Cardiff may have had just 30% of the ball, but they cruised to an easy win over a hapless West Ham on Saturday afternoon at the Cardiff City Stadium.
There was a real lack of urgency from the Hammers, who were caught napping soon after kickoff in both halves, allowing Junior Hoilett to open the scoring early in the first half and Victor Camarasa to wrap things up early in the second.
It took just four minutes for Cardiff to get off the mark, young Josh Murphy whipping in a low cross with Hoilett ready to gamble at the near post, flicking the ball beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
There was almost a carbon copy of the incident as West Ham suffered another slow start to the second half, conceding in six minutes this time. Junior Hoilett turned provider for the second, his cross unselfishly met by Murphy who nodded the ball down for Camarasa to slot home neatly.
Key Talking Point
Cardiff set their stall out early in this clash, and made full use of their pace in attacking positions to punish a sorry West Ham. Oumar Niasse linked up well with Murphy and Hoilett to offer a real threat going forward, and they were the only team that looked like scoring for the majority of the game.
They got their reward early on when Murphy and Hoilett combined to give their side an early lead, which allowed them to dictate the pace of the game. Neil Warnock's side hit the visitors with a second sucker punch after half time but squandered two golden opportunities to tie up the game and improve their goal difference.
They could easily have been four up inside the hour and ended the game as a contest. They didn't make things comfortable for their fans though, but a routine Marko Arnautovic effort was the best the Hammers could muster as Cardiff picked up a valuable three points.
Starting XI: Etheridge (7), Peltier (7), Morrison (7), Manga (7), Bennet (8), Gunnarsson (7), Arter (6), Hoilett (9), Camarasa (8), Murphy (9*), Niasse (7)
Substitutes: Bacuna (6), Ralls (6), Paterson (6)
STAR MAN -
The three attacking midfield players for Cardiff were excellent. Camarasa was bitterly unlucky to be forcibly withdrawn with an injury, having been instrumental to the attack before then. The real impact came from the flanks though, with Hoilett and Murphy twice linking up for the goals.
Hoilett got his name on the scoresheet but, with two assists, Murphy was the real star of the show. He unselfishly passed up his chance at a goal by laying on a simple finish for his better-positioned teammate. It was a real team performance and Murphy epitomised that spirit with a classy and dangerous display.Player Ratings
Key Talking Point
West Ham just weren't at the races at the Cardiff City Stadium. They had plenty of possession but the tempo was far too slow, with no inventiveness and no purpose to their play in a below-par performance.
Javier Hernandez played the pantomime villain, flinging himself to the ground in search of a penalty but was rightly booked for his effort. Even he looked embarrassed at his attempt at simulation and it echoed the frustrations of a striker lacking any kind of attacking options.
The defence wasn't good either. Ryan Fredericks had a horror show and Fabianski was all over the place at times. The keeper should have done better with the second goal, but he did redeem himself with an excellent double save to keep his side in it as the Cardiff pressure began to tell.
Manuel Pellegrini opted to make all three changes with less than an hour on the clock, which says more than any scathing criticisms could. Not good enough from West Ham, and the inconsistency that has plagued their season continues to see them rocket towards mid-table mediocrity.
STAR MAN - It says something that Cardiff's important 2-0 win could still be viewed as an attacking performance that needed some improvement. That was the low bar the Hammers set in defence today, and the scoreline could have been truly embarrassing against better opposition.
Starting XI: Fabianski (5), Cresswell (5), Ogbonna (5), Diop (7*), Fredericks (3), Rice (6), Anderson (4), Lanzini (5), Noble (5), Snodgrass (7), Hernandez (4)
Substitutes: Arnautovic (6), Nasri (6), Antonio (6)
Issa Diop was the only player who managed to look composed, with some crucial challenges to stem the Cardiff attack. Given that the players around him did him no favours with their positioning it was perhaps a performance worthy of higher praise, but there won't be much of that going around the West Ham dressing room.