Team: Smithies, Furlong, Onuoha, Caulker (Wszolek), Bidwell, Luongo, Scowen, Freeman, Mackie (Sylla), Smith, Washington (Ngbakoto)
Subs Not Used: Ingram, Robinson, Baptiste, LuaLua
Attendance: 18,520 (including 638 R’s fans)
Cardiff City beat Queen’s Park Rangers in a breathless encounter to stay top of the Championship table.
Matt Smith nodded QPR in front before their former winger Junior Hoilett equalised by blocking goalkeeper Alex Smithies’ clearance.
Sol Bamba’s header gave Cardiff the lead, fuelling a fiery atmosphere at Cardiff City Stadium.
The hosts had chances to score a third but held out comfortably for a fifth win from five league games. Their victory, coupled with Ipswich’s defeat at home to Fulham, means the Bluebirds are now three points clear at the Championship summit.
There was an expectant crowd at Cardiff City Stadium, but the sense of optimism stemming from the hosts’ perfect start to the season was punchured by Smith’s opener, as he nodded in from close range after Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge failed to clear Luke Freeman’s cross.
Etheridge will have been disappointed with his hesitant effort, though it paled into insignificance compared to his opposite number Smithies’ blunder.
Under pressure from a poor back-pass by his captain Nedum Onuoha, the QPR goalkeeper’s clearance ricocheted off Hoilett and straight into the net.
Those two goals were typical of a compelling encounter played at breakneck speed, as entertaining because of its errors and robust challenges as it was because of its goals and chances at both ends.
It was fitting too that this battle should include a headed goal from a corner for Bamba, whose aerial duels with his adversary Smith were so brutal that they could have been registered on the Richter scale.
Cardiff maintained the frenetic tempo in the second-half, buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, they twice went close to a third goal as Hoilett had one effort disallowed for a push before Nathaniel Mendez-Laing struck the crossbar.
Kenneth Zohore was then denied by a brilliant close-range save from Smithies as Cardiff continued to press, but with QPR offering little in attack, it was an ultimately simple fifth consecutive league win for Neil Warnock’s in-form side.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock told BBC Radio Wales: “Obviously I’m pleased. We made hard work of it at times but I was delighted with the way we played.”
“We showed a lot of character, played some good stuff on the front foot, created some good chances. I thought (QPR goalkeeper Alex) Smithies was brilliant.”
“It’s a happy place and I’m really glad we’ve got two weeks off now (for the international break) without a press conference.”
Queen’s Park Rangers manager Ian Holloway said: “We were doing fine when we got in front, we looked pretty comfortable and then it changed when we conceded the first goal, the manner of it, the timing of it. We could have dealt with it better.”
“Unfortunately they forced us into a mistake and it knocked the stuffing out of us, got the crowd up. They then go and score from a set-play.”
“On the balance of play, that’s as good a Cardiff team as I’ve ever seen. It’s going for them at the minute – they’re making it go for them. They looked like a real solid unit.”
“The Bluebirds will be buzzing tonight but we weren’t that far off them.”
The Rangers turnout was much below average partly because of the major railway disruption and also the fact that it was a Bank Holiday weekend.
There was a minute’s applause in memory of Ray Jones.
After 15 minutes, Luke Freeman’s cross was nodded in by Matty Smith down at the other end.
Matters were fairly even but 7 minutes later Nedum Onuoha’s terrible back-pass enabled Junior Hoilett to chase the ball down and he was very fortunate that Alex Smithies’ intended clearance ricocheted into the back of the net!
Hoilett then made the most of his celebrations by running over and giving it large in front of the R’s contingent!
Cardiff scored their second when Hoilett’s corner was headed into the back of the net at the far post.
Rangers didn’t manage another shot on target, although a Jamie Mackie effort did hit the upright. Alex Smithies made a number of superb saves.
I have to say that the Bluebirds were much the better side in the second-half, but the R’s could well have grabbed a dramatic equaliser at the death.
Paul Curtis from New York was also on the coach and it was great to see him again.