By Llion Carbis at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City recorded their second Premier League triumph of the season, following a dramatic 2-1 victory against ten-man Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Seagulls had started the game promisingly, and resultantly they took the lead within the opening seven minutes; Lewis Dunk scoring his first goal of the season.
Nevertheless, and against the run of play, Callum Paterson equalised for Cardiff before Dale Stephens’ deserved red card altered the course of the game entirely.
For much of the game, Brighton had defended with vigour and resolve, but their efforts were undone by a frantic Sol Bamba goal that secured an all-important three points for Neil Warnock in his 100th competitive game in charge of the Bluebirds.
For a game that had been earmarked as a significant fixture for a club that are aspiring to remain in Premier League, Cardiff’s start was far from ideal as Lewis Dunk – left unmarked at the back post – was on hand to give the Seagulls an early lead.
To their credit, Brighton worked the free-kick to perfection. Solly March’s looping cross found the run of Dunk who produced a clinical header from close-range to give the Seagulls the lead. It was a nigh-on perfect start for Chris Hughton’s men, especially while considering that they had only won one of their previous 19 away league games before today’s fixture.
Despite failing to exert any sense of creativity, or developing a passing rhythm, Cardiff equalised before the half-an-hour mark courtesy of individual brilliance from Kadeem Harris. The winger dribbled effortlessly past several Brighton defenders, and his deflected cross was eagerly met by the versatile Callum Paterson.
In truth, Paterson’s third league goal of the season was much-needed, as Cardiff had looked devoid of imagination and invention for much of the opening 30 minutes. While the Scottish international provided the finish, praise must be attributed to the marvellous work of Kadeem Harris – a surprise inclusion in the starting eleven – who produced a moment of inspiration to engender the opportunity.
Moments later, Brighton’s positive start to the game had been curtailed further by Dale Stephens’ red card. The 29-year-old fought fiercely for possession, but his challenge on Greg Cunningham was needlessly aggressive. The Englishman’s boots were showing as he collided with the Cardiff left-back, which gave Martin Atkinson a rather simple decision to award the red card.
Due to the numerical disadvantage, Brighton had been condemned to sitting deep and counter-attacking as a method of attempting to penetrate the Bluebirds defence for the remainder of the opening half. On the other hand, Cardiff were looking to seize the initiative and capitalise on their man advantage, which they had failed to do at home against Newcastle United and away to Huddersfield Town.
The second-half began identically to the conclusion of the first 45 minutes, with Brighton defending resolutely, and Cardiff applying the pressure.
On the eve of the hour mark, the Bluebirds’ sustained attacking efforts almost translated into the game’s second goal. Having received possession on the right flank, Harris produced a wonderful curling effort that crashed against the crossbar. The 25-year-old tormented Brighton’s defence throughout the entirety of the game, and he came agonisingly close to scoring a memorable strike for the Bluebirds.
Junior Hoilett and Florin Andone had been introduced respectively as both sides sought the decisive goal.
As much as they tried, Neil Warnock’s team failed to create purposeful goal-scoring opportunities, and it seemed that Cardiff were poised to rue another chance to secure a critical result against fellow relegation candidates.
Unexpectedly, as the game entered its final stages, and the frustrations were more pronounced among the Bluebirds faithful, the Cardiff City Stadium erupted with infectious excitement as Sol Bamba converted following a goalmouth scramble to secure a vital result for his side.
As a testament to their never-say-die attitude, Cardiff scored the winning goal in the 90th minute, courtesy of a figure who has grown increasingly popular in the Welsh capital.
The Ivorian hit the woodwork with his initial attempt, as did Patterson with the follow-up effort, but the third time proved to be the charm for the defender as the 33-year-old fired home from close-range to score his second league goal of the campaign.
Unlike the draws against Newcastle and Huddersfield, Cardiff demonstrated their ability to seize upon the man advantage and secure a hugely significant result for their survival aspirations. For the time being, Cardiff occupy 16th position in the league table.
The conclusion of the game proved to be difficult for Brighton to tolerate, especially having shown such resilience and resolve, but the Bluebirds secured a tremendously valuable result.
In the face of increasing pressure, Cardiff showed that they won’t concede their hopes of survival without dogged determination and a willingness to succeed.