Cardiff City 2-0 Leeds: Junior Hoilett and Robert Glatzel strike as hosts close gap on the top six
- Junior Hoilett opened the scoring with a fine strike after driving to the box
- Robert Glatzel doubled the lead in the second half with a volleyed finish
- The Bluebirds now only sit outside the top six due to goal difference
But those five consecutive wins back in February and March that promised a promotion procession seem a very long time ago now.
Sports scientists will one day study the effects – mental and physical – of this three-month mid-season pause on the footballers involved.
Robert Glatzel (right) celebrates after scoring the second goal for Cardiff against Leeds
How to explain the brain freezes that saw Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper make the wrong choice of pass that led to Cardiff City’s two goals here?
Phillips presented the ball to the rampaging Junior Hoilett for Cardiff’s first-half opener, then Cooper’s ball out of defence sparked the move that culminated in Robert Glatzel’s crisply-taken second.
While the result bolstered Cardiff’s play-off ambitions it proved the head of steam Leeds had before the pause can’t simply be picked up again.
Marcelo Bielsa was left grateful for Brentford’s win over third-placed Fulham on Saturday, a result that helped preserve their seven-point cushion in the second automatic promotion spot.
But given the capricious spells of form Leeds have shown this season – good and bad – the picture may soon shift, especially if Fulham win at Elland Road next weekend.
Junior Hoilett opens the scoring for the hosts with a fine strike from the edge of the box
Cardiff barely saw any possession and created just a handful of chances but, unlike Leeds, they seized them and move level with Preston North End in the last play-off spot.
There was poignancy before kick-off with tributes paid to Cardiff City favourite Peter Whittingham, who tragically died aged 35 in March, as well as Leeds legends Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry, who both passed away in April.
Tribute banners to all three had been laid out in the empty stands at the Cardiff City Stadium, with ‘RIP Trevor Cherry’ and ‘Hunter 6’ in what should have been the away end.
Whittingham’s banner, spread across three blocks of seats, read ‘City loves you more than you will know’ and a minute of silence planned actually became a minute of applause from the few in attendance.
We’ve become used to games starting slowly since the restart last week, on account of the non-existent atmosphere and inevitable lack of match fitness, but this one wasn’t too bad.
Cardiff actually started the brighter, creating the first chance when Hoilett drove infield from the left, skipped past three challenges as he searched for a shooting angle and then rolled his eventual shot wide.
But Cardiff don’t enjoy a great deal of possession at the best of times and the contest quickly settled into the expected rhythm of Leeds domination.
Hoilett is congratulated by his team-mates after breaking the deadlock on Sunday
There was a shout for a penalty when Helder Costa went down as Curtis Nelson struggled to clear his line but referee Andy Woolmer wasn’t interested.
Shortly afterwards, Stuart Dallas crossed from the right side following a corner routine and Ben White’s header cleared the crossbar.
Patrick Bamford saw his first sniff of goal when a close-range effort was blocked by Cardiff keeper Alex Smithies with Bamford standing offside in any case.
But a clearer opening came when Luke Ayling stole in front of his marker to glance a header goalwards from a Phillips corner. Luckily for Cardiff, Will Vaulks had shown superb anticipation to clear acrobatically off the line with an extended leg.
There was a sense of inevitability about a Leeds opener by this point and their bench sensed a breakthrough. Bielsa paced up and down in his technical area, crouching in observation whenever his side had a set-piece.
But against all expectations, it was Cardiff who took the lead courtesy of a gift from Phillips.
He played a blind pass just inside his own half, presenting the ball straight to Hoilett. The Canadian had an awful lot of work still to do but advanced and advanced, ignoring options either side, until he reached the edge of the Leeds box.
Shifting onto his left foot, Hoilett’s finish was top class, the shot always rising and beating Ilian Meslier at his near post.
Hoilett jogged over to the Cardiff bench, grabbed a Whittingham No 7 shirt and held it skywards as his team-mates applauded. Another lovely gesture.
By the end of the half, Leeds were starting to think it’d be one of those days. After carving Cardiff open, Jack Harrison looked certain to score from barely 10 yards out. But his shot struck team-mate Bamford right in front of the keeper and in an offside position anyway.
Cardiff sat deeper and deeper after the break, challenging Leeds to find a way through. On the hour, Bamford headed the ball across goal into the path of Tyler Roberts but Smithies bravely blocked at his feet.
Bamford was almost through moments later following a neat flick through by Costa but the ball ran away from him and Smithies smothered.
But once again they were made to pay as two Cardiff substitutes combined six minutes after coming on.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing won back possession deep in the Leeds half after Cooper’s poor pass and picked out Glatzel with a square pass. The German’s execution was excellent, taking a touch to control on the edge of the box before thumping a shot past Meslier and in off the post.
Leeds continued to push forward and were almost offered a route back when Ian Poveda’s dinked ball into the six-yard box caused all kinds of panic by Smithies and Sean Morrison thumped clear.