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February 11, 2014
• Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff (Caerdydd)
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 27597
Right, that's it from me. Cardiff remain in the drop zone on 22 points, while Aston Villa inch closer to the safety of mid-table as they go five points clear of the drop zone in 11th. I've been Tom J Doyle - bye for now.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side struck the woodwork twice in a minute before the interval, while strong work from Ben Turner and a quite incredible stop from David Marshall at the death denied Andreas Weimann a valuable winner. Both sides deserved a point on the balance of play, though.
That's it! It finishes Cardiff 0-0 Aston Villa, and it was a tale of two halves as both sides will feel they could have won this one. The Bluebirds had the better of the first half, and the Villans should have picked up all three points in the second 45 minutes, but it's a point apiece.
90' + 2'
WHAT A SAVE FROM MARSHALL! Villa break and the ball is slid across the six-yard box for Weimann, who finishes high and across the Cardiff keeper who somehow flings up a left arm to turn the ball over the bar. That is a world-class stop, and Lambert can't believe his side haven't scored there...
90' + 1'
Chance for Villa! Bertrand gets down the left and whips the ball across goal but there's nobody to finish the chance.
Villa have the ball in the Cardiff box but Agbonlahor just can't - or won't - shoot and the chance goes begging as Weimann tries to dribble and leaves the ball behind. Comical, farcical, whatever it is, it's not leading to a goal.
It's Noone in the box this time as he meets a cross at the back post around 12 yards out, but it's well wide. A minute to go, and there's enough time for a killer finish.
Declan John launches a shot about 40 yards over the bar - the less said about that one, the better.
Noone is still at the races and puts in a tempting ball for Jones at the back post, but it's good defending by Bacuna once again. Say what you want about the finishing, but both managers will be pleased with their defending tonight.
Weimann is put through onto a bouncing ball and for a moment there's a perfect chance to lob an onrushing Marshall, but the forward elects to look for Benteke and his pass is blocked. That was the wrong decision, and a braver choice could well have got all three points.
We've got six minutes to go and both sides are showing signs of fatigue as there are passes and runs going astray, but there's a winner in this one, I'm sure of it.
Caulker gets his head to a corner now and the ball almost falls for Jones, but Marshall is alert to the danger and cleans things up.
How has Agbonlahor not scored?! The forward is completely clean through on goal around 10 yards out but cannot sort out his feet and dallies far too long before Theophile-Catherine - who else? - makes a vital block. Kevin, I apologise.
Daehli searches for Campbell this time but it's behind the striker as he looks to make a run - that's the problem with so many January signings, as the link-up play just isn't there yet.
Theophile-Catherine is doing his best to prove that he's not actually a top-flight footballer as he fails to control a simple ball yet again, though Villa can't seize upon the ball quickly enough to expose the defender's poor technique.
What a save by Marshall! Delph gives his marker the slip 30 yards out and lets fly with a shot that Caulker deflects, and the Scottish keeper does superbly to fling up a strong left hand and turn the ball behind for a corner. That was a vital stop.
Eikrem floats a high ball over and Caulker gets his head to it, but it bounces before reaching Guzan and the danger is over.
Noone shows nice skill on the right and Bertrand takes him out - the hosts have a chance with a free kick from the wing, and win a corrner. Can they find that vital goal?
Cardiff look to break down the left but Campbell's pass is too long for Daehli - it should have been a simple ball, but the City striker has been really off form tonight. He'll probably get the winner seeing as I've said that.
Weimann volleys straight at Marshall! The substitute picks up the ball outside the box and launches at effort at goal, but he doesn't catch it cleanly and it's easy for the Cardiff keeper.
Another fine block by Turner! The centre-back slides in to deny Benteke a simple finish from six yards out - that is his most important interception yet.
We've got 20 minutes to go and Andreas Weimann is on for Joe Bennett.
Turner with a fantastic block! A fantastic pass is put through for Benteke and he controls before trying to find Agbonlahor across the box, but the centre-back slides in to put the ball out for a corner. Turner has been imperious tonight.
Jones heads straight at Guzan! The Cardiff striker rises to meet a cross from the right and is completely unmarked, but can only send his glancing effort right at the goalkeeper. That was exactly the type of chance he was brought to bury, but it's a really poor effort.
Chance for Agbonlahor! The ball falls kindly for the forward in the Cardiff area but he can't get a clean shot away from six yards, and Marshall gratefully clutches the ball. He knows that was a real chance.
The Bluebirds are still on the backfoot, but Villa have not made their dominance count this half - can Solskjaer prove he has the credentials to keep his side up in the final 30 minutes?
The evening's over for Zaha as another January signing replaces him in Mats Moller Daehli - the winger started well but has faded in the second half.
Huge chance for Bacuna! The defender drives forward and finds himself in the box on the right, but drags his shot wide of Marshall's right-hand post when Benteke was well-placed. Both sides have missed gilt-edged chances now, and it seems like the pressure is getting to them in key positions.
More fine work from Albrighton down the right sees the winger flash a cross in, but only another good header from Turner prevents Delph from getting to the ball.
Villa are playing far higher up the pitch and applying more pressure on Cardiff, and the home crowd are sounding more nervous with each passing minute.
Chance for Campbell! The former Man Utd striker twsists and turns his way past Vlaar but can only drag his 20-yard shot wastefully wide of Guzan's right-hand post - if he'd looked up he'd have seen Zaha straming through clear on the left, and it's poor composure from the striker.
Guzan comes and collects this cross, and Cardiff finally have the chance of some possession - Solskjaer may want to change things up to regain a foothold in this game.
Albrighton has the ball on the right wing again and wins a corner - can Villa make this pressure count? No, but the winger again picks up the ball and wins another corner. And we go again...
Delph looks for Agbonlahor through the middle but the forward's touch isn't good enough and Guzan comes to collect - but Lambert will be happy with his side's play in this half.
Campbell slips 25 yards from goal but still manages to slide a pass to Jones, who controls, looks up, and smashes the ball about 20 yards over the bar. He laughs afterwards, but Solskjaer - such a clinical finisher for Man Utd - will not be impressed.
It's Villa doing the early work in the second half, with pressure down the right before Albrighton puts in another superb ball that Steven Caulker does just enough to prevent Benteke from heading in from six yards.
Agbonlahor gets forward but Noone is there to clear the ball - the Cardiff man has been impressive so far today.
We're back underway at Cardiff City Stadium - no changes by either manager, so they're both presumably happy with how things have gone.
If you're thinking sabout going anywehere else for goalmouth action, then don't - the Premier League's three other games tonight are also goalless. Let's hope for a second 45 minutes full of defensive horrors and sublime attacking!
Looking back, it's clear that Jones should have had a penalty, and Baker is a very lucky defender for escaping such a blatant pull of the shirt.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will probably want to keep things as they are and press for a goal early in the second half, though Paul Lambert needs more presence in midfield/attack to take the game to Cardiff. I'd expect Andy Weimann to make an appearance from the subs bench sooner rather than later.
That's the break, and it's Cardiff 0-0 Aston Villa. The Bluebirds have certainly had the better of the chances, but will they come to rue not putting at least one chance away? The visitors have been subdued and look lethargic, but Albrighton is lively on the flank and Benteke is an ever-present danger in the air.
45' + 1'
Albrighton puts in a great ball and Benteke looks all set to open the scoring, but Ben Turner puts in a fantastic header to clear the ball up in the air before Marshall collects - what a block that is!
Gary Medel wins a free kick here and the Cardiff fans cheer - they're probably not used to seeing the diminutive midfielder on the receiving end of decisions.
Close for Villa here! Agbonlahor gets away from his marker in the box and crosses low for Benteke, but the cross is far too far in front of the striker and the chance goes begging. That's a big waste from the forward considering the visitors have had so little of the ball.
Paul Lambert is barking orders on the touchline, and knows his side are fortunate to be level so close to half-time. He'll be relieved to get his players in and reset the tactics during the interval.
It's up, up and away for Craig Noone here as he breaks in wonderfully from the right wing before shooting with his left foot, but it balloons about 25 yards high and wide of Guzan's goal. A poor effort for a man of his quality.
We've seen the good and the bad from Zaha, and here's the ugly - he tries a stepover in the centre and the ball pops off his feet straight to a Villa player. Solskjaer will be angry that he's lost possession, but it doesn't lead to anything for the visitors.
Cardiff are really knocking on the door as Noone and Campbell combine in the box but the midfielder can't quite find the striker with a cross from the byline, with Ryan Bertrand well positioned to head clear.
GOAL - NO, IT'S OFFISDE! Noone floats in a corner and Zaha collects a Cardiff header before turning neatly and finishing with aplomb at the near post, but it won't count as the Bluebirds winger was a good three yards offside. As easy a call as the assistant referee will ever make.
Benteke and Theophile-Catherine go up for a header and the ball comes off the Cardiff player's head then hand - the Villa striker thinks it could be a penalty, but there's nothing doing from the referee. It would have been very harsh.
A big blow for Cardiff as Jordan Mutch is injured and will have to depart, with Magnus Eikrem his replacement. Another Old Trafford academy player on the pitch, and he definitely has some creative talent.
It's almost a calamitous goal as Guzan miskicks a clearance, the ball comes back and Vlaar completely slices a clearance high and back to the keeper, who is beaten in the air by Jones and another Villa body has to desperately clear. Paul Lambert will be having kittens in the dugout.
Villa are looking more ragged at the back, with Guzan forced to come out and claim a few balls when his defenders should be cleaning up.
Zaha gets to the right byline now and drills a cross to the back post, and Bacuna has to head clear to stop Campbell from meeting the ball. Cardiff are putting on the pressure now.
Zaha is delighting the home crowd with some fine dribbling, driving infield before eventually losing the ball - but that's more like it.
Villa captain Ron Vlaar gets up well to meet a teasing cross to clear, and Campbell concedes a free kick outside the box for a foolish push. The Cardiff striker doesn't need to be getting that close when his opponent is already under pressure to clear.
The ball is up in the air for a while now and Cardiff can't get it under control - I'm not quite sure why they're simply lobbing the ball up in the sky in the centre, but it's not working.
Kenwyne Jones is furious and wants a penalty as he is hauled to the ground in the Villa box by Baker, and he looks like he has a case. The striker managed to feed Campbell, but he could only scuff his shot badly from eight yards out.
Benteke gets his head to the ball in the box but can't make enough real contact to score - the big striker knows that was a great chance.
It's been a good start to the game here - both sides feel that this is a winnable contest, and while Cardiff will feel they should be ahead, Lambert's men look like they can exploit the flanks and get some good service in for Benteke.
Zaha looks bright tonight, and is unfortunate to concede a free kick after chasing in Villa's final third for the ball. With Man Utd's problems this season, it's a wonder the young winger wasn't given a chance by David Moyes.
OFF THE POST... AND OFF THE BAR! A crazy minute sees Cardiff hit the woodwork twice in 20 seconds - Zaha slips a delightful ball through to Campbell, whose close-range shot is deflected off Guzan's left-hand post. Villa only partially clear and Noone unleashes a 30-yard shot that deflects viciously up and over Guzan, but rebounds off the bar. So, so close.
It's Cardiff's turn to attack and they now have a corner - Noone puts in another left-footed delivery but there's too much on it and Villa head it out for a throw.
Villa win another corner after good wing play down the left, but they take a quick set-piece and it comes to nothing. It seems as though they're targeting the hosts' full-backs tonight.
Jones is down and receives treatment from the medical staff, but is back on the pitch - he looks okay to continue.
Delph goes close! The midfielder breaks from the centre of the pitch and strides forward before unleashing a vicious left-footed strike from 25 yards, but it flies a couple of yards wide of Marshall's right-hand post. Good intentions from the former Leeds man.
Cardiff wins a free kick 40 yards from goal and Craig Noone flights in a teasing cross - the ball is headed back across goal but Brad Guzan is sharp to collect the ball before Campbell can turn the ball home. That's better from the Bluebirds.
Benteke rises to meet the set-piece, and is so close to getting his head on it but can't quite connect. Close for the visitors there.
Marc Albrighton surges down the right wing and swings over a cross - there's too much on it, but Villa eventually win the corner.
Delph skips past Mutch, but the Cardiff man brings him down - the referee lets that one slide, but he won't let too many more late challenges like that go.
This game has started at a frenetic pace with tackles flying in but neither side can get the ball on the floor and control it. Villa are pressing City high up the pitch from the off.
And we're off! Both sides are playing two strikers in a rare return to 'old-school' football, so we're expecting plenty of chances tonight.
The teams are coming out of the tunnel and the Bluebirds fans are making a stunning amount of noise as they sing along to their club version of 'Hey Jude.' They know it's a big night for their club, possibly one of the biggest this season, and they desperately need three points.
If Vincent Tan was hoping for an immediate reaction from appointing Solskjaer, he has been disappointed, with four defeats from five. However, tonight is a big chance for the new boss to prove himself with new signings and a home crowd - but make no mistake, it's also a huge test.
Solskjaer is refusing to use fear as inspiration for his players in their relegation battle: "Players won't reach their potential if you ram fear into them," he told Wales Online. "Yes, we have to go with a little bit of 'We don't want to lose and feel defeat again', but they also have to go out and feel able to express themselves."
Nine of Cardiff's 19 goals this term have come from crosses, which is a league-high proportion of 47 percent according to Opta Sports. Perhaps that's why Solskjaer went for Kenwyne Jones in January.
Villa have Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor to do the damage up top, while there's plenty of firepower on the bench in Adreas Weimann, Grant Holt and Nicklas Helenius - though with just 27 goals scored in 25 games, the visitors will need to pick up the pace in this regard.
So Manchester United's livewire loanee Wilfried Zaha gets another start on the wing for Cardiff, while Fraizer Campbell, Jordan Mutch and Kevin Theophile-Catherine come into the side. Craig Bellamy misses out altogether with a three-match ban from the FA.
Aston Villa subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Helenius, Holt, Clark, Weimann.
Aston Villa XI: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, Bertrand; Westwood, Albrighton, Delph; Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Cardiff subs: Lewis; Eikrem, Cowie, Cala, Daehli, Berget, Fabio.
Cardiff XI: Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, John; Zaha, Mutch, Medel, Noone; Campbell, Jones.
Without further ado, here's tonight's team news...
Paul Lambert's side on the other hand sit in a seemingly comfortable 12th place, though that is only four points in front of West Brom who lie 18th. A couple of bad weeks could be the difference between mid-table and the Championship, so this young Villans side need to be vigilant with every game that comes, particularly given their recent poor form.
Cardiff find themselves in 19th position on 21 points from 25 games, three adrift of safety and with a quite horrific goal difference of -25. With that in mind, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side need to start racking the points, and after a morale-sapping 3-0 defeat to Welsh rivals derby on Saturday, tonight is the night to start finding them.
Good evening and welcome to Cardiff City's clash with Aston Villa at the Cardiff City Stadium. I'm Tom J Doyle, and I'll be guiding you through all the action as the Bluebirds look to keep their Premier League survival hopes alive, while the Villans seek to keep their heads above water and stay clear of the relegation battle.
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