The Bluebirds made a perfect start when Junior Hoilett swept home a fine move after just four minutes thanks to some questionable Hammers defending. Cardiff City produced a big performance at the right time as they put pressure on their relegation rivals with a vital home victory over a lacklustre West Ham.
They doubled their advantage seven minutes after half time with Victor Camarasa bundling the ball home, and the Bluebirds might have added to that advantage in their most dominant home display of the season.
Declan Rice hit the post for the Hammers with 20 minutes remaining, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side never truly looked capable of mounting a comeback, even when Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge denied Marko Arnautovic.
For Cardiff, there was a sense that this represented a must-win occasion, with the Bluebirds’ form having turned dramatically recently at the worst possible time.
Wins over Bournemouth and Southampton had taken Cardiff clear of the relegation zone, but they came into this one on the back of three defeats in succession with an aggregate score of 10-1 and having lost their most important defender, Sol Bamba, to a season-ending knee injury.
The Bluebirds do not play for three weeks now and three of their next four matches are against sides in the top six, just adding to the feeling that they had to win this one.
And they made exactly the start they would have hoped for, taking the lead via a fine driving run from Camarasa following his long injury lay-off. His clever ball allowed Josh Murphy to cross and Hoilett was able to hook the ball home at the near post as West Ham’s defenders stood statuesque around him.
Manager Neil Warnock would scarcely have believed how comfortably his side were able to keep their advantage in a first period of very few chances. When West Ham did eventually fashion an opening, striker Javier Hernandez was booked for simulation after Bruno Manga’s challenge – a rather apt summary of a toothless first half display.
City started the second half strongly, with Harry Arter shooting wide, and it was no surprise that they doubled their lead on 52 minutes with the same three players involved again.
This time Hoilett and Murphy were the providers. Hoilett crossed, Murphy headed back across the goal and Camarasa was on hand to beat Lukasz Fabianski to the loose ball and bundle home.
Oumar Niasse could have killed the contest when Aron Gunnarsson robbed Manuel Lanzini to send him clean through, but he missed the target. Fabianski also denied Cardiff with a super double save from Niasse and Camarasa’s follow-up.
West Ham consistently inconsistent
The Hammers continue to be a hard team to predict, with their form fluctuating in an inconsistent campaign. Pellegrini’s side came into this one on the back of two wins from three and having been arguably unlucky in defeat at Manchester City. But before that, they had won only one in seven.
The Hammers’ recent problems have been on the road, where they have lost four of their last five, having failed to score in any of those defeats.
And it was 39 minutes until the Hammers managed a shot at the Cardiff City Stadium, with Mark Noble’s speculative 50-yard effort easy for Etheridge to collect. A better chance came the way of Robert Snodgrass on the stroke of half-time, but he fired over.
So toothless were the Hammers that it was no surprise to see top scorer Arnautovic introduced for the second half, as the Austrian has been involved in 10 goals in his last 11 league games against newly-promoted sides.
However, Cardiff were no less dominant after the break, with West Ham failing to test the Bluebirds’ defence until the 70th minute, when Rice’s 20-yard shot struck the base of the post.
Arnautovic shot firmly shortly afterwards but was denied by Etheridge as City held firm, with the Hammers’ spirited final 20 minutes a case of closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.
Man of the match – Victor Camarasa (Cardiff)
‘We raised our level’ – what they said
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock, speaking to BBC MOTD: “There were talks about a split camp, but we saw the team spirit today. It’s probably as good as we’ve played this season, against a good side. We played some good stuff today and [kept] an eighth clean sheet too.
“We had to stand up and be counted because nobody is going to help us. We were solid at the back and brilliant in midfield and we were a threat up front too.”
Cardiff midfielder Harry Arter: “We outworked them and we had a lot of quality on the ball. We raised our level of performance today. We put things right on the pitch after a hard week in training.
“Everything we’ve done this season has been fighting until the end, until the last three games. It’s always been a united dressing room. There’s been no rift in this squad.”
West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini: “It was a disappointing result and performance. We need to look at what we’re doing away – in our last four away games we haven’t scored a goal. Today it was a very disappointing performance.
“We need to improve – we need to see what we’re doing wrong away. It’s unacceptable to play four games away and not score one goal.”
West Ham’s away struggles continue – the stats
- Cardiff secured their first-ever win against West Ham in the Premier League after losing each of the previous three meetings by a two-goal margin.
- West Ham are without a win in six away Premier League games (D1 L5), after winning each of the three before that.
- West Ham have only won one of their last nine Premier League away games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone (D4 L4).
- Cardiff went in ahead at half-time for only the second time this season in the Premier League.
- Cardiff kept their eighth Premier League clean sheet of the season, more than Manchester United (7) and Arsenal (5) have managed.
- Junior Hoilett has netted 16 goals for Cardiff in all competitions since Neil Warnock took over in October 2016, a haul bettered only by Kenneth Zohore (22).
- Junior Hoilett’s opener for Cardiff was timed at 3 minutes and 37 seconds, the Bluebirds’ fastest league goal since February 2018, when Hoilett himself netted against Millwall (3:00).
The Bluebirds face a three-week break before they face Chelsea at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, 31 March (14:05 GMT). Meanwhile, West Ham are back in action next Saturday, 9 March, when they host Huddersfield (15:00 GMT).
Source: BBC News
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