Swansea 2 - 0 Cardiff. Comment

Last updated : 18 March 2024 By Paul Evans

From the best to what I would think most supporters will regard as the worst within a week. If Cardiff City’s 2-1 win over Ipswich last Saturday was a season highlight, then the 2-0 loss at Swansea this lunchtime will be thought of as the nadir of our season.


In saying that, I don’t fall into what I’m sure will be a majority – it says so much about our limitations, but I think we’ve played worse this season (Leeds at home, Norwich away and even the win over Millwall spring to mind), but what I will say is that, as was pointed out to me when I tried to put a similar type of argument on the message board I use after the game, I was reminded that I was talking about a derby match against what ninety per cent plus of supporters regard as our biggest rivals and I concede that, given that context, today was up there with recent embarrassments like Swansea 3 Mick McCarthy’s five centre backs XI 0 and Cardiff 0 Swansea 4.

Some of the stuff I read online from City fans last week about the upcoming fixture sounded like Cardiff arrogance. Yes, we’d won four on the trot, but only in the last of them was I convinced by our performance and even then we offered nothing in the way of a goal thread for about two thirds of the time. Swansea, clearly, are nothing special, but, even though we’ve improved from last season, we aren’t either – I think it’s likely that the end of season table will tell us that today was an encounter between two lower mid table sides that weren’t separated by many points.

So, today’s outcome didn’t come as a huge surprise, but the nature of it did. It’s funny what you think of when watching a football game – after about five minutes, I found myself humming one of John Lennon’s last singles, Nobody Told Me (there’d be days like these). I was doing so because it seemed to me that the City team were shocked and taken aback by the intensity of their opponents and the passion of the occasion, they had not seen it coming.

Another thing which popped into my mind while I watched us start as if we’d been woken up by the whistle for the kick off was the phrase “rabbits caught in the headlights” because, having been startled by the occasion, it was as if we were hoping someone would make it all stop when the only people who could do that was those on the pitch wearing blue – – was this down to the sort of arrogance I mentioned above? I doubt it, but, not for the first time in recent seasons, I find myself questioning Cardiff’s preparation for a south Wales derby..

A team surely realises they might be in for a problematic afternoon if, within twenty seconds of kicking off, they are facing a corner given away by a pretty desperate defensive intervention to deny their opponents a shot on goal. That’s what happened to us and the first fifteen minutes were like a siege on our goal.

Now, I’m not saying that Swansea didn’t deserve their win, they did and we could not have complained if the victory margin had been greater, but whereas in the past Swansea have passed off the park while playing some quality stuff, it was not like that today – all that happened really was that they were like a team that understood and lived with the importance of the occasion while also getting “stuck in”.

We did neither of these. Actually, I should qualify that slightly because Yakou Meite pushed his head into Harry Darling’s and very nearly followed Callum Robinson in getting sent off in the early stages of a south Wales derby in Swansea.

Referee David Webb decided a yellow card was sufficient punishment, but Meite could so easily have been heading for an early bath as evidence of how Cardiff had got this game wrong yet again.

It was hardly as if Darling, who has previous in this fixture for behaving like an overhyped idiot, was innocent as he shoved Meite to the floor (Darling was also yellow carded in the incident which suggested that Mr Webb thought he was the instigator), but Meite should not have reacted like he did and it almost seemed to me that he spent the rest of the first half more concerned about his feud with the home centreback than trying to help his team establish a toehold in a game they were being dominated in.

Darling was a very prominent player in the first half with a couple of over dramatic falls to try and get Ryan Wintle a yellow card and a second one for Meite as well as heading against the crossbar when he should really have scored.

Although I look back now and think that, for all Swansea’s dominance, a sometimes nervous looking Ethan Horvarth didn’t have a great deal to do throughout the game, yet when Swansea’s opening goal came after thirty four minutes, it felt well overdue.

There was some controversy about it and, predictably, Erol Bulut chose to feature it prominently in his post match remarks – to be fair, I’ve not heard all that our manager said after the game, but what I have done is not very convincing or accurate in my view.

The point at issue was did Swansea winger Placheta foul Perry Ng as Kyle Naughton’s cross went over their heads? For what it’s worth, I thought when you look at the sort of thing which referees decide is acceptable for penalty area challenges these days, City were very unlikely to get the decision in their favour – I’d have blown for a foul if I were in charge, but what I regard as an offence and what the authorities do these days seem two very different things.

To be honest though, I was more concerned about how Josh Wilson-Esbrand, who was a shadow of the player he has been in recent matches, carelessly conceded possession to Swansea and then how Ng was left with two players to mark on the far post. As I mentioned earlier, Naughton’s cross was always clearing Ng and Placheta and this left Liam Cullen completely free on the far post to slide in what was a good finish on the half volley.

Meite had to be subbed at half time because there was every chance he would be sent off otherwise and Bulut also decided to take David Turnbull off as Callum O’Dowda and Rubin Colwill were the replacements.

Bulut was stretching things a lot I reckon when he claimed the changes he made led to a “much better” second half showing by his team, to return to what I said in post game message board conversations, “less awful” seemed more realistic.

Colwill did add some poise and control to a midfield that had completely lacked those qualities in the first forty five minutes. However, despite the earlier than expected return of Aaron Ramsey meaning that we had some footballers on the pitch who could help put Swansea under some pressure in the closing minutes, the sad truth is that it was another of those games where it’s hard to think of a time where our opponents would have been seriously concerned that they may be about to concede a goal. Indeed, Colwill wasted the best chance we had when he was well off target with a shot from about twelve yards out – Colwill may have improved this season, but his finishing is not of the standard it was in 21/22..

Even if we accept our manager’s bizarre version of events, the truth is that the game should have been over and done with five minutes after the break when Swansea were awarded a penalty after Ng was adjudged to have fouled Brazilian winger Ronald.

This time I have some sympathy with our manager’s view that if it wasn’t a foul for the first goal, it shouldn’t have been one for the penalty. Ng was pulling Ronald’s shirt though, but he started doing it well outside the penalty area. As it was, the penalty decision counted for nothing as Cullen went for the corner and placed his shot a foot wide as Horvarth dived the other way.

The Sky commentators were of the opinion that the penalty miss could be the boost City needed to get them playing, but this was the Cardiff we had to endure through most of December and January unfortunately and at the end I was wondering if Swansea have had an easier home game than this one all season?

Cullen headed a very presentable chance wide, but sub Jason Lowe gave the score line a more realistic look as he broke clear to score in the ninety sixth minute – maybe Nat Phillips could have done a bit better here, but, by the end, I rated him, Dimitrios Goutas and possibly Colwill as our only players who were not some way below an acceptable level of performance – although the likes of Ramsey and O’Dowda do have the excuse that they are on their way back from long term injuries..

To finish on the game, I’d say that what happened today will see the old line about the jacks getting what the derby is about more than us resurrected – I still think this was a match between two pretty ordinary sides, but Swansea’s attitude was the main difference between the teams as their opponents looked as if the whole thing was too much for them..

The under 21s were in action against Bournemouth at Leckwith yesterday afternoon and, like the first team, suffered a 2-0 defeat which they could have lost by more. Better news for the under 18s mind – they were 5-0 winners at Charlton, but no details yet of scorers I’m afraid.