Blackpool 0-2 Cardiff City: Seasiders fall to defeat on their first home league game of the Championship season
Blackpool fell to a defeat to Cardiff City in their opening home league game of the Championship season.
Second-half goals from Leandro Bacuna and substitute Kieffer Moore sent the three points to South Wales.
While there was no shortage of effort or endeavour from Neil Critchley’s men, they were deservedly beaten by a Mick McCarthy side that has their eyes set on promotion to the Premier League this coming campaign.
The Seasiders were under the cosh for the whole of the first-half and were fortunate to remain level heading into the break.
While the men in tangerine improved in the second 45 minutes, they were powerless to stop Bacuna heading the Bluebirds in front from a long throw, something Pool struggled to deal with all afternoon.
Pool threw men forward in the dying stages looking for a late equaliser - and they had their chances too - but Moore came off the bench to head home Cardiff’s second and decisive goal.
Blackpool - hosting Championship football for the first time in six yars - know they must improve and they have another chance to do exactly that on Tuesday when they host Coventry City.
After making wholesale changes in midweek during the convincing Carabao Cup win against Middlesbrough, Neil Critchley reverted back to the side that started the league campaign at Bristol City last weekend - with one change.
Kenny Dougall was the man to come into the side in place of Reece James, who dropped down to the bench.
It comes after the Aussie made a successful return from injury in midweek, getting 45 vital minutes under his belt.
Elsewhere, Josh Bowler and Shayne Lavery were surprisingly left out and named among the substitutes despite their eye-catching displays in the cup.
Instead, CJ Hamilton and Tyreece John-Jules kept their place in the starting XI, the latter playing alongside Jerry Yates in attack.
Daniel Gretarsson is now back from his shoulder injury, but the defender was still left out as he builds up his fitness.
Matty Virtue (ACL), Kevin Stewart (ankle), Demetri Mitchell (knee) and Gary Madine (groin) remain sidelined, while Teddy Howe, Oliver Sarkic, Bez Lubala and Joe Nuttall continue to be overlooked.
As for the visitors, Mick McCarthy opted to make just one change to the Cardiff side that drew 1-1 against Barnsley last weekend.
Bloomfield Road, packed to the rafters for the first time in years, was absolutely rocking before kick-off.
Despite the spine-tingling atmosphere in Pool’s first home league encounter of the season, the game got off to a fairly muted start, with both sides feeling each other out.
The away side were the first to threaten, Aden Flint heading weakly at Chris Maxwell from Sean Morrison’s long throw.
The Bluebirds looked odds-on to score three minutes later when Ryan Giles broke clear on goal.
But Maxwell stood tall to make a superb save down to his left, which earned a huge roar from the North Stand behind him.
The Seasiders continued to live dangerously early on as Cardiff continued to pose a huge threat from balls into the Pool box.
The hosts failed to deal their lines with one particular delivery, the bouncing ball falling kindly for Flint whose acrobatic volley hit the crossbar.
The Seasiders slowly but surely grew into the game, Luke Garbutt having a 30-yard free-kick blocked by the wall after the North Stand had chanted “there’s only one Charlie Adam”, referencing that famous Wembley moment in 2010.
A few moments later, Jerry Yates headed narrowly wide of the back post after Tyreece John-Jules had shown some neat footwork to escape a couple of challenges, before lofting a cross to his strike partner.
There was a real contrast in styles on show, the Seasiders looking to get the ball down and play, while their imposing opponents were utterly dominant in the aerial battle.
It was balls in from wide positions in particular that were threatening the home side, James Collins the next Cardiff man to go close with a weak header at the back post after Leandro Bacuna’s shot had taken a deflection and ballooned up to the back post.
Maxwell had to remain alert on the half-hour mark to tip Giles’ inviting cross around the post, after the winger’s delivery had beaten everyone in the centre.
Keshi Anderson wasted a rare promising position for the Seasiders, producing an overhit pass for John-Jules when CJ Hamilton to his right appeared to be the better option.
The Cardiff players (and fans!) were up in arms a moment later when Leandro Bacuna was bizarrely flagged offside when the ball had clearly come off a Blackpool player.
Nevertheless, Maxwell had smothered the forward’s shot regardless after the Bluebird player had surged through on goal.
It remained one-way traffic, but the Blackpool goal continued to live a charmed life.
Collins somehow managed to turn the ball over the crossbar from virtually on the goalline after Flint had headed Giles’ free-kick back towards the danger zone.
Having survived the first-half pressure, Critchley’s men really ought to have taken the lead shortly before half-time.
Jerry Yates fired across the face of goal and narrowly wide after being picked out by Anderson, who was off-balance and did well to stay on his feet.
Blackpool clearly hadn’t learned their lesson from the first-half, as they continued to concede cheap free-kicks and long throws.
It was via the latter route which brought about the breakthrough, which - it has to be said - was deserved and long overdue.
Pack’s catapult into the Blackpool box was flicked on by Morrison, giving Bacuna the simple task of nodding home into an empty net at the back post.
The Seasiders, to their credit, rallied after their setback, roared on by the boisterous North Stand.
Grant Ward clipped a clever ball beyond the Cardiff backline which Yates did well to reach, but Dillon Phillips raced out of his goal to smother and claim.
Critchley changed things up just after the hour-mark, replacing the quiet Hamilton with Wednesday night’s impressive performer Josh Bowler.
Within 20 seconds of coming on, the former Everton man won the Seasiders a corner and got the North Stand roaring once again.
Bowler skewed wide after cutting in from the right a few moments later as the Seasiders enjoyed their first spell of pressure of the match.
The visitors remained a threat from set-pieces though, the unmarked Morrison heading straight at Maxwell from another Giles corner.
Pool thought they had drawn level with 20 minutes left on the clock when Ward unleashed an absolute rocket from 30 yards - but Phillips somehow managed to tip his effort over the bar.
With Pool committing more men forward, that opened up gaps for Cardiff to take advantage of.
That’s what they almost did on 73 minutes, Collins springing the offside trap only to shoot weakly at Maxwell.
With the momentum swinging in their favour, Pool gave themselves a further boost off the bench in the form of Shayne Lavery, who has two goals to his name from his first two games.
The tenacious Northern Irishman broke clear of his man down the left, but the striker was cynically brought down by Joel Bagan - who picked up a booking - knowing they were men over down the right.
The harsh realities of playing in the Championship became even clearer late on when Pool were punished in the cruelest fashion.
Critchley’s side thought they had a strong shout for a penalty in the 85th minute when Callum Connolly’s powerful shot thundered into the arm of a Cardiff defender.
The referee ignored those appeals and Cardiff broke immediately, doubling their lead in emphatic fashion through substitute Kieffer Moore.
It was a clinical move and finish from the Welsh side, Moore heading home from Giles’ cross after a flowing counter-attack.
While the game was as good as over, Pool continued to pile forward searching for an unlikely comeback, James Husband heading into the side-netting from Luke Garbutt’s corner.
Kenny Dougall skewed wide in the 94th minute, but that proved to be the final kick of the game as the referee called time on a difficult afternoon for the Seasiders.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Connolly, Keogh, Husband, Garbutt, Dougall, Ward, Hamilton (Bowler), Anderson, John-Jules (Lavery), Yates
Subs not used: Grimshaw, Casey, Ekpiteta, James, Carey
Cardiff: Phillips, Ng, Flint, Morrison, Nelson, Bagan, Pack, Ralls (Vaulks), Giles, Bacuna, Collins (Moore)
Subs not used: Smithies, Sang, Watkins, Murphy, Colwill
Referee: Andy Woolmer
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