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Cardiff City 3-1 Fulham Prem 29 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 10th March 2014, 6:58 PM

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Joe Lovejoy at The Guardian

Cardiff City (1) 3 Fulham (0) 1

Cardiff had gone 400 minutes without scoring but their captain, Steven Caulker, put an end to that barren sequence with goals in each half. Fulham were still in it after a close-range strike by Lewis Holtby, but an own goal from Sascha Riether killed them off.

The Welsh club's controversial owner, Vincent Tan, was in attendance but had no need to offer illegal inducements this week. The opposition were so poor that they could be on their fourth manager of the season if Felix Magath is judged on this palsied performance - his third game without a win. Tan, whose skin must be thicker than elephant hide, ventured on to the pitch to celebrate at the final whistle and was received like a pariah. The booing could have been heard back in Malaysia.

It was generally accepted that the losers here could kiss the Premier League goodbye and that a draw was no good to either, but for a long time they were both stultified by nerves, anxious to eliminate risks, and 0-0 seemed the likeliest result.

The opening half was tediously poor until Cardiff took the lead in the first minute of added time. Fulham, who had contributed next to nothing in constructive terms, lost their defensive discipline and failed to clear a corner. Collecting the loose ball on the left, Craig Noone crossed low and the ball evaded everybody in the middle, Maarten Stekelenburg included, to reach Caulker, who fired it in from close range.

Fulham deployed a new partnership up front, giving Konstantinos Mitroglou, their £12m Greek striker, his first start, alongside the 19-year-old Cauley Woodrow, who was making his debut. Mitroglou, recruited from Olympiakos in January, was a blunt instrument and young Woodrow utterly anonymous.

Magath said: "Mitroglou is a player who is not used to a relegation fight. He comes from the best club in his league and he is only used to scoring and winning. Now he is in the Premier League and he has to get used to it. He had some opportunities today but unfortunately he is not in the best shape to score."

Cardiff had used the wing-back formation at Tottenham the previous week but had lost again and now reverted to orthodox 4-4-2, restoring Kenwyne Jones as the focal point of their attack, with Fraizer Campbell, and leaving Craig Bellamy and Wilfried Zaha on the bench. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team selection was vindicated by the result but yet again his strikers failed to score. Jones now has one goal in six appearances and again spurned good chances to improve his ratio.

Campbell was industry personified but has managed a modest five goals in 28 league appearances. The first half was littered with unforced errors and notable only for Caulker's strike.

Fulham drew level after 59 minutes, when a corner from the substitute Giorgos Karagounis was flicked on by Johnny Heitinga for Holtby to sidefoot in from three yards at the far post.

Cardiff, always the better team, hit back hard and were in front again midway through the second half when, from Mutch's corner, Caulker headed home his second at the far post. Solskjaer said of his centre-half, who was recalled by England in midweek: "If he plays like this defensively and chips in with the odd goal he's got to be in with a shout of going to the World Cup."

It was 3-1 and over as a contest when Craig Noone's cross enabled Campbell to get in a header which Stekelenburg blocked with his body, only for the ball to rebound against Riether, who was laying on the ground and inadvertently nudged the ball in.

Solskjaer said: "Its a big result for us and one that means a lot to everybody at the club. I'm very pleased with what we've done today and we'll sleep well tonight, then go again. This is not about one result but a two-month examination of our character. I think 37 points will be enough to stay up, that's the aim, although we might not need that many." Bluebirds followers will hope not. Cardiff have 25 now with nine games left and their next two are away to Everton and home to Liverpool. Their last match, if it goes to the wire, is at home to Chelsea.

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