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Football Away Days: Cardiff City and the Cardiff City Stadium for the South Wales Derby

Inside the Cardiff City Stadium 01/04/23

I have surprised myself this season by being organised enough to fit in three football away day experiences, the last of which came on April Fools' Day and saw me making my way to Cardiff City to witness the latest edition of the South Wales Derby. As it happens, this wasn't even my first time witnessing the rivalry live, as when we knocked Swansea City off of our away day bucket list back in 2019, that day their opponents were The Bluebirds. So now I've taken in this derby as an adopted fan on both sides of the divide, and it's safe to say that the 2023 version was the most dramatic of all the away days completed thus far.

 

 

Getting hold of the tickets was surprisingly easy, especially when taking into account the fixture, and as I've arranged more and more of these trips it's become increasingly reassuring that football, at least across the English Football League, remains accessible to the average fan. A train into Cardiff Central station left an easy 15-20 minute walk to the ground, starting by heading towards the Millennium Stadium and crossing the bridge over the River Taff via Wood Street.

 

The Cornwall Pub in CardiffSlightly more than five minutes from the Cardiff City Stadium, we found The Cornwall Pub, and upon entering we were enveloped by a great atmosphere. A pub owned by the Brains brewery, it was full of home fans having a rousing sing-along to The Beatles and Hey Jude, one of those songs that compels the listener to have a smile on their face as they sway. Despite the precarious position of Cardiff in the Championship table, it was clear that the locals were in good spirits, a feeling no doubt helped by it being a warm, sunny day.

 

Following a quick pint we joined the crowds heading towards the ground along Sloper Road, and just before heading in we spied the "Snacks 'R' Us" refreshments van. A tasty double cheeseburger set us back £3, whilst a hotdog with onions was just £2, both of which made for cheap and cheerful recommendations instead of the more expensive fare within the stadium. From there it was onto the programme seller and then scanning our tickets for entry into the Ninian Stand.



Double Cheeseburger outside Cardiff City StadiumWe sat not far from the halfway line, in the lower part of the stand, but nearer to the Swansea fans packed into that corner of the ground. As we awaited the kick-off, the atmosphere was building nicely, with both sides feeling bullish. However, with less than a couple of minutes gone, that atmosphere was to be sucked into the minority section. Swansea had started in a way that validated their higher position in the Championship table, calmly passing the ball around until the ball went out for a throw-in. This was then allowed to puncture the Cardiff penalty area and find the young Dutch striker Joël Piroe near the byline, he subsequently twisted two defenders inside before dragging the ball back outside and unleashing a fierce right-footed strike into the roof of the net.

 

As the first half progressed, the Swans continued to demonstrate their superiority as they carved out more opportunities whilst the hosts struggled to do the same. Olivier Ntcham had a shot blocked from just inside the area, which was immediately followed by a twenty-five yard blast from Harry Darling, which swerved just wide of the Cardiff post. Meanwhile, Sheyi Ojo hit an effort straight at the goalkeeper and Sory Kaba headed a cross over the bar as the Bluebirds looked for a source of inspiration.

 

With just over half an hour gone, Swansea doubled their lead as a result of a great ball combined with poor defending down the same side of the pitch as the opener. The problem stemmed from all of the Cardiff backline, aside from Perry Ng, stepping up as Swansea passed around midfield. Ng was concentrating on man-marking Liam Cullen, which ultimately meant that he was the one defender who didn't play offside when a ball came over the top for Piroe to run into a gaping space towards goal. His low shot was saved by the feet of Ryan Allsop but ricocheted off of the post and back into the middle of the six yard box, where a now unmarked Cullen stooped low for an easy header for 2-0.

 

Thankfully, for the home crowd, the total control of the visitors barely lasted two minutes as Cardiff immediately made it 2-1 and clawed themselves back into the game from their kick-off. A long punt up the pitch by Allsop was knocked down by Kaba and collected by the Aston Villa loanee Jaden Philogene. Good footwork saw him snake his way to the edge of the area and hit a well-struck shot that flew through the hands of Andy Fisher.



Into the second half and Cardiff were lucky not to be further behind when Cullen broke down the left hand side and perfectly drove a low cross for an onrushing Piroe. His first touch took him around the despairing Allsop, but the pace of the ball saw it bobble against the striker and run out of play. That was to be the last glaring chance for either side until the final fifteen minutes, as Cardiff endeavoured to force an equaliser and they finally got their reward in the eighty-third minute. Philogene was involved again, sliding a through-ball to Rubin Colwill who crossed into the middle of the six yard box from the edge of the byline, there he found a grateful Kaba who gobbled up the header for 2-2.

 

Both sides seemed determined not to settle for a draw at this late stage, but it was Swansea who seemed the more likely to do something about it. A Swans set-piece into the Cardiff box was kept alive and the clearance dropped to their captain, Matt Grimes, who smashed a superb twenty-five yard volley across goal, only to see it slam back off of the cross-bar. Yet, there was still time for a controversial winner in this frenetic South Wales Derby.

 

The referee had assigned five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game, but in the seventh minute of added on time Swansea won themselves a free-kick on the edge of the area when Jamie Paterson was fouled on the turn. Midfielder Jay Fulton lined it up, amidst growing tension and whistles from the home fans, and hit his low effort into the defensive wall. This then rebounded back to him and his second crack bounced off of the post, hit his teammate Joel Latibeaudiere and deflected kindly across the face of the goal for his fellow defender Ben Cabango who slid an emotional winner in for this five-goal thriller.

 

The Swansea players ran en masse to their fans in the corner, with it being one of those moments of pure jubilation on one side and hopeless dejection on the other. Being as we go to our football away days as adopted home fans, we couldn't help but feel sorry for the Bluebirds, although it was a great game to witness as a neutral! As for the Swansea manager, Russell Martin, he'd already etched his name in the history of the club by being the man in charge when they completed the first ever league double in this fixture last season, and with this win they'd done it all over again in 2022/23.

 

Following the match, we made our way back to the centre of Cardiff and made one last stop before taking our train home. Tiny Rebel are a well-known local brewery and we took in a pint at their own tap-room bar located within the shadows of the Millennium Stadium. It had been another fun adventure on our football travels, with the most excitement we've seen across ninety minutes and we'll be back with more of the same in this series for the 2023/24 season.

 


 

Click this link to read about our other football away day adventures

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