The young Bluebirds suffered a first defeat in five Professional Development under-23 League fixtures when they were beaten 3-1 by a strong Crewe Alexandra side.
All three Alex goals at Cardiff International Sports Campus were scored within the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Coach Jarred Harvey made five changes to the starting line-up for Cardiff’s 1-0 win against Hull City 1-0 last time out. First team defender Matthew Connolly was joined by Kieron Evans, Isaak Davies, Ryan Kavanagh and Rubin Colwill in the starting XI.
Senior midfield player Stuart O’Keefe continued his regular run of appearances as an over-age player at under-23 level.
O’Keefe scored Cardiff’s goal from a penalty after 27 minutes, while the home team had Laurence Wotton sent off after 75 minutes.
The Bluebirds began brightly and almost took the lead inside the first 60 seconds.
Joel Bagan surged forward before seeing his curled left-footed drive from 25 yards fly narrowly wide of the far right post.
Crewe took the lead with their first effort on goal. The experienced Alex Nicholls fired low into the bottom left corner from 10 yards after five minutes.
They added a second with 10 minutes gone when striker Connor Heath tapped home from a rebound to double the lead before striking from range to make it 3-0.
That scoreline did not reflect a hard fought, evenly-contested match and O’Keefe scored for Cardiff after Kieron Evans was brought down inside the penalty area. He fired into the top left corner.
Heath almost completed his hat-trick before half-time, but was denied by Bluebirds goalkeeper Warren Burwood’s outstanding save.
The Bluebirds dominated possession in the second half and almost pulled another goal back shortly after the hour mark. An O’Keefe shot was blocked and substitute Siyabonga Ligendza saw his curled attempt deflect wide from close range.
Siyabonga Ligendza also forced Crewe’s Will Jaaskelainen into a fine save in the last minute.
Wootton was sent off after being booked for a second time and Crewe held on to take all three points.
Harvey’s team will look to bounce back when they face Watford at Maurice Rebak Stadium their next under-23 encounter on Friday, March 29 (3pm).
Cardiff City: Warren Burwood, Ryan Pryce, Laurence Wootton, Matt Connolly (Siyabonga Ligendza 45), Ben Margetson, Joel Bagan, Kieron Evans, Stuart O’Keefe, Isaak Davies (Owen Pritchard 46), Ryan Kavanagh, Rubin Colwill (King 58). Subs not used: Jordan Duffey (gk), Eli King, Henry Smith.
Crewe Alexandra: Jaaskelainen, Johnson, Offord, Griffiths, Sass-Davies, Lundstram (Fenton 89), Nicholls, Lynch, Heath (Linton 70), Lowery (Adebisi 79), Dale. Sub not used: Booth.