Promising display yields a point
Cardiff Substitute Craig Noone produced a stunning late strike to earn Cardiff a 1-1 draw in their Sky Bet Championship opener at home to Fulham. Cardiff seemed to be running out of ideas when Noone, who had been on the pitch for only eight minutes, rifled a 25-yard shot into the top corner of the net with only four minutes remaining.
What had been an evenly-balanced contest turned Fulham’s way when Matt Smith punished Simon Moore’s goalkeeping error two minutes after the re-start.
Moore, deputising for suspended West Brom target David Marshall, misjudged Ben Pringle’s overhit cross and spilled the ball for the alert Smith to head home from close range.
Cardiff welcomed back Kagisho Dikgacoi and Anthony Pilkington after injury-riddled spells last season and both players were influential in the early stages as the Bluebirds sought an early advantage.
Pilkington set up Joe Mason for a second-minute shot which was blocked by Dan Burn before Dikgacoi rolled an exquisite ball into the wideman’s path.
The Republic of Ireland international picked out Mason at the near post but the striker was stretching and unable to hit the target.
Fulham’s response was immediate as Matt Smith almost profited from the hesitation of Moore as the big striker headed against the outside of a post.
Smith’s aerial ability produced the visitors’ best moments of an entertaining first period, rising above Cardiff defenders but unable to keep down crosses from Jamie O’Hara and Kay Voser.
Cardiff were enjoying the greater share of possession and they were at their most dangerous when they managed to get Mason, back at the club after spending last season on loan at Bolton, into the game.
Pilkington found him with a neat ball and Mason’s sharp spin and shot on the turn forced a flying save from Andy Lonergan and the Fulham goalkeeper had to deny the same player with his feet following a clever flick from Alex Revell.
Cardiff almost took the lead within 40 seconds when Pilkington’s deflected shot looped onto the crossbar but Fulham were ahead a minute later.
The Bluebirds thought they had equalised four minutes later when Pilkington got the final touch but referee Darren Bond had spotted a handball and booked the winger for ungentlemanly conduct.
Cardiff pressed frantically for an equaliser in the final quarter and Mason and Scott Malone both went close before Noone’s late strike.
Moore 4 – disappointing display from Marshall’s understudy. Got lucky in the first half when he misjudged a cross and Fulham then hit the post. Was badly at fault for the goal early in the second half when he failed to deal with a ball just under his crossbar.
Peltier 6 – solid throughout
Morrison 6.5 – Had a good battle with Smith, who presented an aerial threat to Cardiff. Stuck to the task and captained the side well. He had a shot blocked on the line at the other end as well.
Connelly 6.5 – Defended well and made one great block; there was one anxious moment late in the game when he was muscled out of it, but got back to clear the danger. Some of his passing was uncharacteristically wayward today.
Malone 7.5 – Full of confidence & energy, he looked a different player today. Man of the match
Pilkington 7 – He was in good form and got some dangerous crosses into the box, he also hit the bar from a chance he manufactured himself.
Dikgacoi 6.5 – Could be a key player this season. He took responsibility well in front of the back four. Played one quality, defensive splitting, pass that showed he is a player with vision.
Whittingham 6.5 – Mixed game for Whitts; he played a number of quality balls through the Fulham defensive but saw a few others cut out.
Ralls 6.5 – Busy throughout, the balance of this midfield seems better than last season.
Revell 5 – Struggled to make an impact and was replaced by Ameboi in the 63rd minute.
Mason 6.5 – he had plenty of chances; he saw one blocked; put another wide and had three others well saved by their keeper. He will be disappointed he didn’t score.
Ameboi 5.5 – Introduced in the 63rd minute as City chased the game. He showed flashes of skill but didn’t get a sight of goal.
Noone 6.5 – Came on in the 77th minute. Scored a great equaliser when he cut back in from the right and found the top corner from 25 yards.