Brentford 1-3 Cardiff City Six Things: ruthless Bluebirds

Manga out-powers Canos to encapsulate the evening – bbc.co.uk

Cardiff City re-enforced their promotion credentials with an iron-willed display at Griffin Park, where they defeated play-off outsiders Brentford 3-1. Here’s six things from the game.

Brentford’s bright start

Dean Smith’s side outlined their intentions inside the first 20 seconds, when Neal Maupay forced Neil Etheridge into a save. The striker wouldn’t be kept out for long though: Sergi Canos pick-pocketed Marko Grujic to feed Maupay, who beat the offside trap to slide the ball home. That goal was an example of Brentford’s slick build-up play which was evident for much of the first half; they could have had a second midway through the half but Ollie Watkins twice fired off-target following a couple of set pieces.

Cardiff’s character

Neil Warnock rarely picks shrinking violets and one of the big characters in his squad is Sol Bamba, who scored a stunning equalizer on 25 minutes. Brentford thought their job was done when the centre-back – not known for his shooting ability – picked up the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal. Rather than look for a harmless sideways pass as expected, he swivelled to unleash a rocket of a shot past Daniel Bentley to bring his side level.

Bentley’s knock

Bamba’s moment of unexpected magic was one moment that impacted proceedings, another might have been a knock to Bentley. The former Southend stopper made a one-on-one stop from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who had been released by a superbly-weighted through ball by Loic Damour, but picked up a knock in the process. Nico Yennaris also picked up a knock after colliding with Chris Mepham, who cleared a header off the line, but the reprieve was only temporary. Junior Hoilett, who covered the left flank tirelessly all evening, broke forward to cross for Callum Paterson, who stole in ahead of Romaine Sawyers to ram home.

Ruthless Bluebirds

Brentford began the second half with another 10-minute spell of pressure – with Watkins’ tight-angled shot requiring a last-ditch block from Bamba – but were unable to take it that step further and test Etheridge. By contrast, Cardiff’s superior physicality allowed them to cause direct problems every time they pumped the ball into the box. That was evidenced by the third goal, which saw Zahore get ahead of Mepham to latch onto Hoilett’s flick-on and steer the ball home. The great Dane might have had a second, but his header was tipped over by Bentley.

Crucial stage for Cardiff

The Welsh outfit managed the contest thereon with the kind of professionalism that has now seen them win all 14 games in which they have led at half-time. The shrewd positional sense of Grujic and Damour stopped Sawyers and Watkins from breaking far forward enough to feed Maupay, who was well shepherded by Bamba and Morrison. Aston Villa’s shock 3-1 home defeat to QPR means Cardiff are now seven points clear in the automatic promotion race, although it’s far too early to consider their fate with any degree of certainty. Trips to Villa Park, Pride Park and Bramall Lane await in the next month while Wolves also visit the capital: once that block of mightily tough fixtures is over, we’ll have a clearer idea of where Cardiff stand.

How far away are Brentford?

Defeat leaves Brentford eight points shy of the top six so, barring a remarkable nine-point return from their next three games against play-off contenders, a late promotion charge looks unlikely. It is in some ways a credit to the low-budgeted Bees – and the mentality that owner Matthew Benham has cultivated – that missing out would feel like almost a disappointment. However, Tuesday’s defeat to Cardiff exposed a lack of power, ruthlessness and knowhow in certain areas that will be needed if the Londoners are to get closer to the elite next season.