West Bromwich Albion 3 Cardiff City 3 match report: Mats Daehli the darling of Cardiff after late leveller

Substitute helps Welsh club’s relegation fight with vital a goal that adds to Albion’s woes

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There really is something about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and injury-time goals. The last time his Cardiff City side were on the road, they had their hearts broken by an Everton goal at the death.

They looked consigned to the same cruel fate when West Bromwich Albion substitute Thievy Bifouma struck in the third minute of injury time to put his side 3-2 ahead. But then up popped Mats Moller Daehli – a Norwegian substitute, no less – to rescue a point. As Sir Alex Ferguson said after Solskjaer’s unforgettable last-gasp winner on a famous Barcelona night 15 years ago: “Football, bloody hell.”

It was a stunning climax and Solskjaer had an understandable smile on his face afterwards. His team had seemed set for a ninth straight away defeat when they fell two goals behind inside nine minutes but they recovered to draw level through Jordon Mutch and Steven Caulker before the game’s breathless denouement.

 

Albion coach Pepe Mel looked to have his first home victory in his hands when Saido Berahino escaped down the left wing and crossed for fellow substitute Bifouma to poke the ball through David Marshall’s legs at the near post. The Hawthorns exploded in celebration, but not for long as Solskjaer’s own sub struck. After an Albion counterattack had broken down, Wilfried Zaha got down the right and crossed, Ben Turner laid the ball back and Daehli swivelled on the ball to find the net via a deflection off Craig Dawson. It was the first Premier League goal for a player signed from Solskjaer’s old club Molde and it felt priceless.

“We’ve been waiting 32 games to get that turning point, that bit of luck, and finally we got it,” said Solskjaer, whose team climbed above Sunderland into 18th place in the table. “The lads have had a couple of kicks in the teeth lately, we had a similar one at Everton and have been practising trying to come back in half a minute! We got the luck we feel we have not got lately.”

Mel, by contrast, looked shattered. If this was a match neither team could afford to lose, for Albion a draw felt like defeat. As with Solskjaer at Cardiff, his January appointment was a big, big gamble and Albion have won just one of his 10 matches in charge. With Crystal Palace winning yesterday, they dropped to fourth-bottom, just three points above Cardiff, and the importance of next week’s trip to Norwich City cannot be overstated.

“The feeling in the dressing room is very bad,” said Mel, who rued referee Michael Oliver’s decision to play one extra minute beyond the four allocated because of Albion’s goal. Daehli’s equaliser was timed at 94 minutes and 58 seconds. “I don’t understand – four minutes are four minutes,” he said.

He could not have come closer to that elusive home victory. In four of his five previous games at the Hawthorns, Albion had come from behind to earn a point; this time, they exploded out of the blocks and gained a second-minute lead through Morgan Amalfitano’s brilliant lob. The Frenchman is one of last summer’s unsuccessful crop of signings but his first goal since a spectacular solo effort at Old Trafford in September was almost worth the long wait as his first-time angled strike sent the ball over the head of Marshall and into the far corner from out on the right touchline. Albion soon had a second goal as Amalfitano lifted the ball into the box where Matej Vydra flicked it on for Graham Dorrans to finish from close range.

At this stage, Cardiff were a shambles. They had started with a five-man back line and went through three changes of formation – from 5-3-2 to 5-4-1 to 4-5-1 – before finally getting a foothold in the match. It came via another spectacular goal, Mutch leaving Ben Foster as red-faced as Marshall had been earlier by picking the ball up in the inside-right channel and sending it soaring into the far corner from 30 yards out.

Vydra almost got a third Albion goal at the start of the second half but was foiled by Marshall and instead it was Cardiff who drew level with 17 minutes remaining. Gary Medel played a 35-yard free-kick into the box and Caulker climbed between home centre-backs Gareth McAuley and Dawson to head past Foster. That looked like that but then came those mad final minutes. “The message from the manager is never give up,” said Daehli, and so it proved.

Line-ups:

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Morrison; Amalfitano (Berahino 72), Sessegnon, Dorrans (Gera 85); Vydra (Thievy 78).

Cardiff City(5-3-2): Marshall; Fabio (Zaha 36), Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor; Mutch, Medel (Whittingham 87), Gunnarsson (Daehli 46); Campbell, Bellamy.

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Man of the match: Daehli (Cardiff City)

Match rating: 8/10

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