Cardiff keep pace with leaders Wolves after win at Brentford
Cardiff City extended their lead over third-place Aston Villa with a 3-1 away win at Brentford on Tuesday night.
Brentford started the brightest and took a deserved lead through Neal Maupay before Neil Etheridge made two crucial saves for the visitors.
Sol Bamba and Callum Paterson gave Cardiff a half-time lead before Kenneth Zohore made it 3-1 on the hour.
Cardiff now sit seven points clear of third place Aston Villa with nine games remaining, Brentford stay 11th.
Brentford find themselves eight points off a play-off place with just nine games remaining as Dean Smith’s side looked destined for another season in the Championship.
Cardiff on the other hand have opened up the largest margin over third-place as they’ve had all season and with seven wins on the bounce, Neil Warnock’s side have thrown down the challenge to rivals Aston Villa and Fulham.
Game almost over before it had started
Brentford could have been ahead with less than 20 seconds played. Sergi Canos found Maupay, keen to make amends for his open-goal miss against Cardiff earlier in the season, but the Frenchman couldn’t find a way past Etheridge.
The Bluebirds failed to any foothold in the game for the first 20 minutes as they regularly lost the ball in and around their own 18-yard box.
Liverpool-loanee Marko Grujic lost the ball on the half-way line with just five minutes played and Maupay was on hand beat the offside trap before coolly slotting to ball home to give Brentford a deserved lead.
Maupay, Ollie Watkins, Canos and Yoann Barbet all had chances saved or blocked as Brentford’s onslaught continued but they failed to take their chances and Cardiff made them pay.
Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley expertly denied Junior Hoilett from close range but from the resulting corner he could not keep out Bamba’s turn and half-volley.
The Ivorian’s fourth goal of the season, and definitely his best, jump-started the Bluebirds as Neil Warnock’s side rallied.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was denied by Bentley when through on goal but it was Paterson who, on the stroke of half time, scored his third goal in as many games to spark wild celebrations amongst the Cardiff fans.
Brentford thought they had a penalty after a long free-kick appeared to strike to arm of Grujic in the area, but referee James Linington waved away protests.
The Bluebirds picked up where they left off after the restart and Zohore’s poachers finish with just under an hour played look to have put the game to bed.
The Danish striker almost had his second and Cardiff’s fourth minutes later but his downward header was blocked on the line.
Warnock’s side had a penalty shout of their own in the second half as an attempted clearance from the Brentford defence looked to have been blocked by Josh Clarke’s arm.
The home side rang the changes with 20 minutes to go as they pressed for a way back into the game but despite having the lion’s share of possession they couldn’t muster too many clear sights on goal.
John Egan had the best chance to half the deficit but his injury-time effort went high and wide of Etheridge’s goal.
Victory for Cardiff coupled with Aston Villa’s 3-1 home defeat against Queens Park Rangers leaves Cardiff seven points clear of third place with nine games remaining.