Cardiff City sealed a smash and grab 1-0 victory against Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday, as the Bluebirds breathed new life into their battle against relegation.
The pivotal moment came midway through the second half, as Cardiff’s Juan Cala was composed on the edge of the box and finished superbly to stun Saints after the home side had dominated vast swathes of the match.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were slack in front of goal and the closest they came to scoring was in the first half when Gaston Ramirez’s deflected effort cannoned off the bar and out.
With the win, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer side are now just three points from safety with four games to go. As for Saints, they stay in eighth spot after a disappointing home defeat.
It was a tentative start to proceedings down in the sun on the South Coast, as both sides kept the ball well early on.
Rickie Lambert came close for Saints after 20 minutes, as a left-wing cross found the England international at the back post but he couldn’t keep his header down. Cardiff caused Saints few problems in the opening 45 minutes but Pochettino’s team lacked pace in the final third after Jay Rodriguez’s season-ending injury seems to have disrupted their offensive fluidity. The Bluebirds finally mustered a chance after 20 minutes, as a move down the left saw Fraizer Campbell head wide of the far post.
Saints almost took the lead midway through the first half as Gaston Ramirez saw his deflected shot hit the crossbar and out, then Rickie Lambert’s free kick was punched away by David Marshall as Southampton pushed hard. Cardiff continued to frustrate the hosts as the sides went in level at the break despite Saints’ dominance.
Following the interval the same pattern ensued but the South Coast club were struggling to create chances against a stubborn South Wales side. Luke Shaw surged forward on several occasions from left back but he sent a wayward shot wide as Saints snatched at any chance which fell their way.
Southampton stepped it up a notch after the hour mark as Lambert again headed over, after Schneiderlin and Ramirez both had shots deflected. After absorbing all of that pressure, Cardiff hit Saints with a hammer blow as Cala controlled the ball and then smashed home to give the away side a shock 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.
The home side pushed to grab an equalizer late on, with substitute Sam Gallagher going clean through in the last 15 minutes but Cardiff’s Marshall came up with a big save when left one-on-one.
Cardiff held on and almost added a late second from substitute Wilfried Zaha, as they stunned Saints to give their battle against the drop a timely boost.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers (Clyne, 67′), Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Cork (Do Prado, 79′), Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ramírez (Gallagher, 66′), Lallana, Lambert
Cardiff City: Marshall, Caulker, Whittingham, Medel (Zaha, 61′), Campbell, Kim, Mutch, Cala, Théophile-Catherine, Dæhli (Bellamy, 87′), Fabio (McNaughton, 78′)
Goal: Cala (65′)