Cardiff City 3 Aston Villa 0 - Report
Villa crashed to their heaviest defeat under Steve Bruce as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s double fired Cardiff to a convincing win.
The former Wolves youth teamer headed the hosts in front after Scott Hogan had gone close to opening the scoring for Villa.
James Chester almost levelled for the visitors after the break with a header which hit the bar.
But the Bluebirds always looked the more dangerous and cruised to victory as Junior Hoilett struck on the hour mark, before Mendez-Laing completed his brace to hand Villa a chastening defeat.
The hosts margin of victory would have been considerably greater had it not been for the brilliance of Villa keeper Sam Johnstone, who made countless saves, denying the excellent Kenneth Zohore on no fewer than three occasions.
For Steve Bruce, this was a sobering afternoon. The Villa boss spent his summer aiming to add the mental strength which would make his team a more resolute unit on the road.
On this evidence, there remains much work to be done, as Villa were carved open time and again by the energetic hosts.
Having given his fringe players a run out in Wednesday’s 2-1 League Cup win at Colchester, Bruce reverted to a line-up more similar to the one which opened the season against Hull.
There was just one change from that team, with Spurs loanee Joshua Onomah coming in for Leandro Bacuna, who is on the verge of joining Reading.
Cardiff’s team included former Villa left-back Joe Bennett, along with ex-Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge between the sticks.
The latter was needed inside the opening four minutes to prevent Villa grabbing an early lead.
Hogan took advantage of indecision in the home defence to power past Sol Bamba and into the box. There was just Etheridge to beat but the keeper proved equal to the shot, the loose ball eventually being hacked clear.
Moments later Villa keeper Johnstone was looking less assured when he allowed Hoilett’s long range effort to slip through his hands. For a moment it looked as though the ball would drop over the line but Johnstone, displaying impressive reflexes, was able to leap back and pluck it out of the air.
The keeper was more decisive on the 15 minute mark when he denied Zohore with his legs, after a misplaced Glenn Whelan pass had left the Cardiff talisman in a foot race with Alan Hutton.
Villa were starting to live dangerously at the back and Hutton was looking particularly shaky. A swift turn by Hoilett left the Scottish right-back on the floor, though the subsequent cross was missed by in the box,
Moments later Villa were not so lucky. Hutton’s miscued clearance began a sequence of events which ended with Mendez-Laing rising above Neil Taylor at the far post to head home the opener.
Villa’s afternoon took another turn for the worst when Ahmed Elmohamady was forced off with a head injury after bravely challenging Etheridge for a Taylor cross.
The chances kept coming and Cardiff almost increased their lead when Zohore escaped James Chester but was again denied by the legs of Johnstone, with Taylor sliding in to block Loic Damour’s follow-up.
Johnstone then pulled off two big saves at the start of the second half to keep Villa in the contest.
First he denied Hoilett after Villa susceptibility to the counter-attack had allowed the Cardiff forward striker to streak clear.
Moments later Zohore wriggled away from Chester only for Johnstone to again keep his effort out one-on-one.
Villa should really have made the hosts pay soon after when Chester met Lansbury’s corner six yards out. But his header into the ground bounced up and struck the bar before being cleared.
Instead it was Villa who would regret that miss as Cardiff doubled their lead on the hour mark. Hoilett was the scorer, yet it owed everything to the brilliant Zohore, who beat Chester in the box before crossing for his team-mate to nod home.
Agbonlahor saw a shot deflected over the bar as Villa looked for an kind of foothold in the game.
Yet it was Cardiff who continually looked like adding to their lead and after Johnstone had again saved from Mendez-Laing and Hoilett, the former made the game safe when he curled home after a swift counter attack.
Johnstone’s work was still not done as he again denied Hoilett as Villa’s afternoon threatened to end in embarrassment.
4 - Scott Hogan takes advantage of indecision at the back by Cardiff to advance into the box. His effort is saved by Bluebirds keeper Neil Etheridge.
5 - Sam Johnstone recovers his own error to prevent an opener for the hosts. The Villa keeper at first fails to hold Junior Hoilett’s shot but then pounces on the loose ball as it is about to cross the line.
15 - Johnstone saves with his legs from Kenneth Zohore after the Cardiff striker streaks past Hutton and into the box.
21 - GOAL Nathaniel Mendez-Laing rises to head home Junior Hoilett’s cross and put the hosts ahead.
34 - Almost two for the hosts as Zohore gets away from Chester, Johnstone saves his shot and Taylor blocks Damour’s rebound.
49 - Sam Johnstone keeps Villa in the game with two saves in quick succession, denying both Hoilett and Zohore.
50 - Villa should level but James Chester can’t convert from close range, his header from Henri Lansbury’s corner hitting the bar.
60 - GOAL Hoilett doubles Cardiff’s lead but the goal owes everything to Zohore, who glides past Chester and crosses for his team-mate to nod home unmarked.
70 - GOAL Game over as Mendez-Laing makes it three, curling home following a swift counter-attack.
Cardiff (4-3-3): Etheridge, Peltier, Bamba, Morrison ©, Bennett (Richards 63), Gunnarsson, Damour, Ralls, Mendez-Laing (Ward 86), Hoilett, Zohore (Kennedy 90) Subs not used: Ecuele Manga, Tomlin, Halford, Murphy (gk).
Villa (4-5-1): Johnstone, Hutton, Chester, Terry (c), Taylor, Elmohamady (Adomah 31), Lansbury (O’Hare 58), Whelan, Onomah (Hourihane 79), Agbonlahor, Hogan Subs not used: Samba, Bree, Bjarnason, Steer (gk).