Cardiff City 0:1 Leicester City
On an afternoon of raw emotion a Demarai Gray goal edged City to victory at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday…
Just one week after the tragic accident at the King Power Stadium that claimed the lives of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Nusara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, Eric Swaffer and Izabela Roza Lechowicz, Claude Puel’s side took to the field again.
Cardiff were hugely considerate hosts, and the home fans passed round their own tribute flag to match the one in the away corner, before an impeccably observed minute’s silence.
Puel made five changes to his starting XI with Morgan, Vardy, Ricardo, Mendy and Gray all returning to the side.
With many of the players visibly moved during the pre-match tributes the game got off to an understandably tentative start, but with both sides desperate for a win for very different reasons a competitive game soon began to unfold.
City’s first decent move came in the 21st minute when Abrighton’s fine first touch saw him feed Ricardo down the right. Although he beat his man a cut-back into the area went behind the in-rushing Vardy.
A minute later Maguire’s challenge on Paterson, who was in on goal, led to the England man landing heavily on his right knee. Although he returned to the game after some treatment it was soon clear that he couldn’t carry on, and Maguire limped off looking disconsolate as Evans replaced him.
Soon after this Gray went down clutching his ankle, but play didn’t stop until Ndidi chose to give away a free-kick on the edge of City’s area so he could get treatment.
Gray was fit to proceed, and Camarasa thumped the crossbar with his 25 yard effort.
After this, the tide turned a little and City had a strong period up to the break.
Ndidi rose like a salmon to get a head to Maddison’s corner, but his contact was poor and the ball drifted wide.
Mendy then had a fierce shot blocked by Arter when it looked goalbound, before Bamba put in a fine challenge on Ndidi as he shaped to shoot inside the area.
In the final minute of the half Bamba was involved again in an incident that had the City players roaring for a penalty. Etheridge saved a Maddison shot and the ball fell for Vardy who jabbed the ball goalwards, but Bamba’s outstretched arm diverted it up onto the bar. Referee Lee Probert turned the appeals down and Bamba breathed a sigh of relief.
City continued their good spell into the second half. Maddison sent a shot high and wide and then delivered a corner which Evans nodded down to Gray but his attempted flick was blocked by Gunnarsson.
Cardiff then broke upfield and Murphy cut in from the left, but Schmeichel got down well to his near post effort.
City took the lead in the 55th minute, a fine cross was delivered by Chilwell from the left flank and Gray was in the right place to send a measured side-footed half-volley beyond the reach of Etheridge.
This sparked emotional scenes as all eleven City players raced to the away corner to share the celebrations with the travelling support. Gray removed his shirt to reveal a ‘For Khun Vichai’ message and Lee Probert looked suitably regretful when he had to show him a yellow card.
Five minutes later there was another outpouring of emotion in the away corner as the City fans sang ‘When You’re Smiling’ in the 60th minute, to mark Vichai’s age.
Cardiff went desperately in pursuit of a point, and Bamba prodded one effort wide, before attempted a spectacular overhead kick was also missed the target.
Puel responded with a substitution, bringing on Danny Simpson for his first appearance of the season, moving Ricardo forward and sending Albrighton to the left wing.
City went close to a second when a corner was nodded on by Ndidi, but Evans couldn’t quite connect with his head at full stretch.
City had some defending to do and Mendy blocked a Camarasa shot, before Paterson headed over from a corner.
With ten minutes remaining Iborra came on for Maddision and City managed to get their possession game together again.
In the 88th minute City broke upfield and Ndidi threaded a ball into Vardy’s well timed run behind the defence, but Etheridge managed to block his low shot.
City resolutely got through some Cardiff pressure during time-added-on before the referee’s whistle signalled three points for City, but more importantly, the win they wanted for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
The players and entire coaching staff went over to the Leicester corner to share a very special few moments to mark the end of a very difficult week, that had been handled superbly well by both club and fans.
The word ‘family’ has been much used this week and never did it seem more appropriate.
Although the club are still a long way away from ‘normality’ despite this return to action, the spirit shown this week bodes very well for the future.
Several players and staff went straight to Cardiff Airport after the game to travel to Thailand to attend the funeral. They will take our very best wishes with them.
Thank you Khun Vichai. R.I.P.
Cardiff: Etheridge, Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett, Camarasa, Gunnarsson,
Arter (Ward 79), Murphy (Madine 85), Reid (Hoilett 65), Paterson.
Substitutes: Smithies, Cunningham, Damour, Harris.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Morgan, Maguire (Evans 27), Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Albrighton, Maddison (Iborra 82), Gray (Simpson 70), Vardy.
Substitutes: Iheanacho, Ward, Diabaté, Fuchs.
Referee: Lee Probert. Attendance: 30,877.
The next issue of The Fox will be dedicated to the memory of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the other victims of last Saturday’s horrific accident.
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