Cardiff City 2, Luton Town 1
Neil Warnock scored 10 out of in Cardiff City’s first SkyBet Championship win of the 2019-20 season.
Substitute Isaac Vassell capped off Warnock’s day with a winning goal six minutes into injury time.
The Bluebirds manager has never lost a Football League against Luton Town in 10 games against the Hatters (W4, D6).
Warnock has also never lost his opening two matches of a season in the second tier and that record, too, remains intact after 15 years at his level.
“The manager told me to go on and score the winner,” said Vassell. “It was looking for a minute like it wasn’t going to happen after they equalised – there’s always that period where you wonder if you’ll go on. The substitution happened in the end and it paid off.
“It’s a great feeling – it has been a while. I love scoring goals, it’s the best feeling in the world, there’s nothing really like it. I’m glad to get one today on my debut and hopefully there will be a lot more.”
Aden Flint and Vassell scored for City and Warnock said: “The lads showed a lot of character.
“We had five debutants and they grew into the game. A goal was really needed to dampen Luton’s enthusiasm.
“We had enough chances to score and make it a bit comfortable – but all credit to them – they kept going, took their one opportunity and made it hard work.
“The fans have gone home happy and they were brilliant again. The supporters never fail to amaze me.”
“All credit to us. Junior [Hoilett] came on, looked positive and produced a great ball for Isaac [Vassell] to finish and it wasn’t just a scorer’s goal. With his first touch he ran 40-50 yards to close somebody down, then somebody else.
“There is something in Isaac, but he’s still got a lot to learn and a lot to prove. The same as young Gavin (Whyte). He did well for his first home game, while Robert [Glatzel] and Alex Smithies played well, too. A pleasing day.
“Aden [Flint] has got the knowhow of a striker in the opposition box. He always seems to find the ball and you can’t really coach it – he goes into the right areas and it was nice for him to chip in like that.
“Callum Paterson hasn’t played in pre-season really, so all credit to him for getting through the 90 minutes.
“There are massive pluses and the dressing room was buzzing after the final whistle.”
City were the better team, particularly in the first half, but were simply not ruthless enough when they had chances – and there were plenty of them.
Centre-back Aden Flint put Cardiff ahead after 52 minutes, while Luton equalised close too the end when Matty Pearson headed powerfully home from a Luke Berry corner.
There was some despondency at that stage, but substitute Vassell, sent on during injury time, popped up with a dramatic winner after 96 minutes.
Home supporters celebrated wildly – and noise levels must have been heard all over Wales.
Luton paid their first ever visit to Cardiff City Stadium and were given a rough ride by the rampant Bluebirds during the first half.
City were the better team and really should have been one or two goals ahead.
Josh Murphy was a revelation down the left during the first half, terrorising defenders with his pace and tricks before fading, while centre-forward Robert Glatzel impressed in the way he spearheaded the home attack.
In midfield new signing Marlon Pack directed operations, constantly urging on his team-mates and protecting Cardiff’s back four.
It was an effective, impressive first half performance by Cardiff, who had a series of shots blocked and scrambled clear as they opened up the Hatters time and again.
Sean Morrison was closest to a goal when he was picked out by a Joe Ralls free-kick and flicked his header towards the target. Goalkeeper Simon Sluga was at full stretch when. He turned the ball onto Luton’s bar.
More than 2,000 Luton fans were in Cardiff for the match, boosting the attendance to 24,500-plus, and their team went in relieved the match was still goalless.
Seven minutes into the second half that changed when Murphy lifted a free-kick into the penalty area and c centre-half Flint scored with a right-foot shot from close range.
James Collins went close with a snap shot from a quality passing move when Luton pressed forward, while Glatzel was desperately close to touching home from six yards following a Junior Hoilett cross.
Cardiff were nowhere near as fluid in the second half as they were in the first, but they kept things solid with Warnock sending on Junior Hoilett and Will Vaulks.
Cardiff City: Alex Smithies, Lee Peltier, Joe Bennett, Sean Morrison (capt), Aden Flint, Joe Ralls, Robert Glatzel (Isaac Vassell 90), Josh Murphy (Junior Hoilett 68), Callum Paterson, Marlon Pack, Gavin Whyte (Will Vaulks 76). Subs not used: Joe Day (gk), Leandro Bacuna, Curtis Nelson, Omar Bogle.
Luton Town: Simon Sluga, Martin Cranie (James Bree 74), Dan Potts, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Sonny Bradley (capt), Matty Pearson, Colin McManaman, Pelly-Rudock Mpanzu, James Collins, George Moncur (Harry Cornick 56), Jacob Butterfield (Luke Berry 84). Subs not used: James Shea, Elliott Lee, Andrew Shinnie, Brendan Galloway.
Referee: Darren Bond