Southampton 0 Cardiff City 1 match report: Juan Cala gives Cardiff crucial victory

 

St Mary’s stadium

Long after the final whistle had sounded they were still singing loud and lustily. Deep down, the Cardiff supporters must know that the challenge over avoiding relegation from the top flight remains formidable, but three vital points had just been banked and for another week at least they will believe that the miracle demanded by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might just be taking shape.

When you are down and almost out it helps to come up against a team with little to play for. It took Cardiff well past the hour to realise that this was a game Southampton were trying hard not to win, and when the penny dropped the result was decisive as central defender Juan Cala grabbed the initiative to plot an unlikely route towards survival.

It still needed a couple of outstanding saves from David Marshall to protect the lead, but Solskjaer insists this was a result that had long been coming and, moreover, one that was fully deserved in the context of previous disappointments.

Last week’s tame surrender against Crystal Palace had been followed by revelations that two club employees had been disciplined after their team line-up had been leaked to their opponents. Solskjaer said the issue had “galvanised” the squad and helped concentrate minds on the task in hand.

“We have dealt with it as a club and ended the week on a high,” said the manager, who was enjoying only his third victory in 14 League games. “The pressure was on more than ever but the players focused really well and now we need more of this. Now we are only three points behind the teams above us.” 

The pattern was set from the outset: the home side building attacks with poise and precision while Cardiff back-pedalled to form a blue wall of defiance. So deep were the visitors that Southampton could advance almost to the edge of the 18-yard line before coming under serious pressure.

The goalscoring chances began to stack up: Rickie Lambert headed over; Adam Lallana cleverly found Gaston Ramirez in space but Steven Caulker just got his body in the way in time to divert the shot on to the crossbar and away to safety.

More obvious opportunities came and went after Cardiff’s goal. Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted they lacked a clinical edge. “It was a steep learning curve for us because all that possession means nothing if you can’t convert it into goals,” he said.

According to Solskjaer the memory of the Palace debacle was a factor in Cardiff’s inability to show nothing more than defensive resolution in the opening 45 minutes. They improved after the interval and signalled their intent when Jordon Mutch went close.

Five minutes later and , following Peter Whittingham’s free-kick, Cala seized on a poor clearance from Calum, veered left to shake off a couple of defenders before planting a firm drive beyond Gazzaniga.

Now Cardiff really did have something to defend. The best chance on a frustrating afternoon for the Saints arrived for young Sam Gallagher after Morgan Schneiderlin adroitly lofted the ball forward. The substitute shot first time but Marshall had advanced off his line to smother the shot, and shortly after he got down well to deny Nathaniel Clyne.

Southampton (4-3-2-1): Gazzaniga; Chambers (Clyne, 67), Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Davis, Cork (Prado, 79), Schneiderlin; Ramirez (Gallagher, 66), Lallana; Lambert

Cardiff (4-1-3-1-1): Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Cala, Fabio (McNaughton, 78); Medel (Zaha, 61); Kim, Whittingham, Daehli (Bellamy 87); Mutch; Campbell.

Referee: Jonathan Moss.

Man of the match: Marshall (Cardiff)

Match rating: 5/10

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
news
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
life
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone