IFK Malmo 0 - 1 Cardiff City. Match report.

Last updated : 24 July 2003 By Mark Watkins

Sweden’s 3rd largest City, with a population of around 250,000 people, is now permanently linked to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, thanks to the Oresund Bridge, which was opened just 3 years ago. The construction, which is some 5km in length, means a train or car ride between the two cities takes less than 30 minutes. The bridge has of course led to the demise of the ferry service, which used to link the two countries until the service was ceased earlier this year.

Malmo is known as the City of Parks and much like Cardiff, has wide expanses of parkland and waterways throughout the City. A few City fans who had made the journey to Sweden were expecting to see us play Malmo FF, one of Sweden’s top clubs who you may remember reached the European Cup Final in 1979, losing 1-0 to Nottingham Forest. Malmo FF’s 26,000 capacity stadium is situated in Pillsdamparken, just a short walk away from the home of part-timers Malmo IFK, City’s less illustrious opponents, who’s stadium is also in the same park.

IFK are currently 5th from bottom of the Swedish Second Division and attract crowds of around 800 for most league games. Their stadium however was the best of the tour, with neat stands/terraces on all four sides of the pitch. It reminded me a little of Shrewsbury’s ground and would not be out of place in the Third Division. On paper, they were certainly the weakest of City’s three opponents on this tour and this soon became apparent as the game progressed. For most of the 90 minutes IFK struggled to get out of their own half. Meanwhile City dominated possession and forced numerous corners. Worryingly though, it was Malmo who came closest to scoring before Earnie saved us yet again with a late penalty, which he also earned himself.

Watching City on this tour has been just like watching them for the last 12 months. Lots of possession, patient build up, but no cutting edge. Basically if Earnie doesn’t find the net you wonder where the next goal is coming from.

Onto the match itself and City took to the field in their more traditional Blue strip, after the orange technicolor number was given a run out on Monday. It was a blistering hot day in Malmo with temperatures reaching around 30 degrees, with the heat only cooling a little by kick off. City gave a start to a number of squad players, who hadn’t started the earlier games, so the likes of Earnie and Gabbidon were resigned to the bench. John Robinson had made the trip over to join the team on Tuesday, but was not risked and after speaking to the player before the game is not expecting to feature now until at least Tuesday when we take on Cheltenham.

The first 15 minutes offered little in incident or entertainment, with little fluency or pattern to City’s game and Malmo offering little in return. In the 19th minute, a Malmo free kick on the left hand edge of the area came to nothing and two minutes later City carved out their first real opening, Kavanagh running with the ball into the box and feeding Campbell inside the area who only had to connect to find the net. Unfortunately he completely miss hit the ball and the ball ran through to Gavin Gordon who slotted home from 6 yards out but was correctly adjudged offside well before the ball hit the back of the net.

Gordon was by now looking the more lively of City’s front two and did well after 22 minutes, shooting just wide from 20 yards. Four minutes later Weston earned a corner with a run down the right and City continued to step up the pressure, quickly forcing a second corner as Maxwell dribbled into the area before being cleared by an IFK defender.

On 29 minutes Campbell got clear down the left hand side and cutting in had the keeper to beat from a narrow angle around 10 yards out, but his shot went wide. With five minutes to go before the break, City continued to dominate, Gordon earning a corner from which James Collins put a header well wide. Two minutes later Mark Bonner did well on the right, putting in a good cross, which Gordon got on the end of, shooting wide under pressure.

Half Time: Malmo IFK 0 City 0

City made one change at half time, Gareth Whalley replacing Kavanagh, as City began the second period huffing and puffing in much the same way as the first. Oh how we could have done with John Robinson to provide some width and creativity. Unfortunately, when you play with 4 central midfield players of a similar ilk, you are always going to fall into the trap of trying to play through the middle, which is much easier to defender against. City were predictable to say the least.

On 64 minutes, City had their best chance of the game so far, Barker putting Campbell clear with only the keeper to beat. This was the sort of chance any decent first division striker would have put away, but Campbell put his shot too close to the keeper who pushed the ball around for a corner. From the corner Spencer Prior decided to try and get in on the goalscoring act with an overhead kick which went close. Perhaps it was an act of desperation from Spencer, but when he looks more likely to score than either of your two forwards, you know there’s something not quite right!

City made two more changes on 68 mins, Croft and Bowen replacing Barker and Maxwell, but there was little change in the pattern of play, with Bowen, much like Monday night’s game, doing little to impress. Bowen was the one player on show who has the ability to do something special from the middle of the park, but to me he now seems to be going through the motions, not attempting to run at players or look for a pass for one of our strikers to run on to. Perhaps he knows that his days are numbered at Ninian Park? One thing is for sure, if he doesn’t up the tempo of his game he may well be following Leggy to Peterborough or such like.

With a 0-0 draw seemingly on the cards, Malmo suddenly enjoyed their best chances of the game. Firstly, on 73 minutes they earned a free kick in a dangerous position on the right hand side of the area, the shot however was easily held by Margetson. Three minutes later and a Malmo player in a central position around 25 yards out, tried his luck with a shot which dipped viciously, nearly catching Margetson out who just managed to tip the ball over. It was the closest anyone had come to a goal all night and highlighted all the deficiencies in our game.

Cometh the hour and cometh the man, as Robert Earnshaw replaced the ineffective Campbell, joining Gavin Gordon up front. On 79 mins, just a few minutes after coming onto pitch, Earnie won a penalty, as he was nudged off the ball from behind by a Malmo defender. It was one of those that sometimes you get and sometimes you don’t, fortunately for us the referee ruled in our favour and Earnie picked himself up off the floor to coolly slot home the spot kick, finding the bottom right-hand corner of the net and sending the keeper the wrong way.

In the final minutes Tony Vidmar replaced James Collins, who was probably City’s best player on the night and Stuart Fleetwood came on for Gavin Gordon.

It was at least a win for City, which will hopefully give the team some encouragement and confidence for the forthcoming friendlies. We are though, devoid of flair, power and pace and with the current squad will be lucky to finish outside of the relegation places. I want to be excited and entertained by Cardiff City and although I don’t expect it to happen every game I see, I do expect more than I am getting at the moment.

Just like last season, it seems that without Earnie I cannot see where a goal is going to come from. Despite the hero-worship that Andy Campbell deservedly received after the Play-Off Final, I see nothing in his game to give me confidence that can either play with or instead of Earnie. Gavin Gordon tries hard and did reasonably well yesterday, but he is not an adequate replacement for Peter Thorne and I cannot see him making the grade at this level. In midfield we have honest players who try, try and try, but as a unit lack the guile and craft to be up to the job without a couple of new faces being added. At the back, our full backs are limited both defensively and in coming forward.

As I said after Monday’s game, now is not the time to panic, but I would like some reassurances that efforts are being made to add to the squad and sooner rather than later. I don’t want names, just an acknowledgement that new faces will be brought in over the next few weeks. Otherwise we could be playing catch up if we get off to a bad start.

It’s been a great few days in Sweden and Denmark, despite the football! Let’s hope Sam and Lennie get a little bit of luck in attracting the quality players we need to supplement our current squad.

Full Time: Malmo IFK 0 City 1

External reports
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