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Cardiff City 2 Norwich City 1 match report: Wilfried Zaha comes off bench to provide spark for Cardiff’s vital revival

Bluebirds had trailed after Robert Snodgrass's early opener but deadline day signing Zaha tees up Bellamy to equalise before Kenwyne Jones nets the winner

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Cardiff manager, admitted that Wilfried Zaha inspired his side to a much-needed victory over Norwich which lifted the Welsh club off the bottom of the Premier League.

Zaha, on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season, was handed his debut off the substitutes bench for Peter Whittingham after just 38 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Cardiff were trailing to Robert Snodgrass’ fifth-minute opener, but the 21-year-old lit up the Welsh capital with an impressive display of pace, directness and a composure which resulted in Solskjaer’s side drawing level four minutes after the interval.

Craig Bellamy was on the receiving end and the former Norwich striker tucked the ball under the body of John Ruddy and it trickled over the line. But the quality in the move came from Zaha as his perfectly weighted pass handed Bellamy the chance to score for his seventh top-flight club – a Premier League record.

Then, only 73 seconds later, Cardiff nudged ahead courtesy of Kenwyne Jones’ winner. The former Stoke striker hooked the ball home at the second attempt following a dangerous centre by Craig Noone.

Yet, all the talk after the final whistle was about the difference that Zaha made – and how United’s manager, David Moyes, could have done with him in their defeat at the Britannia Stadium.

Solskjaer said: “Sometimes you just have to make decisions and do what you think is right. I felt it was right to bring Wilf on, it lifted the crowd and the players. We needed a lift. It could have been anyone I took off. I didn’t have too many doubts.

“It maybe frightened the Norwich defenders because he is such a great and exciting talent.

“Going forward, he is one of the best I’ve seen. Defensively, I’ve got a few hours’ teaching ahead of me. But he’s a young lad and you want him to give us what he can do.

“That’s what he can do – lift us like he did today. It was a fantastic weighted pass and great timed run by Bellars and he slotted it nicely. It was a great debut.”

In truth, Cardiff also had their goalkeeper, David Marshall, to thank for a string of stunning saves to keep Chris Hughton’s men at bay. Bradley Johnson, Leroy Fer and Nathan Redmond were all denied by the talents of the Scotland goalkeeper.

Norwich’s manager  Hughton said: “I am wondering how we got nothing out of the game. We conceded two very poor goals in a game where I felt we were comfortable enough in the first half as the away side, and if our final pass had been better we might have been able to get another goal.

“At 1-0 we were comfortable but to give away the two goals we did, at the time we did changes the atmosphere in the stadium.

“The crowd were fairly quiet in that first half and that was down to the effect we had on the game.

“For a side that had taken a knock like that we responded very well after that, but their goalkeeper, as he did at Carrow Road, made some super saves. We also hit the woodwork a couple of times and had a couple of goals disallowed. So I cannot fault the desire and effort of the players to get the goals and we missed some chances but how we did not win that game I do not know.”

For Solskjaer, this was his first league win as Cardiff’s manager since taking over the reins from Malky Mackay.

Solskjaer added: “I was sat there watching the West Ham/Swansea match and I saw the Sunderland result so that made it even more important for us to get three points. We wanted a fresh, bright start, but we didn’t get that. We started slowly. Maybe I should give my half-time team talk before the game.”

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall; Fabio 6 (Theophile-Catherine, 74), Caulker, Turner, John; Whittingham (Zaha 38), Medel, Mutch (Gunnarsson, 67), Noone; Bellamy, Jones.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson (Fer, 75), Gutierrez (Redmond, 75); Elmander (Van Wolfswinkel, 75), Hooper.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Zaha (Cardiff)

Match rating: 7/10