Report: Cardiff City 1-1 Blues
Blues drew with Cardiff City in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday afternoon.
The final away outing of the 2021/22 season ended level despite a strong showing on the road from Lee Bowyer's team.
Jeremie Bela's 22nd-minute goal had set Birmingham City on course for victory in South Wales until a Will Vaulks penalty just eight minutes from the end of normal time saw the spoils shared.
The Head Coach named an unchanged starting XI and substitutes bench to the line-up that faced Millwall at St. Andrew's last Saturday.
Blues had the game’s first effort on target inside just three minutes in the Welsh capital. Juninho Bacuna displayed some fine footwork to evade two challenges before a neat exchange with Lyle Taylor created a chance to shoot and he kept Dillon Phillips honest with a left-footed shot.
At the other end, Cardiff’s best play was coming through the good work of Manchester City loanee Tommy Doyle, who saw a low centre well put behind by a sliding Marc Roberts. A chance did present itself to Mark Harris from the resulting corner, but he was wayward when striking the ball on the turn.
More Bacuna creativity gave Hernandez an opportunity from which he tested Phillips and soon after, Gary Gardner curled off-target from outside the area after a quarter of an hour.
Openings were continuing to present themselves for each team and Perry NG tried his luck from range, but it would be Blues who took the lead.
Bacuna, who had starred from the off, produced a wonderful take inside his own half and split the Bluebirds' defence to release Jeremie Bela beyond a high defensive line. The Angolan raced clear, shifted onto his left and gently engineered the ball low into the corner.
Cardiff looked to react and both NG and Cody Drameh stung the palms of Neil Etheridge, ahead of more work for his opposite number as Onel Hernandez twice tried his luck.
HALF-TIME: Cardiff City 0-1 Blues
Blues started the second-half as they had played most of the opening 45 - on the front foot. Gardner misguided a header past the post just moments after the interval and Hernandez produced a fine break forward, only to be crudely scythed down by McGuiness who went into the book.
The Skipper then headed wide from a set-piece before the hosts thought they had equalised. Jordan Hugill found the net from close range but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.
Steve Morison's men were showing their frustration and after Harris had a weak penalty appeal rightly dismissed, teammate Drameh made his feelings clear to referee John Busby to earn himself a caution.
This sense of injustice livened the Bluebirds and Hugill seemed set to level from a far-post cross. That was until Nico Gordon superbly made up the yards to hook the ball away from the lurking frontman.
Bowyer's team then had a chance to extend their lead inside the final 20 minutes. Hernandez motored clear of Ollie Denham and worked the ball back to the arriving James who went for a controlled technique, watching as the ball rolled agonisingly away from the target.
And this would prove costly as Cardiff were awarded their first penalty of the season when Etheridge collided with the recently introduced Max Watters. Fellow substitute Vaulks took the responsibility from 12 yards and scored emphatically to deny Blues and over 2,000 travelling Bluenoses the win.
Bela's well-taken opener gave Blues a well-deserved lead as well as real confidence in the final third and although it did not prove to be the winner, it was ultimately what earned the point.
A point in the Welsh capital takes Blues onto a total of 47 from their 45 league outings.
Cardiff City (5-3-2): Dillon Phillips, Cody Drameh, Mark McGuinness, Curtis Nelson (captain), Ollie Denham, Perry NG, Tommy Doyle (Max Watters 77), Ryan Wintle (Will Vaulks 46), Eli King (Rubin Colwill 46), Jordan Hugill, Mark Harris.
Substitutes not used: Rohan Luthra, Aden Flint, James Collins, Jai Semenyo.
Booking: McGuinness 48, Drameh 57, Nelson 67, Vaulks 76.
Blues (3-4-1-2): Neil Etheridge, Nico Gordon, Marc Roberts, George Friend, Maxime Colin, Gary Gardner (captain), Ivan Sunjic, Juninho Bacuna (Jordan James 64), Onel Hernandez, Jeremie Bela (Jordan Graham), Lyle Taylor.
Substitutes not used: Connal Trueman, Ryan Woods, Scott Hogan, Troy Deeney, Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Booking: Gordon 58, Etheridge 81.
Referee: John Busby.
Blues' final game of the 2021/22 Championship season sees them host Blackburn Rovers at St. Andrew's, kick-off 12.30pm. Fixtures for the next campaign are scheduled for release on Thursday 23 June, with the opening game on the weekend of Saturday 29 July.