Aston Villa’s goal drought stood at seven hours and 31 minutes when Leandro Bacuna stepped up and lifted a 25-yard free-kick over the visitors’ wall and into the bottom corner of the Cardiff net, as goalkeeper David Marshall looked on motionless.
Relief swept around Villa Park and Paul Lambert’s side were on their way to a much-needed home success. It was a win that had not looked like coming until right-back Bacuna, moved upfield in a tactical shuffle, burst forward to win the free-kick from which he scored.
The Dutchman, a summer signing from Groningen, had struck a dead-ball goal in Villa’s only previous home victory of the campaign against Manchester City, but Lambert said this effort was even better. “His free-kick against Manchester City was world class but I thought that one surpassed it,” he said. “It was a terrific free-kick.”
Libor Kozak made sure of the victory with six minutes remaining, heading in after Matthew Lowton had directed an Aleksandar Tonev cross back into the six-yard box.
There was an early sign that Cardiff would be a tough nut to crack after five minutes, with the excellent Steven Caulker’s interception stopping Christian Benteke pouncing after a parried Karim El Ahmadi shot.
Marshall produced good saves from a Benteke shot in the first half and Kozak header in the second, but Villa – missing forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann – struggled to create openings.
Cardiff’s only threat came in the first half when hesitancy between Nathan Baker and goalkeeper Brad Guzan almost let in Aron Gunnarsson, but the American recovered to save.
“We were looking good value for getting something,” said Malky Mackay, the Cardiff manager, who responded to the question whether he might follow Iain Moody, his former head of recruitment, to Crystal Palace by saying: “I am the manager of Cardiff City and I am proud to be that.”
Aston Villa (4-3-1-2): Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark; El Ahmadi (Lowton, 74), Westwood, Sylla; Tonev; Kozak (Bowery, 88), Benteke.
Cardiff (4-2-3-1): Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor; Medel, Whittingham; Cowie, Gunnarsson (Mutch, 65), Bellamy (Maynard, 82); Odemwingie (Campbell, 55).
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Bacuna (Aston Villa)
Match rating: 6/10