish, McCormack (Hepburn-Murphy 82). Unused subs: Gollini, Elphick, Cissokho, Ayew.
Referee: Andy Davies
Assistant referee 1: Timothy Wood
Assistant referee 2: Daniel Leach
Fourth Official: Christopher Sarginson