Craig Bellamy Runs Blackburn Ragged in Pursuit of His Cardiff Dream

Craig Bellamy

Craig Bellamy helped push his Cardiff promotion dream closer to reality with one of the goals that extended their advantage at the top of the Championship to four points.

Bellamy restored the visitors' lead over his former club early in the second half to enhance prospects of promotion to the Premier League. In addition to their lead over second-placed Crystal Palace, they have an eight-point cushion in the automatic promotion equation.

"That would definitely be the biggest achievement of all for me – that's why I came here," Bellamy said. "If I could finish my career off by helping Cardiff into the Premier League it would be a dream come true for me. This is the most hard-working and honest group of players I've ever worked with. We just wear teams down with our work rate. It's a true honour to play with these boys."

Bellamy, who opted to drop down a division after winning the League Cup with Liverpool last season, ran the Blackburn defence ragged at times in front of 12,860, the lowest league crowd at Ewood Park since 1993. The 600 who journeyed from south Wales were richly rewarded for their efforts in increasingly promising times for the club.

Since their controversial summer switch to red shirts, Malky Mackay's team have gone from strength to strength – indeed their only win in traditional blue came last week – quelling any supporter unrest. Nothing halts a mutiny like success.

In contrast Blackburn, the latest club to taste defeat at their hands, spent most of 2012 besieged by vitriolic calls for their former manager Steve Kean's head. One win in eight games under the new manager, Henning Berg, suggests Rovers supporters ought to have been careful what they wished for. Their decline since relegation last May is showing the potential to get a whole lot worse.

Indeed negative vibes were already tangible when Craig Noone retrieved a partially cleared free-kick and slung it back into the area for the Cardiff captain, Mark Hudson, to head his team powerfully into a 30th-minute lead. Further groans greeted the breakaway that saw Bellamy, once of Blackburn himself, gallop clear of Scott Dann a minute before the interval and rattle the underside of the crossbar with a fierce left-footed drive.

Boos greeted the departure of the players at the interval but the mood was temporarily altered shortly after the break following a proactive substitution from Berg. Off came the ineffective Markus Olsson, on came Colin Kazim-Richards and within six minutes Blackburn were level.

The Turkey international Kazim-Richards won a tussle for possession just inside Cardiff territory and threaded a pass through to the on-loan Manchester United forward Joshua King, who outpaced his opponents to slip the ball between the onrushing David Marshall's legs.

Blackburn were level for less than five minutes, however, as Kazim-Richards claimed a rather unwanted second assist from another skirmish: his challenge inadvertently deflected the ball on to Bellamy's head and a cute headed one-two with Heidar Helguson fashioned the chance for him to lash Cardiff back in front with a left-footed drive.

Once again Berg's team shook off their lethargy to threaten an equaliser and they should have managed it in the 64th minute. Dickson Etuhu's speculative volley wrong-footed Marshall after taking a nick off a red-shirted body and his reaction save presented Rhodes with the chance to tee up Formica six yards out but the Argentinian's shot clipped the top of the goal frame when it appeared easier to score.

There was a hefty price to be paid for such profligacy, as Cardiff put a flattering gloss on the scoreline courtesy of goals from two substitutes, Joe Mason and Kim Bo-kyung, in the final six minutes. Both gave Paul Robinson little chance with guided efforts into the corners.

It left Berg to concede that the superior side had triumphed. "It's way off from where we want to be, we can play a lot better than that," he said. "The target is still promotion, of course, but we are now in a bit more difficult position than we would have liked."

Powered by article was written by Richard Gibson at Ewood Park, for The Guardian on Friday 7th December 2012 23.36 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © joncandy

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