FA Premier League
Sunday 25 August 2013, 16.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Lescott, Clichy, Toure (c), Fernandinho (Milner 77), Silva, Navas (Nasri 55), Dzeko (Negredo 68), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Nastasic, Kolarov, Rodwell
Goals: Dzeko (52), Negredo (90+2)
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: Fernandinho
Manuel Pellegrini tasted his first defeat as Manchester City boss, as the Blues led in Cardiff, but the problems in Wales from previous seasons persisted. The visitors dominated the game, but struggled to create much of note, while the hosts were clinical on the break.
An early penalty shout for the home side was rightly turned down, as Campbell fell to the ground inside the City box under pressure from Fernandinho, but there was no foul. Whittingham curled a free kick just wide, before an offside flag negated a brilliant Hart save, as the visitors struggled to settle.
A chorus of boos greeted every City touch of the ball as the home fans tried to make it as difficult as possible for the Blues. Navas controlled well to win the first corner of the game, but it didn’t yield a chance for the visitors. A wall of red shirts faced every blue one in possession.
City stepped up a gear: One touch passing and flicks almost caused problems for the defence, as Silva knocked the ball around the corner for Aguero and raced onto the return. Taylor cleared his low ball back into the box, as the goalkeeper dived behind him to try and steal possession.
The game began to open up midway through the half. Kim missed the chance to slip a ball through to Campbell on the break, before Dzeko couldn’t receive a Toure pass to get in on goal. Navas and Aguero combined on the right to allow the Argentine to cross for his strike partner, but Dzeko’s header was right at Marshall.
Silva forced Marshall to hold the Blues’ first effort on target as he tried to curl one from the corner of the box, before Clichy rescued a throw-in and set the visitors up on the attack again. Navas – who was drifting wide well – crossed low and Dzeko’s touch was perfect for Toure to hit, but Campbell and Turner combined to block the shot from inside the box.
The best two chances of the half arrived minutes before the break – and they were almost identical. There were worries pre-match about the pace of Lescott and Garcia and a ball over the top for Campbell almost exploited it – he was inches away from touching past Hart and in. The same combination then required a good Hart save to smother the forward’s effort.
Despite being on top in the closing stages of the first half, Cardiff were slow out of the blocks after the restart. Lescott spooned a Zabaleta shot over the bar, following a long spell of possession from the Blues. It fell to the wrong player at the back post.
And one error in the Cardiff pressing cost the home side the lead. A flick from Aguero in the centre of midfield allowed the ball to run to Dzeko and the home side backed off. The Bosnian needed no second invitation and he smacked a shot into the top corner from outside the box to open the scoring.
The lead, though, didn’t last long: Kim added a thrust into the Cardiff attack as it had slowed and he managed to cross low past Clichy. Hart’s brilliant save was cancelled out by Gunnarsson, who tapped the rebound into the unguarded goal on the hour mark. It was their first attack of the half.
Having forced themselves level, Cardiff ensured they didn’t fall straight behind: City pressure was once again met by a wall of red shirts. Chances were at a premium – Nasri and Aguero tried to combine, but the through ball was cut out, and Marshall was off his line to collect anything loose. Aguero crossed low, but it was cleared. Toure tried from range, but it was high and wide.
The visitors were carving the best chances – but they were finding it difficult to break through the stoic defence in front of them. Aguero set up Nasri, but his shot inside the box was blocked. Silva should have had a corner for another block, but the referee missed the touch.
Naturally, the next goal came completely against the run of play. Hart didn’t get near to a corner played to the back post and Campbell got there before anybody else to touch the ball into the empty net. Cardiff led from behind.
The game set back into its pattern: City possession and little penetration. Two Garcia headers were both comfortable for Mashall as the Cardiff keeper held on to the pair of nodded efforts. A quick corner resulted in nothing but a Cardiff free kick. City frustrated.
And, as if to prove the point, as City were more concentrated on pressing forward, Campbell lost Zabaleta in the box from another corner and found the net once again. The talk of the Premier League teaching harsh lessons for not taking chances before kick off was the wrong way round: Cardiff had proved that point.
The Blues gave themselves some hope in the second of six added minutes. Silva crossed from deep to allow Negredo to get in between the two Cardiff centre-backs. He rose and guided the header into the top corner, back across goal.
But the next chance didn’t come. Aguero couldn’t force it into the net on his left foot and Negredo flicked the ball over from inside the six yard box. Negredo did have the ball in the net, but Aguero had been offside in the build-up. It was a first win for Cardiff and a first defeat for Pellegrini.