25 August 2013
As I woke up hoping Sunday's Premier League action would be just slightly better than yesterday's crickets, I sure didn't expect the result we'd see at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Apparently NBC didn't think before the season started that showing Cardiff City v Manchester City live at 11:00 on NBSN was a worthy pick, opting to air the rearranged fixture between the two sides that played in Europa League qualifiers on Thursday. Normally, those games are played at 10:00 am on Sunday, but today's was moved to 11am. For those making the decisions at NBC as to which game to air live, it was a bad choice. NBC should have shown the Bluebirds first game in the top flight since 1962.
Over the years I can remember, the first home game for teams who have been out of the league for a while, and they've been good contests for one reason or another. The one I remember the most, because the side I support was in it, was Chelsea's trip to Wigan in 2005. It was a game Chelsea had no right to win, but somehow they did. The atmosphere that day was strangely one of the most intimidating atmospheres Chelsea had to play in that season in the league. That was Wigan, normally one of the tamest places to play, but this is Cardiff. Cardiff City is one of the more intimidating places historically to play, and the fans brought the atmosphere with them into the top flight.
It can be argued that there was no way either Cardiff City or Manchester City would play in the same manner they did last week. Manchester City effectively had a bye against Newcastle United, while Cardiff City seemed shocked to be in the top flight and spent more time ball watching than the Upton Park crowd. The team sheet really shocked me for Manchester City, with Garcia and Lescott being the center back partnership. This was a boost to Cardiff City, as they spent the whole first half trying to find balls to split the two, with varying degrees of success. The best moment came late in the first half, after a route one ball found its way through to Campbell. However, it was a late intervention by Lescott that prevented a shot on goal.
After Dzeko's goal was cancelled out by Gunnarsson, Manchester City completely went walkabout on set pieces. When Cardiff took the lead, I have no clue what Joe Hart was trying to accomplish; nor do I understand what Zabaleta was attempting to do not leaping to head the ball to safety. Fraizer Campbell had free reign on an open goal to make the game 2-1. If you think the visitors would have learned their lesson after that, Campbell showed that lightning can indeed strike twice. Another corner, failure from Zabaleta at marking Campbell, and a header that Hart had no prayer at getting to made it 3-1 to Cardiff City.
While Cardiff City, by and large, kept their shape very well throughout today's game, there were signs that late they could be broken down with ease. The nerves mixed with good early defending left some legs dead, allowing Negredo to get through and make it 3-2. Cardiff City can also count it fortunate that the late touch in stoppage time fell to Aguero, who is to Manchester City away what Dzeko is at home: a man who struggles to score goals.
Between the fans, a second half that was extremely entertaining for the neutral, it was only smart that NBCSN 'cut' into the game after Tottenham/Swansea finished. The pity is they shouldn't have been cutting to the game, it should have been the game shown from the off.
* The sooner Wilfred Bony and Michu are partnering up front for Swansea City, the better they're going to be.
* Spurs are struggling mightily to score from open play. There were only a couple of chances that Vorm was tested on. For all the complaining last season Tottenham rightly had for not getting a kick from the twelve yard dot, they're getting the calls this season. I'm more than convinced the Spurs penalty decision was a make up call for the screw job the man in the middle tried to pull in the first half.