Cardiff 0 - 1 Leicester. Comment

Last updated : 09 November 2018 By Michael Morris

The first thing to say of course is that my sympathy goes out to the families, friends and acquaintances of the five victims of the tragic helicopter crash at the King Power stadium last weekend following the match between Leicester City and West Ham.

Completely understandably, Leicester’s midweek League Cup tie with Southampton was postponed which meant that the eyes  of the football world were on Cardiff City Stadium yesterday as Leicester returned to action with a Premier League encounter against City.

There was a time when a game taking place under such circumstances involving Cardiff City would have been faced with some trepidation by the football authorities, but I hope there was no surprise felt by those running the sport at the reaction of both club and supporters during what was a testing week for them in some ways – it was commendable.

Really, there was no reason to expect anything less from the modern day Cardiff City. From the signals sent out by the hierarchy at the club that they were happy to go along with whatever Leicester and their players wanted regarding whether the game should go ahead or not to the way the, potentially, very sensitive pre game programme was conducted, culminating in an impeccably observed minute’s silence, Cardiff were excellent hosts – unfortunately, that situation was maintained once the football began!


After an awkward start, Leicester were able to ease to a 1-0 win with the margin of victory not flattering them in the slightest.

On my way to the ground, I listened to a reporter from the Leicester Mercury I think it was being interviewed on Radio Five who finished his chat by saying that it didn’t matter if Leicester got thrashed 6-0 today because the result was immaterial.

I hope this doesn’t sound callous, because, obviously, it’s not meant to be, but my thoughts on hearing that were along the lines of “the result might not matter to you, but, emotional and fraught occasion or not, it is very important for Cardiff City and it’s vital that our performance is not effected by the occasion”. We needed to make the game as “normal” as possible once the paying of respects to the dead had been completed and, sadly, we failed to do this – in it’s way, this was as poor a performance as City have come up with in the Premier League this season.

I think if City fans are honest with themselves, they would not have been too upset if the occasion had got to Leicester to the extent that their side ended up winners, but I suspect most, like me, were expecting  Leicester to raise their game – this was likely to be a slightly harder match than it looked like being ten days ago.

In the event, the sizable visiting contingent saw their side forced on to the back foot early on as City started quite confidently, but once Leicester emerged from the first quarter unscathed, the character of the game changed completely.

The thing about playing all of the top sides in our first ten games was that, although we weren’t getting anything from them in terms of points, there were positives which could be taken out of all of them, apart from Manchester City, which led you to think that City would get their reward when their run of easier looking matches, starting with Leicester at home, got under way.

We may only have got three points from them, but the four matches preceding yesterday’s had all, in differing ways, offered hope of better days ahead and there was definitely a feeling abroad that we were improving and getting more acclimatised to the higher level.

Bearing this in mind, and I really don’t like to say this, honestly, I thought we were rubbish after the first twenty five minutes or so yesterday.

In the nine years of this blog’s existence, I don’t think that’s a word I’ve used too often to describe a performance of ours. I’d say it’s no more than a once a year occurrence and, to be fair, it is a somewhat harsh way of viewing how we played – there have been performances worse than yesterday’s that I’ve been a lot less critical of.

However, if you think of it in terms of the level we are now playing at and of how we went about trying to get back on terms once we had fallen behind to Demarai Gray’s fifty fifth minute goal (it had been coming since the latter stages of the first half) then, yes, I think we were rubbish.

As I drove home listening to the Radio Wales phone in, I was very surprised to hear something of a theme developing whereby callers were bemoaning our bad luck. Looking at things in general, I can only think of the Burnley game really where we could be said to be victims of bad luck and, even then I’d argue our defeat had more to do with very sloppy goals conceded than misfortune.

Looking at yesterday, yes we did have bad luck when Victor Camarasa’s free kick came back off the crossbar during the period when we were on top, but that was more than matched by referee Lee Probert’s decision not to award Leicester a penalty for hand ball by Sol Bamba as he diverted Jamie Vardy’s shot on to the bar. I’ve not seen television pictures of this incident yet, but I understand Vardy may have been offside when he shot – whether he was or not though does not alter my opinion that putting this latest defeat down to bad luck is missing the obvious point that we just weren’t good enough.

That Camarasa effort apart, it was hard to come up with many occasions when a City goal looked on the cards. For me, the reasons why this was the case were twofold. First, once they had stemmed the early flow against them, Leicester always had too much Premier League know how for us and, second, rather like we did against Burnley, we went for an attacking approach which played right into our opponent’s hands.

Leicester were no Manchester City, but as the game went on, they grew to dominate it in a manner which was not reflected in the scoreline.

As Leicester grew more assured, we found it harder and harder to retain possession – we did a decent job of impersonating us on a bad day during the second half of last season when we occasionally looked clumsy, one dimensional and very route oneish.

As we struggled to keep the ball for more than a couple of passes, so our manager seemed to rely more and more on a long ball to our big men plan – I hope it wasn’t the case in reality, but there appeared to be an element of “we’re getting nowhere playing long balls to three big men, so let’s start playing long balls to four big men” to our thinking!

The irony was that early on, makeshift striker Callum Paterson was giving England’s Harry Maguire some problems before he had to go off injured – thinking about it, Leicester’s recovery could probably be traced back to when their World Cup hero was replaced.

With Maguire off, Wes Morgan and sub Jonny Evans had an easy time of it as City relied more and more on an attacking approach which I heard described as parks football on two separate occasions on my way out of the ground.

Morgan and Evans, with a combined age of sixty five plus, needed to be turned with balls played behind them, but instead we kept it in front of them and, worse still, ended up with front men who were not capable of exploiting any lack of pace in the Leicester central defence as more mobile players were replaced by static ones.

This latest defeat, probably more than any other we’ve suffered, highlighted the folly of our summer recruitment or, more accurately, the lack of it when it comes to the target man type strikers which this manager nearly always uses.

Paterson does a job as a target man and has mobility, a bit of pace and some ability as a finisher, but, apart from, perhaps, Huddersfield is there any other team in this league he would get into as a striker? Yet, based on what we’ve seen this season, I’d rate him our best in the position currently.

Danny Ward didn’t do too badly earlier in the season, but in him and Gary Madine we have a couple of players who have been playing first team football in the pro game for a combined total of twenty years – with due respect to both of them, wouldn’t they have played more top flight football before now if they were really Premier League quality?

Ward and Madine came on yesterday and I thought the latter did one or two good things in the time he was there, but their presence only emphasised further the decline of Kenneth Zohore – I suppose it might be that he was injured, but based on what’s been seen of him so far, the notion that Neil Warnock now rates him as his fourth choice striker and, therefore not worthy of a place on the bench  is not a fanciful one.

The rise and fall of Zohore reflects poorly on the player and, to a lesser degree, on a manager who, deservedly, got praise for the way he inspired a transformation in the Dane’s fortunes two years ago. Now it appears as if Neil Warnock has given up on the player who I believe, out of the four I’ve mentioned, has the best chance of becoming the sort of front man we desperately need. To be fair to our manager, he says he has done all he can think of to get Zohore playing to the levels he was showing when he was interesting other Premier League clubs, but we need an awful lot more to our attacking play than what we were reduced to late on yesterday and I think he has to keep on trying to discover what is needed to flick the switch so to speak with Zohore.

Of course, we do have someone who scored more than twenty times for a Championship side last season, but Bobby Decordova-Reid was used in a withdrawn midfield role against Leicester and there were times when he seemed to be playing behind Harry Arter (booked again yesterday, so he now misses next weekend’s match with Brighton). Decordova-Reid, once again, looked like a fish out of water in a team playing in a manner which is never going to get the best out of him and could not have any complaints really when he was withdrawn in favour of Junior Hoilett with twenty five minutes to go.

I’d say Decordova-Reid or someone like Josh Murphy (also, strangely, taken off yesterday – it’s as if Warnock does not think he has it in him to play a full ninety minutes) might be better striker options than the three target men approach we saw in the dying minutes- we’d surely have to offer them better service than the punt upfield which Murphy managed to turn into just about our only worthwhile goal attempt of the second half mind.

With Newcastle finally winning (1-0 against Watford), we dropped into the bottom three and with Huddersfield and Fulham playing each other on Monday, there is the opportunity for the latter to go above us by avoiding defeat, while a home win would also see us drop another place – all in all a sobering day which represented a big step backwards following the tentative shuffles forward during October.

Reading this back, it does strike me that I have not quite got the balance between being sympathiser with the Leicester camp following their terrible losses and a Cardiff City supporter right. Perhaps I’m being too critical of my team in a game which must have been an awkward one for them as well?

However, once the due respects had been paid, I cannot deny what I am first and foremost and that is a Cardiff City fan who wants my team to win. If they cannot do that, then let’s at least lose with a bit of pride – again, sorry for being harsh here, but I was proud of my club in many ways yesterday, but what we saw during the game left me very disappointed.

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