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Even stevens: Leicester City’s Andy King’s (right) shot at goal is blocked by Cardiff City defender Anthony Gerrard and Kevin McNaughton Photo: GETTY IMAGES
A game that began poorly and became progressively worse, finished with Leicester City wasting three of the most glorious opportunities you are likely to see this season.
Still, according to Sven Goran Eriksson, a clean sheet at the Cardiff City Stadium was a more than satisfactory conclusion.
Behind the optimistic veneer, you would guess that the former England manager, who spent more than £10million in the close season, was a touch miffed at his side’s inability to win a game that was there for the taking.
After all, despite a typically courageous performance from a Bluebirds’ side ravaged by injury, this was very a much a case of two points dropped.
Having been denied by Cardiff’s Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall on three separate occasions in the opening 20 minutes, Leicester saw Darius Vassell, twice and the Wales midfielder Andy King give up the chance of sending the Foxes into the top six.
Vassell, who worked tirelessly alongside the often lethargic Jermaine Beckford, lashed over from six yards, three minutes from time and after King failed to hit the target from similar distance in the final minute, Vassell’s downward header in stoppage time, bounced agonisingly off the bar.
“I suppose we should have won it,” said Eriksson, whose side had crashed out of the Carling Cup, on penalties, at the same venue on Wednesday.
“We created some great opportunities, in both halves, but it wouldn’t go in. Having said that, Cardiff is always a hard place to come and I’m pleased that we go home with a clean sheet.
“I think we are showing improvement and my only disappointment so far this season, is that we have lost two home games.”
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay, who came into the game without Stephen McPhail, Tom Heaton, Andrew Taylor and new signing Ben Turner, lost Craig Conway, Robert Earnshaw and Mark Hudson in the opening 45 minutes. “It was quite bizarre,” said Mackay.
“To lose three players in the first half was a huge blow. Then, for the final 20 minutes, we had Rudy Gestede playing on one leg. He battled on and I suppose, that epitomises the spirit within this side. However, it was far from easy.”
With Cardiff unable to register a single shot until the 24th minute and Leicester surprisingly wasteful in front of goal, there was precious little over which to enthuse. Earnshaw replaced the injured Conway after the Scot rolled an ankle in a challenge with Lee Peltier, but left 16 minutes later with a thigh injury. Hudson followed at the interval, with an ankle sprain, leaving City shorn of three of their more influential players.
However, in their absence, Cardiff were anything but a spent force and though Marshall had to save smartly at his near post from Paul Konchesky’s 49th minute free kick, it was the Bluebirds who threatened to break the deadlock. Gestede’s snap-shot was blocked by Matt Mills before Peter Whittingham saw his 25 yard shot drift wide of the post.
Then, with Gestede hobbling, it was Leicester who turned up the heat and transformed an otherwise forgettable contest in to an absorbing final 10 minutes. “There were people on one leg out there and yes, they had their chances late on,” said Mackay.
“However, I didn’t think we deserved to lose.” Â
Vassell, in particular, should have done better, on both occasions. Now, for Middlesbrough on Wednesday, and another test of the club’s promotion credentials.
Cardiff City (4-5-1): D Marshall; K McNaughton, M Hudson (capt, D Blake 45), A Gerrard, L Naylor; F Kiss, D Cowie, A Gunnarsson, P Whittingham, C Conway (R Earnshaw 24, R Gestede 42); K Miller
Leicester City (4-4-2) K Schmeichel; L Peltier, M Mills (capt), S Bamba, P Konchesky; Y Abe, A King, R Wellens, G Fernandes (M Johnson 73); J Beckford (J Schlupp 72), D Vassell
Booked: Konchesky, Bamba, Wellens
Referee: M Haywood (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 21, 154
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