Thursday 21 November 2019

Warnock jibe produces the right response

Cardiff City 4 Fulham 2

Cardiff’s Bobby Reid (left) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game against Fulham (Simon Galloway/PA)
Cardiff’s Bobby Reid (left) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game against Fulham (Simon Galloway/PA)

Stuart James

In the end it felt so predictable. Twenty four hours after Neil Warnock admitted he would not put any money on Cardiff City staying up, his players responded by picking up their first victory of the season to climb out of the bottom three at the expense of a Fulham side in freefall.

It was Cardiff's first Premier League victory since April 2014, ending a run of five successive defeats, and will do their confidence the world of good. Fulham, in contrast, look like a team in disarray, in particular at the back, where Slavisa Jokanovic's side were an accident waiting to happen all afternoon. They have now conceded 25 goals in nine fixtures.

Although the afternoon got off to the best possible start for Fulham when André Schürrle scored his fourth of the season, Cardiff hit back with two quick goals through Josh Murphy and Bobby Decordova-Reid. Ryan Sessegnon brought parity before half-time but Cardiff were two powerful for Fulham thereafter. Callum Paterson restored Cardiff's lead and Kadeem Harris, sliding in at the far post, wrapped up the points three minutes from time.

Fast and frenetic, it was game full of incident and not much in the way of defending. That came as no surprise given that Fulham and Cardiff had conceded 38 Premier League goals between them before a ball had been kicked. By the time the interval arrived that tally was up to 42 after a topsy-turvy first half that saw Fulham take the lead, fall behind and then draw level.

Schürrle got the goalscoring underway with an absolute beauty. Receiving the ball from Jean Michaël Seri about 30 yards from goal, the German cut inside Harry Arter and struck a terrific right-footed shot that arrowed into the top corner. Neil Etheridge, the Cardiff goalkeeper, did well to get his right hand to the ball but was never going to keep it out.

Cardiff then responded with two goals in the space of five minutes, exposing Fulham's defensive frailties in the process. Calum Chambers, who endured a torrid opening 45 minutes and was substituted at half-time, was badly caught out of position after giving the ball away. Sol Bamba picked out Murphy in the space that opened up on the Cardiff left and the winger curled a low right-footed shot that nestled in the far corner via a slight deflection off Denis Odoi.

It was a poor goal for Fulham to concede and what followed was even worse. After Cardiff made a pig's ear of a free-kick in a decent position, Schürrle lost possession deep inside his own half and the ball ricocheted off Aron Gunnarsson and into the path of Decordova-Reid. With only Marcus Bettinelli to beat, the summer signing from Bristol City calmly slid the ball between the Fulham keeper's legs and Cardiff were in front.

That lead lasted for only 14 minutes, however, as Cardiff carelessly allowed Fulham back into the game. Joe Bennett seemed to have cut out Stefan Johansen's crossfield pass, but the left-back was caught on his heels and in the blink of an eye Sessegnon was running on to Aleksandar Mitrovic's clever first-time pass. Sessegnon coolly converted and he should have had another before half-time.

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