Vital win on evening of high emotion at CCS
Cardiff City produced one of their best performances of the season to secure a vital Premier League victory thanks to Bobby Reid’s double on an emotional night in the Welsh capital.
This was the first opportunity for Bluebirds fans to pay a full tribute to striker Emiliano Sala, who is missing after the plane carrying him and pilot David Ibbotson disappeared near Guernsey 12 days ago.
Amid touching scenes, Cardiff excelled on the pitch, racing into an early lead when Reid coolly dispatched a penalty after Steve Cook inexplicably handled.
Birthday boy Reid scored again after just 15 seconds of the second half when he raced clear and slotted home, ensuring a morale-boosting win for the wounded Bluebirds.
It was Cardiff’s first win in five league games and moves them two points from safety in 18th position, while Bournemouth stay in 10th.
The emotions were high all evening in the Welsh capital on a night of reflection.
Outside the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff’s statue of Fred Keenor, their 1927 FA Cup-winning captain, remains a shrine to Sala, with tributes for the Argentine forward laid since his disappearance.
A privately funded hunt for the plane was started after £324,000 was raised in a GoFundMe appeal, with several footballers contributing.
Cardiff’s first home match since the disappearance represented a chance for City fans to express their sadness collectively and there were emotional scenes before during and after the game, not for the first time this season.
This should have been a season-long celebration for the promoted-Bluebirds, but this is the second time this term a home game has been overshadowed by tragic events away from the football pitch.
In November, Cardiff hosted Leicester City in the first match since the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people. It was an afternoon when football seemed both an irrelevance and a form of release for Leicester’s grieving players and fans.
Manager Neil Warnock was keen to point out the importance of this match and Cardiff’s need to move forward, but the tributes to Sala were a feature of the evening.
The Bluebirds’ shirts were adorned with embroidered daffodils, with every supporter also receiving a flower as they entered the stadium. Before kick-off there was a ‘moment of reflection’ that was impeccably observed and Sala’s name was sung by the supporters throughout as verses of “Sing a song for Sala, we will never let you go, you will always be, at City with me” rang out.
However, the ultimate tribute to Sala was paid by the Cardiff players after Reid’s fifth-minute penalty. They quickly ran to the touchline to lift a shirt with his face embroidered on it, a personal moment from the players who would have dearly loved to have got to know their new team-mate.
Eddie Howe’s side came into this contest on the back of their most impressive win of the campaign, a 4-0 thumping of Chelsea, but they never came close to matching those levels.
In the absence of injured Wales winger David Brooks, who is so integral to their attacking play – he has scored six and made four goals this term – they were less potent than usual, especially with England forward and Bournemouth’s top scorer Callum Wilson also injured.
They did not register a shot until Ryan Fraser fired wide midway through the first period, although they came extremely close when Andrew Surman’s 25-yard effort was brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Neil Etheridge.
However, once Cardiff extended their advantage, the belief seemed to evaporate from Howe’s side, despite them having over 70% possession.
Their passing was crisp, but in the final third they were ponderous and had no answer to Cardiff sitting deep with Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls screening their back four, though Nathan Ake might have headed home Jordan Ibe’s free-kick, only to miss the target.
The Bluebirds’ transfer window was one of anguish due to the Sala situation, but their first performance since gave cause for optimism.
On-loan signing Oumar Niasse might have scored after two minutes, but his heavy touch narrowed his angle and allowed Artur Boruc to save with his legs.
However, Niasse certainly added a new dimension to Cardiff’s attack and, but for a poor pass approaching half-time, he might have presented Reid with a tap-in.
The Bluebirds, who led at half-time for the first time all season, enjoyed a dream start to the second period when Reid beat the offside trap and latched onto a hopeful Gunnarsson ball to round Boruc before firing home – the perfect way to celebrate turning 26.
Hoilett 7 (69 mins for Murphy)
Zohore 7 (83 mins Niasse)
Bacuna 6.5 (86 mins for Reid)