Cardiff stalemate means Everton's passing game attracts further fire

• Malky Mackay praises Cardiff City's disciplined display
• 'I feel we dropped two points,' said Roberto Martínez

Early days these may be, but the willy-nilly rush to judgment that is the modern way finds Cardiff confident that they can compete at Premier League level and Everton followers increasingly concerned about the efficacy of Roberto Martínez's passing game.

The Welsh team, promoted as champions, were ominously tentative in losing at West Ham on the opening day but have recovered remarkably well to beat Manchester City and now to keep a clean sheet against another of last season's top six.

Cardiff are greatly encouraged, their latest opponents just the opposite after three draws against teams they will have expected to beat. Everton fans, accustomed to a power-based, high-tempo approach under David Moyes, are starting to believe the familiar criticism against his successor – that his charges pass for the sake of it, getting nowhere.

That was the problem when they were held 0-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion and again in Saturday's barren stalemate in the Welsh capital, where Everton enjoyed two-thirds of the possession, to no avail. As one old pro put it: "That's the trouble with Roberto. Pass, pass, pass and no plan B when the pretty stuff doesn't work."

It is not the only complaint. Marouane Fellaini's natural desire to rejoin his mentor at Manchester United – Gareth Barry was signed on Sunday on a season-long loan after Manchester City agreed to pick up a large proportion of his £120k a week wage – must be increased by a change of role that has clearly impaired his effectiveness. Last season Moyes used the tall, powerful Belgian where his aerial ability inflicted maximum damage, in and around the opposition penalty area. Martínez has withdrawn him so deep that this potent threat is all but negated.

In mitigation it must be acknowledged that, forewarned, Everton did a much better job than Manchester City in combating Cardiff's strength at set-pieces, with Sylvain Distin man of the match, and that the Welsh team were restricted to half-chances.

Furthermore, Everton would probably have recorded their first win of the season had they been awarded the first-half penalty that was the logical outcome when Gary Medel floored Leighton Baines.

They also had the best chance of the match, David Marshall pulling off a stunning reaction save just before half-time when Nikica Jelavic's header took a late, wrong-footing deflection off Ben Turner.

Jelavic ought to have scored in the second half and was substituted after shooting over. That seems to be the way of it these days for the Croat, who rattled in 11 goals in 10 matches at the end of 2011-12 but has now managed one in 23 hours of playing time. Martínez said: "Another draw puts more pressure on our next game [at home to Chelsea]. We need to be more clinical and I don't think we should have relied on what was a clear penalty to win the game.

"If you win the next game after three draws it is a good start to the season, if you lose it you are missing some points."

With Jelavic firing blanks, there could be a start soon for Gerard Deulofeu, the 19-year-old forward on loan from Barcelona. Martínez added: "Gerard scored in midweek and he is a player with real talent. When the ball is at his feet, anything can happen. He causes excitement, which is the sign of a special player, but he is still a young man."

Malky Mackay, much the happier manager, said: "Manchester City were second last season, Everton sixth, and we've matched them stride for stride. It will give my team great belief that they could do that against top international players. We were defensively solid, disciplined and showed how fit we are. All our players are 10% body fat and can run to a high standard for a long period. We knew we had to be fit, organised and disciplined to have any chance of being involved in this league again next season."

Man of the match Sylvain Distin (Everton)

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