Cardiff City 3, Aston Villa 0
Vincent Tan was greeted by a mighty roar when he walked out of the Chairman’s Suite and took his seat before the Championship clash with Aston Villa.
The Bluebirds owner was delighted with the atmosphere generated by almost 24,000 spectators even if the roar was for the teams rather than Tan.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (2) and Junior Hoilett scored the goals which left manager Steve Bruce and his Aston Villa team down and out.
There is, though, a lot more love for the Malaysian businessman now that Neil Warnock is manager and the two men get on really well. Together they are planning a bright future – and both insist they are committed to the task.
Fans are buying into Warnock’s plans and the manager has talked about how much Tan and chairman Mehmet Dalman supported him in the build-up to this season.
Tan was at a Bluebirds home match for the first time since 2015 and he was treated to a first class team display during the first half.
By midway through the second half Bluebirds supporters were chanting: “We’re the greatest team in football the World has ever seen.”
Okay, an exaggeration, but nobody could deny home fans the sheer joy of watching the team play with such energy and commitment.
More than 5,000 visiting fans, by contrast, were loud from the start, but were left aghast at the way their Villa team was dismantled.
Cardiff made two changes from their starting line-up, calling in Mendez-Laing and Frenchman Loic Damour.
Warnock’s game plan was to attack Villa with pace and direct passing.
He left out Lee Tomlin because the playmaker wouldn’t fit comfortably into this style of performance, while Bruno Manga was also among the substitutes.
Villa, and captain John Terry in particular, were left gasping for pace with the powerful Zohore running at him and making an impact with sheer physical presence.
With less than 10 minutes left Cardiff fans were chanting: “Terry, Terry what’s the score?”
Junior Hoilett and Mendez-Laing were dangerous raiders out wide and Villa were hanging on at times as City produced a display full of passion, desire and hunger.
They were hungry for victory and almost went ahead after five minutes when Hoilett’s strike was fumbled by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone. The ball fell behind the Villa man, who dropped quickly and grabbed it on the line.
Referee Tim Robinson did make a quick check with the automatic Hawkeye system to ensure the ball had not crossed the line and Villa survived.
Damour is a dynamic midfield player who is new to the Championship, but looks capable of developing into a quality player.
Cardiff went ahead after 21 minutes when Hoilett popped up with another assist, having set up both goals in the midweek 2-1 cup win against Portsmouth.
Hoilett crossed and Mendez-Laing timed his run to the far post perfectly and headed into the corner from close range.
Villa worked hard to create openings, but Cardiff competed for everything, closed down the visiting players and defended solidly.
Goalkeeper Johnstone saved with a leg from Zohore and when the ball ran loose Zohore went for goal, but his low shot was cleared off the line with the keeper out of position.
Zohore’s presence was causing Villa major problems and Cardiff looked capable of scoring a second.
It came on the hour when Zohore’s hard running again had Villa failing to cope and his cross to the far post was neatly headed into the empty net by Hoilett.
Johnstone made a remarkable save to deny Mendez-Laing after 68 minutes, but the City number 19 was not to be denied.
The former Wolves winger stole half a yard on a Villa defender just outside the penalty area and curled a shot wide of the keeper and into the far corner to complete a magnificent victory.
Yes. Magnificent. That’s what this was.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison (capt), Bamba, Bennett (Richards 63), Gunnarsson, Damour, Ralls, Mendez-Laing (D Ward 86), Zohore (M Kennedy 90), Hoilett. Subs not used: Manga, Tomlin, Halford, Murphy.
Aston Villa: Johnstone, Hutton, Chester, Terry (capt), Taylor, Elmohamady (Adomah 31), Whelan, Lansbury (O’Hare 58), Onomah (Hourihane 77), Agbonlahor, Hogan Subs not used: Samba, Steer, Bree, Bjarnason.
Referee: Tim Robinson.