On Tuesday night, Cardiff City marched to the top of the EFL Championship with a fluid and enticing display against Leeds United.
Neil Warnock’s men produced an exciting, determined performance. One that saw them beat high-flying Leeds 3-1, in a game that will surely silence Cardiff’s critics.
The Bluebirds led 2-0 at half-time courtesy of Kenneth Zohore and Junior Hoilett. To add insult, Leeds’ captain Liam Cooper was sent off just before the break. Zohore then capitalised on the stricken Leeds defence in the second half. He scored City’s 3d goal at the hour mark to wrap up all three points.
The 27,160 in attendance at the Cardiff City Stadium witnessed a tenacious attacking display by their home side. It is something we have come to expect of a team managed by Neil Warnock.
Warnock Past and Present
It was a case of the ex coming to call for Neil Warnock. He served as manager at Leeds United from 2012 to 2013.
Warnock’s tenure at the Yorkshire club was certainly uninspiring. A 14th place finish in the Championship at the end of the 2011-2012 season and a string of poor performances the following year led to his sacking in 2013. And on April Fool’s Day no less. All of which left Leeds languishing just five points above the relegation zone.
Everything that went wrong for Warnock at Leeds, however, seems to be going right for him now at Cardiff. The South Wales side have lost only once in the league under Warnock this season—against an impressive Preston North End—and have won their last two fixtures.
They face Derby County at home in their next game on Saturday 30th September.
Altitude sickness abated, Cardiff City aim for higher ground
The victory will taste all the sweeter for Warnock. It proves that Cardiff can cut it with the big boys this season. Far from fulfilling the expectation that they’d fall away after an overachieving August—which saw them win all of their opening five league games—Cardiff have instead forged ahead. The side must now be considered strong contenders for promotion.
The altitude certainly hasn’t caused any nosebleeds for Warnock’s men. Cardiff will look to consolidate top spot in an October which sees them travel to struggling Birmingham City. That to be followed by a tough away trip to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough. Then two extremely winnable home fixtures against Millwall and Ipswich town respectively.
Cardiff’s success against Leeds United has turned the underdog into the alpha canine. For a side that was predicted to be staring into the abyss come May, Bluebirds now look far more likely to be heading for the big-time.
Yet their lofty position shouldn’t really come as a shock in a league that often throws unexpected curveballs. In 2013 Crystal Palace won the Play-Off Final, despite being tipped for League One, to defy such expectations. Last season, Huddersfield—who were in no way expected to be sniffing around the promotion places—stunned the competition with their relentless brand of football. This year they ply their trade in the Premier League.
Cardiff should certainly take heart from these examples. To be written off at the start of the Championship season can often be more of a help than a hindrance.
No Need to Panic for Christiansen and Leeds
Despite this defeat, Leeds United remain the team to beat. Thomas Christiansen has instilled a classiness to his Leeds side that will see them fighting at the league’s summit come the final day.
The away loss to Cardiff City is a blip in what has been a wonderful start to the season for United. It is likely not much cause for concern. Despite a poor result, Leeds still have plenty of ammunition with which to do damage to Championship teams both great and small this season.
Christiansen has improved an already resilient team with a touch of style, most notably with the arrivals of Ezgjan Alioski and Samuel Saíz, both of whom seem to be the sort of talent that could rip apart any Championship defence on their day.
Christiansen himself expects Leeds to immediately bounce back. ‘I believe the team responded in the proper way from our defeat at Millwall,’ he said after the match. ‘And we are going to do the same at the weekend’.
Leeds United travel to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday 1st October.