Cardiff City, the Bluebirds, who’s home shirt is now ironically red took on the Toffees, Everton at the Cardiff City Stadium; Cardiff, on the back of their first win in the Premier League against Premier League runners-up Manchester City were sure to be brimming with confidence after also overcoming any potential banana skin slip up against Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup. Everton, on the other hand have had a distinctly slow start to their campaign, drawing their first two games against Norwich and West Brom and struggling to convincingly beat Stevenage Town mid-week, taking them to extra-time before winning 2-1. Both sides were unchanged from last weekend’s fixtures.
The game started-off slowly, chances were few and far between and the opening stages eventually spiced up within 10 minutes, Craig Bellamy looked to have deliberately elbowed Leighton Baines in the face and the former Liverpool player was very lucky that referee Anthony Taylor didn’t dip into his pocket for a card on this occasion. Peter Whittingham shortly after drew a scare for Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard from a corner that was curled in with a lot of purpose, heading for goal making Howard punch the ball as far as Sylvain Distin who cleared the ball urgently, only for it to reach Kim Bo-Kyung but his shot was blazed over.
Flamboyant forward Kevin Mirallas had two really good headed chances from a Baines free-kick delivery and Nikica Jelavic cross respectively, only to not get his connection right on both chances.
Questions were then raised over referee Anthony Taylor when Ross Barkley’s challenge on Kim received a yellow-card, especially for what seemed a fair challenge on the South Korean. Further controversy ensued and eyebrows were once again raised at Mr. Taylor as he didn’t award a penalty after Cardiff’s record summer signing Gary Medel slid in on Leighton Baines in the penalty area and looked to get nothing of the ball. Medel then gestured Baines should have been booked for simulation, it was bizarre from the Chilean for what looked like a dead-cert penalty.
The best chance of the half then fell to Jelavic after full-back Seamus Coleman crossed in for the Croatian international, his tame header came off the head of Cardiff centre-half Ben Turner, it looked goal bound but goalkeeper Ben Marshall made a magnificent reaction save to keep the teams level before the break.
The second-half started off a well contested affair, Everton kept possession well while Cardiff offered purpose going forward through Kim but it was the other Cardiff winger Bellamy who managed to spur the first chance of the half 15 minutes in, he rounded Howard after getting through but his touch let him down and the opportunity got away from him.
Up the other end of the field, although Everton had much of the game there wasn’t really anything of particular note in terms of clear chances apart from a Leighton Baines right-footed effort going marginally wide after Marouane Fellaini laid the ball into him. Kim, like Bellamy elbowed Steven Pienaar later in the second-half too but again his conduct went unpunished. Nikica Jelavic in particular was very poor for Everton alongside Kevin Mirallas, it resulted in both players being substituted for Arouna Kone and Gerard Deulofeu respectively, the latter looked the most effective of the two subs as he fizzed a cross across the face of goal right at the death, however no-one seemed to be acting on instinct for Everton today and the scoreline ended 0-0.
Cardiff showed themselves as no slouches in this game, Gary Medel’s tenacity in midfield was a highlight, you can see exactly why the ‘El Pitbull’ nickname was attached to him during his tenure in Spain with Sevilla, tough in the tackle and orchestrates play very well when he picks the ball up in positions just in-front of the defence. Kim was also impressive, his dribbling caused problems for Everton and he managed to create space for his team-mates with his intelligent running on and off the ball, if Cardiff are to stay in the Premier League, I believe Kim and Medel will be key pieces of the puzzle this season for them.
Everton, on the other hand have started in a mixed-fashion. Manager Roberto Martinez’s system is in full flow, the tempo is slow and attacks are patient, which is all well and good but passing around the box persistently isn’t bringing enough chances for Martinez’s men, although the Toffees still remain unbeaten. Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas isn’t performing as he did last season so far, he likes to take more risks and run at his man as much as he can as demonstrated by his wonder goal against Stoke City last season but I feel today showed he is trying to adapt his game to Martinez’s tika-taka philosophy and isn’t acting on his instincts to beat defenders.
Nikica Jelavic is also out of sorts compared to that striker they signed from Rangers initially, his form is poor and he isn’t holding up the ball well enough as a lone front-man, Arouna Kone could come in and do a job in that respect but most importantly Everton are certainly missing a clinical finisher and if Jelavic doesn’t rekindle his form then it could be a long, frustrating season for the blues. Ross Barkley on the other hand is looking a fantastic prospect, his willingness to receive the ball at every opportunity, his creativity and ability to stride past his man with pace and power is extremely good for his age, providing he avoids any injuries, this season will be a big-one for him following his international call-up for England’s first team.