Bluebirds Hit Hammers Where it Hurts
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 10 Mar 2019 15:14:00
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Manuel Pellegrini's only previous visit to Cardiff City ended in defeat and his record didn't improve when he returned there on Saturday afternoon, as West Ham United left the Welsh capital with nothing after losing 2-0.

Fabián Balbuena returned to the matchday squad after a long absence due to injury but was an unused substitute, as the manager kept faith with the team that beat Newcastle United a week ago, meaning captain Mark Noble made his 400th league appearance for West Ham.

As they did against newly-promoted Fulham last month, the visitors got off to the worst possible start, as they were behind with only four minutes gone when a cross wasn't properly dealt with and a great team move involving Victor Camarasa and Josh Murphy set up David Hoilett who fired the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.

West Ham could count themselves lucky not to be further behind when Everton loanee Oumar Niasse saw the Pole off his line. The intention was to try and beat him but instead, he lifted his attempt over.

It was clearly one of those days where the Irons were having trouble finding their rhythm. They had a great chance to level matters just before the break but the effort from Robert Snodgrass missed the target by miles.

Pellegrini realised he needed to change things if his team were going to stand any chance of getting back into the game so, during the break, he replaced Felipe Anderson with Marko Arnautovic.

The change failed to have an immediate impact when the action recommenced as Neil Warnock's men had continued were they had left off and scored the second goal of the match with seven minutes of the second-half played.

Hoilett and Murphy were causing real problems for the East Londoners and they combined to create the chance for Camarasa to apply the final touch, as he squeezed the ball past Fabianski.

Another opportunity fell to the home side on 57 minutes when Niasse found himself one-on-one with the West Ham stopper but couldn't find the telling touch that would have seen him increase their advantage.

Still unhappy with his team's performance, Pellegrini made a double change. Noble's landmark occasion was ended early as he was taken off with Michail Antonio taking his place, while Samir Nasri replaced Manuel Lanzini.

The Bluebirds sensed they should have perhaps been further in front by this point but wasted a golden chance to really seal the points. Fabianski had to keep his wits about him in order to make a sharp double save to deny Niasse and Camarasa.

Unbelievably, the Hammers didn't register a shot on target until Declan Rice almost added to his goal against the Magpies last weekend when he managed to get his fierce shot away but unfortunately for the large contingent of travelling fans, it came back off the post.

That seemed to spark Pellegrini's men into life as shortly after, Arnautovic brought a stunning save out of Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

Even six minutes of stoppage time couldn't help the visitors find a goal, meaning it was a very disappointing afternoon for them.

They will hope to take advantage of another struggling side when they host rock bottom Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon.

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