Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! There ends a frustrating night’s football; a contest that both teams will feel they should have won. Cardiff bossed the first half and Villa the second and both managers will be disappointed to leave with a solitary point from a game that, on reflection, shouldn’t really have taken much winning.
90 min: Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall saves a point for his team with a quite astonishing one-handed save from Andrea Weimann. The Villa substitute looked to have swept him a cross from the right from about seven yards out, only for the wrong-footed goalkeeper to stick out his left hand and somehow scoop the ball over the cross-bar when he looked beaten. That’s a splendid save.
90 min: From the left wing, Bertrand whips the ball across the face of the Cardiff City goal, but it‘s a mite too far in front of Gab Agbonlahor for the striker to get on the end of it and poke home.
88 min: Villa go forward courtesy of Ryan Bertrand down the left touchline. His cross towards Christian Benteke is cut out by Ben Turner.
87 min: Having been on the back foot, Cardiff City launch a late bid for victory. From the eright flank, the ball’s floated towards Craig Noone at the far post but his header is off-target. He appeals for a corner, but doesn’t get one.
83 min: Ashley Westwood dinks the ball over the top for Andrea Weimann to chase and the Villa substitute does exactly that, beating the offside trap in the process. Instead of trying to lift the ball over the onrushing David Marshall and drop it into the goal, he tries and fails to pick out Christian Benteke instead.
80 min: A shocking, shocking miss by Gabriel Agbonlahor, who is put clean through on goal with only David Marshall to beat from six yards. Instead of shooting first time after being teed up by what looked suspiciously like an accidental back-heel from Christian Benteke, the Villa striker dithered over his shot before scooping the ball well wide of the left upright. That is truly awful.
79 min: Paul Lambert returns to the bench, having briefly left the arena. “Maybe he lost a contact lense,” says BT Sport Analysis Man, of a bloke who’s been wearing spectacles since the game kicked off. Just 11 minutes to go in this 0-0 draw, then we can all go home and get on with our lives.
76 min: For Villa, Fabian Delph tries a left-footed shot from distance which takes a wicked deflection. With the ball heading for the bottom right-hand corner, David Marshall dives low and to his left to make a splendid save.
74 min: Cardiff City win a free-kick wide on the right, deep in Villa territory. Medel wafts the ball towards the far post, where Ron Vlaar puts it out for a corner. The ball’s floated (which is much different to being ‘wafted’) towards the far post, where Steven Caulker wins the header. His effort is straight at Brad Guzan. For the love of God, would somebody please, please score a goal.
73 min: Cardiff City win a free-kick about halfway inside the Villa half. Gary Medel punts the ball towards the penalty area, where it’s cleared.
71 min: Teed up by Andrea Weimann, who has just replaced Joe Bennett, Marc Albrighton tries a snap-shot from the edge of the Cardiff City penalty area. His shot is venomous, but straight at David Marshall.
69 min: Christian Benteke gets in behind the Cardiff defence down the inside right channel and latches on to a wonderfully weighted through ball. The Villa striker attempts to pick out Gab Agbonlahor, when perhaps he should have shot himself and Ben Turner blocks on the stretch.
65 min: Kenwyne Jones heads straight at Brad Guzan from about 10 yards after getting on the end of a splendid cross from Kevin Theophile-Catherine. He should have done better.
63 min: Ashley Westwood volleys over the bar for Aston Villa, who have Cardiff City on the back foot. Villa seem to have snuffed out the considerable threat posed by Craig Noone in the first half - the Cardiff winger hasn’t had a sniff of the ball in this half.
62 min: Cardiff City substitution: Wilf Zaha off, Mats Daehli - a winger for a winger. Like Eikrem, Daehli also hails from Norway and was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s second signing as Cardiff manager.
60 min: Benteke is left looking infuriated again as Leandro Bacuna scuttles up the lef ringht wing, cuts inside and shoots across the face of goal and wide when he should have picked out his team-mate at the far post. I’d say his poor decision-makling was motivated by greed, except the right-back didn’t even look up andwas probably unaware that Benteke was in such a good position.
58 min: Fabian Delph gets in around the back of the Cardiff City defence, but his cross is way too high and hard for Benteke.
56 min: The camera cuts to the Villa bunch, where manager Paul Lambert and Ian Culverhouse are lost in their own thoughts, radiating misery. If Lambert folded his arms any tighter, he’d crush his own rib cage. Culverhouse is chewing his gum with the air of a man who has just discovered that somebody has taken a dump on his kitchen and is about to send him invoice him for it.
55 min: Cardiff try their luck with a long ball, with Kenwyne Jones winning the flick-on and Fraizer Campbell latching on to the ball, which hits his hand as he does so. He proceeds to turn Ron Vlaar inside-out, before shooting diagonally across the face of goal. Wide.
54 min: Hoof! The ball’s wellied down the middle by Brad Guzan. Boom! Christian Benteke wins the header, flicking the ball towards Agbonlahor. Wheesh! Ben Turner intercepts.
50 min: Once again, Caulker is forced to stretch to intercept a long ball towards Christian Benteke from midfield. Villa have showed more gumption in this half than they did in 45 minutes before the interval and now win themselves a corner. The ball’s despatched towards Nathan Baker and ends up going out for another corner. Having won it, Albrighton sends the ball into the penalty area, where David Marshall claims it.
49 min: Ryan Bertrand gets forward down the left flank for Aston Villa and tries to curl a cross into the centre. He succeeds only in curling it into the side-netting.
48 min: Villa win a corner, which Steven Caulker clears. There follows a period of sustained pressure from Villa, the highlight of which is a decent cross from the right from Marc Albrighton, which seemed to be heading for the vast expanse of forehead belonging to Christian Benteke, only for Steven Caulker to intervene and head clear. Good defending.
47 min: ”I wonder what abacus Paul Lambert was using when he decided that a game plan that reduced Villa’s chances of winning at home, a place where statistics say you are considerably more likely to win a game, to increase the chance of winning away games, where the odds are against you, which would surely at best only break you even, would be a good idea,” asks Elliot Carr-Barnsley. “Villa are making Cardiff look like, well, every other team that’s played Villa this season. We are being walloped 0-0. If Villa are going to start playing horribly and losing instead of somehow not losing away too, we are screwed.’
Second half: Cardiff City do the honours and get the ball rolling. There are no changes on either side.
Oops: Having seen a replay of that incident in the 18th minute where Kenwyne Jones turned his man and got a cross in, it’s no exaggeration to say the big man was hauled to the ground and should definitely have got a penalty. He’s been very hard done by.
An email from Andre Gerrard ...
“Herman Melville talked about ’sinister dexterity’,” he writes. “Let’s hear it for lefties who add an edge to the right way of doing things.”
Half-time: Well, that was a weird one - nothing much happened, but the time has flown. Cardiff City dominated throughout and should be at least one, if not several goals to the good. They’ve strangled the life out of Villa in midfield, where Gary Medel, Jordan Mutch and, subsequently, his replacement Magnus Eikrem have been utterly dominant. Villa’s attacking options have been limited to the odd sortie up the right hand side, where Marc Albrighton has been crossing deep to Christian Benteke. Paul Lambert has a lot of work to do at half-time if his team is to avoid defeat.
44 min: Referee Chris Foy awards a free-kick to Cardiff City in the Villa side of the centre-circle for a foul on Gary Medel. The ball’s floated into the Villa penalty area, cleared and the visitors embark on one of their trademark counter-attacks.From the right wing, the ball’s crossed into the Cardiff City penalty area where Christian Benteke is waiting at the far post. Ben Turner clears with a fine header.
42 min: Having been on the ropes for most of the half, Villa go close to catching Cardiff with a sucker-punch. Joe Bennett gets in behind the left-back and sends the ball across the penalty area in a bid to pick out Gaby Agbonlahor. His cross his wayward. He might have been better served by pulling it back to Christian Benteke, who was nearby and in a good position.
38 min: Another wonderful dipping pass into the Villa penalty area by Noone towards Campbell, only for Ron Vlaar to hack clear with a crucial clearance with the opposition striker lurkiung just behind him. Moments later pops up on the edge of the Cardiff City penalty area and tries a shot, but skies the ball very high and very wide.
36 min: Ryan Bertrand heads clear for Villa after a good pass over the top from man of the match thus far Craig Noone, who has been everywhere.
34 min: From another excellent Craig Noone corner-kick, Steven Caulker rises highest and gets a meaty header on the ball. His effort was heading wide, only to be stopped by Wilfried Zaha in an offside position. The winger turns and rifles the ball into the Villa goal from close range, but his effort is quite correctly flagged.
33 min: Christian Benteke collides with Theophile-Catherine in the Cardiff penalty area as the pair contest a high ball. The Villa striker appeals for hand-ball, more in hope than expectation. No penalty is forthcoming.
31 min: Cardiff City substitution: Jordan Mutch off with a hamstring injury, Magnus Eikrem on. A Norwegian, Eikrem was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing as Cardiff manager and you can read all about him by clicking on this link.
28 min: Villa win a throw about halfway inside the Cardiff half on the left-hand side, fail to find an opening and within seconds the ball finds its way back to Brad Guzan. A poor kick from the goalkeeper is compounded by a sliced ‘clearance’ from Nathan Baker, which allows Fraizer Campbell to scuttle in to try to capitalise. Ron Vlaar spares the blushes of his team-mates with an agricultural clearance. That is comically shambolic from Villa.
25 min: Another Cardiff City cross from the right, this time from the foot of Wilfried Zaha. He stands the ball up for Fraizer Campbell at the far post, but Leandro Bacuna is on hand to head clear. It’s all Cardiff at the moment - Villa are playing pretty woefully.
23 min: Fraizer Campbell does well to keep the ball in play on the right touchline and gets it to the impressive Noone, who sends in a cross. In the penalty area, Steven Caulker tries a sneaky little shove on Fabian Delph and concedes the free-kick, allowing Villa to clear their lines.
21 min: “I’m with you on the left-handed and left-footed thing,” writes Mark Judd. “In Wales they refer to people that are left-handed as ‘cach handed’, and evidently in Japan only 2% of the population admit to being left-handed. I prefer to think of us as special. We are so special that we invariably get put playing left-back.” You’re not wrong, Mark. I made the Birr Town FC No3 shirt my own for a season or two, until somebody even more cack-handed came along to wrest it from my shoulders.
18 min: Cardiff win a throw-in on the edge of the final third, courtesy of Fabian Delph who puts the ball out while attempting to dispossess Kevin Theophile-Catherine. The ball’s thrown to Kenwyne Jones on the right hand-edge of the penalty area and he turns Joe Bennett and gets a cross in. Villa clear.
14 min: A replay shows Guzan actually got a touch on that Campbell shot I mentioned in the last entry. Without his intersession, Cardiff would be a goal to the good. The home crowd appear to have smelt blood and are roaring their team on. Alternatively, they may just have smelt hot-dogs and those loud noises I can hear are the rumblings of so many Welsh tummies.
13 min: Craig Noone wins his side a corner. Craig Noone sends the ball into the mixer, from where Nathan Baker heads it out for a Cardiff throw-in. It’s taken and Wilfried Zaha plays the ball into the path of Fraizer Campbell, who flicks the ball over the onrushing Guzan from close range and a tight angle, only to see his diagonal effort hit the far post and bounce back into play. Villa clear the ball, but only as far as Noone, standing outside the penalty area. His long range effort takes a wicked deflection, loops up in the air and bounces off the cross-bar. These are nervous times for Villa, who are on the ropes at the moment.
10 min: Villa win a corner which is taken short to Gabrielo Agbonlahor. Helofts a non-nonsense, dangerous cross into the Cardiff penalty area, but it’s headed clear.
9 min: Fabian Delph drives forward from midfield and tries his luck with a low daisy-cutter. Wide, but not by so much as to worry David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
6 min: Cardiff City win a free-kick about 40 yards from the Villa goal. Craig Noone floats the ball towards the far post, where Caulker heads towards goal. Brad Guzan grabs the ball just as Jordan Mutch extends a leg in a bid to poke the ball past him.
5 min: Not much going on so far. Marc Albrighton curls in a cross on the fly, but it’s too high for Christian Benteke, who was lurking with intent in the Cardiff City penalty area. Villa do, however, win a corner from which nothing comes. Steven Caulker gets a flick on the delivery to send it out to the far touchline, from where it is crossed back into the box. Nathan Baker gets his head to it, but sends his effort over the bar.
4 min: Craig Noone tracks back to win the ball from Joe Bennett for Cardiff City in midfield. Moments later, Villa win a free-kick just outside their own penalty area when Fabian Delph is fouled by - I think - Ryan Bertrand.
2 min: Cardiff are first to pose anything resembling a threat, with Wilfried Zaha sending in a cross from the left touchline, which is cleared. Both teams have lined up in 4-4-2 formations.
1 min: Villa kick off and will play from right to left in the first half.
Not long now ...
The pre-match niceties are over and the teams are waiting for the signal to begin. Cardiff City’s players wear their usual (but unpopular) home strip of red shirts, black shorts and red socks. Villa’s players wear claret and white quartered shirts, white shorts and white socks.
An email from Vancouver ...
Not the entire population of the Canadian city , but just Andy Brennan, who is there. “Trying to gee meself up for this one,” he says. ”Its been a weird season being a Villa Fan. Not the usual ups and downs – but a hangover that wont go away after the Martin O Neill bash up years ago. Resetting expecations and all. How many left sided players can Lambert get into the side in one go ... OK – Clark’s on the bench but … OK – back to trying to keep from watching the mist out the window vs. dodgy Russian feeds on the webternet.”
Thanks for the mail, Andy, but as a leftie - handed and footed – I’m not sure I approve of the outrageous bias against left-sided players demonstrated by both you and Paul Lambert in the build-up to this match. Well, you, Paul Lambert and the entire population of Italy, who describe lefties as “sinistre” (sinister). If you’re trying to give us a complex, it’s working.
Prediction time ...
For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I’m reasonably confident Villa will win tonight. I think perhaps it’s to do with the abject nature of Cardiff City’s capitulation against Swansea on Saturday. For all that, I didn’t see Villa’s defeat at the hands of West Ham, which may well have been worse. ANyway, BT Sport pundit Michael Owen disagrees with me. Assuming we both end up looking like mugs, it’s probably safe to bet on the draw.
Cardiff City v Aston Villa line-ups
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, John, Noone, Medel, Mutch, Zaha, Campbell, Jones.
Subs: Eikrem, Cowie, Cala, Daehli, Lewis, Berget, Da Silva.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Baker, Vlaar, Bennett, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Subs: Clark, El Ahmadi, Helenius, Weimann, Steer, Sylla, Holt.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Tonight's team news ...
Cardiff may have to make do without the boy Bellers tonight, but they do have Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Jordon Mutch, Craig Noone and Fraizer Campbell in their starting line-up.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert restores defender Ron Vlaar to his starting line-up after a hamstring problem and Ryan Bertrand has overcome a rib injury to play. Marc Albrighton and Joe Bennett also feature. I’ll post the line-ups just as soon as they appear on the trusty news wire.
Craig Bellamy ruled out of tonight's match
Cardiff striker Craig Bellamy will miss tonight’s match after accepting a Football Association charge of violent conduct and receiving a three-match ban. The former Wales international had been charged for striking Swansea midfielder Jonathan de Guzman with his arm during Cardiff’s south Wales derby defeat on Saturday.
Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not believe the incident merited further action, but an FA statement read: “Cardiff City’s Craig Bellamy will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after he accepted an FA charge of violent conduct. Bellamy was charged following an incident which occurred during Cardiff’s game against Swansea City on Saturda. The incident was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Lambert's pre-match yap
In the build-up to tonight’s game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been showcasing the smarts that earned him a shot as a Premier League manager by pointing out that his side is, um, conceding too many goals and announcing it’s a problem they need to address.
“We can’t keep conceding two goals a game and expect to score three,” he told the club website, before announcing that Cardiff “are striving for continuous improvement and we saw signs of that away from home against Manchester City and Manchester United, but Swansea was a step back in terms of both the result and the performance.”
Meanwhile in the Aston Villa camp, Paul Lambert has been bemoaning the loss of his captain Ron Vlaar, saying it wasn’t ideal to have Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker, a pair of left-footed centre-halves, in the heart of his defence against West Ham. He weas prepared to concede that playing away from home might suit Aston Villa this evening. ““The onus is on the home team to make the running because they have got the majority of the crowd and maybe we can relax a bit,” he said.
“I don’t go away from home thinking a draw or lose, I always go away trying to win. We know away from home we have picked up more points than at home but the disappointment is the majority of your crowd come to watch you win at home. The away fans have had more of that than the home fans. That’s the disappointing thing.”
Good evening everybody ...
Six Premier League points and seven places separate tonight’s contestants, with hosts Cardiff City currently down among the dead men in 19th place, while their opponents Aston Villa are mid-table but far from safe from relegation. Both sides come into tonight’s fixture hoping to bounce back from defeat last weekend: Cardiff suffered an embarrassing second-half capitulation against their south Wales rivals Swansea, while Villa’s home travails continued with defeat at the hands of West Ham.
It’s fair to say that neither team has covered itself in glory in recent weeks: Cardiff have lost four league games out of five under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while Villa could muster just one win (a 4-3 humdinger against West Brom) and a draw out of their last five in the top tier. Solskjaer hopes to be able to call on Craig Noone tonight, after his winger missed out on Saturday’s defeat with a hamstring strain, while double-barrelled full-back Kevin Theophile-Catherine may also shake off a knee injury in time to make himself available for selection. In the Villa camp, loanee Ryan Bertrand is expected to miss out on tonight’s game with a rib injury sustained against West Ham, while Paul Lambert was sanguine about captain and defensive linchpin Ron Vlaar’s chances of recovering from the hamstring problem that sidelined him at Villa Park last weekend.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm, but I’ll here with team news and build-up from 7pm. BG