Fulham 2-2 Cardiff Cham 04 1617 - Wales on Line

last updated Monday 22nd August 2016, 11:43 AM


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Phil Smith at Wales on Line


Fulham (1) 2-2 (0) Cardiff


There was a marked difference in Cardiff City’s approach in the second half at Craven Cottage, immediately pushing Fulham onto the back foot after an opening period that had been far too easy for the hosts.

Paul Trollope said there had been a frank discussion in the dressing room at half-time and that they were so quickly able to make some positive changes as a group is an encouraging sign for the rest of the campaign.

Of course, they can’t expect to score two magnificent goals from outside the box every week, but there was far more to their comeback than that and there are some elements to build on.

Fulham have made an excellent start to the season and to come away with a point was a more than decent result.

So what changed in the second half and what will the Bluebirds be looking to emulate in the coming games? We took a closer look...

You might argue that two OG’s and two spectacular strikes, the backbone of Cardiff’s four point haul over the last week, can hardly be relied on to bring positive results regularly over the course of a season.

The positive to take from yesterday, though, was that the Bluebirds got themselves into positions where the midfielders could let fly so often. After failing to get a shot on target in the first half, they managed three in the second period and eight efforts in total.

Two of those came from Peter Whittingham, one from Kadeem and Harris and four from Joe Ralls. They weren’t all speculative efforts from distance either, with Ralls going close with half-volleys from inside the box on a couple of occasions.

The significantly increased attacking threat came mainly from Lex Immers pushing up to play as an out and out second striker. Aron Gunnarsson and Ralls then filled in the space behind him. When Cardiff’s wide players picked up the ball, they often had four Bluebirds on the shoulder of the Fulham’s defence to aim for with crosses and through balls. Regularly in the first half they had only Anthony Pilkington to hit.

It’s that quite of intent that pushes your opponent backwards and can help to build some genuine pressure. Inevitably, gaps then open up between their midfield and defence, allowing Cardiff’s midfield to be more fluid and preventing those kind of safe passes that always seem to be going backwards.

Going forward, Cardiff could still do with one or two of their midfielders running beyond the striker off the ball. That would give Peter Whittingham and the centre-backs another out ball when they are in possession and would just help to make the Bluebirds that little less predictable.

So while those two superb goals were unexpected, they weren’t flukes. It was a reward for a number of players taking more risks and particularly at home, that’s something to be encouraged going forwards.

Fulham finished the game with 62% possession, which shows that Cardiff didn’t see that much more of the ball in the second half than they did in the first.

The key difference was that when they did get the ball they invariably got it in better, more dangerous areas, where they could make the transition to attack much more swiftly.

That came from a much higher pressing game, led by Ralls and Gunnarsson in midfield. Rather than sitting deep and let Fulham’s midfield rotate comfortably, they targeted Fulham’s defence and put pressure on them as soon as they picked up the ball. That caused a lot more unforced errors from the hosts and turned the mood inside Craven Cottage.

It also made a big difference to the back three. Sean Morrison and Lee Peltier in particular are brilliant in one-on-one situations and in the second half they seemed to enjoy being able to get out and engage the opposition.

The move that led to Anthony Pilkington’s glorious strike was started by Peltier moving up the pitch and making a brilliant tackle just inside his own half. Gunnarsson was then in acres of space to start the counter-attack. There haven’t been many of those this season and it’s another area to build on.

It was fascinating to watch Declan John on the same pitch as the player who took his place for so much of last season, Scott Malone.

Both ended the game having made five crosses, though Malone was substituted in the second half. The former Bluebird had certainly looked the more enterprising in the first half, even if the end product was poor.

It was noticeable that John’s starting position in the second period was so much higher up the field than it previously had been. Trollope seemed to have made a conscious effort to ensure that his defence didn’t end up as a flat back five, and the left-back spent most of his time off the ball around the half-way line.

That meant that any Cardiff player in possession always had the chance to switch the play with a diagonal pass, a really useful way of relieving the pressure when you are in a tight space.

John grew in confidence as the half progressed and ended it one of the game’s liveliest players. Kadeem Harris’ impact was major, but it’s also worth pointing out that Fulham found it quite easy to get to the byline in the final 15 minutes. It’s all about striking the right balance with the wing-backs.

In the opening two minutes of the game, Cardiff managed to manufacture a couple of long-throw opportunities for Aron Gunnarsson. Unfortunately, the stand and the pitch on that side of the ground is only a matter of metres and is separated by a small bank.

Aron Gunnarsson on the attack for CardiffAron Gunnarsson on the attack for Cardiff With swirling wind also a problem, Gunnarsson wasn’t able to generate any momentum and his efforts were easily cleared at the front post.

On the other side, however, the gap is much greater and so Gunnarsson was able to throw deep into the box. Fulham weren’t able to clear so easily and so the ball broke to Joe Ralls to lash home the equaliser on his weaker foot.

Sometimes, it’s the smallest, strangest things that can make a























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