Cardiff City boosted their Premier League survival hopes with a crucial 2-0 victory over fellow relegation candidates Brighton and Hove Albion.
Brighton could have moved eight points clear of Cardiff, who occupy the final relegation spot in the table, with a win on Tuesday, yet it was the Bluebirds who triumphed thanks to goals from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Sean Morrison.
The Seagulls may well point to what appeared to be a clear penalty not given their way, but Chris Hughton’s side were punished for missing a glut of early chances when Mendez-Laing struck midway through the first half.
And their hopes of a comeback were dashed five minutes after the restart, visiting captain Morrison heading home to move Cardiff to within two points of their rivals, albeit Brighton do have a game in hand.
Attacking intent was in no short supply from the off – Solly March twice drilling wide either side of a wayward Glenn Murray effort, while Joe Bennett went close with a looping cross-shot at the other end.
Brighton had a strong claim for a spot-kick when Lewis Dunk was hauled down by Bruno Ecuele Manga, but the hosts’ appeals were ignored by referee Andre Marriner.
Cardiff made their good fortune count in the 22nd minute, Mendez-Laing charging forward from deep before curling an exquisite finish beyond Mat Ryan.
That’s the way to break the deadlock
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 16, 2019
Their lead was doubled early in the second half, Morrison taking advantage of dreadful marking to head in Victor Camarasa’s free-kick unchallenged.
Murray lifted a difficult chance just over as Brighton pressed to get back into the contest, but it was not until the 93rd minute that the striker would get another opening, heading against the woodwork, as Cardiff held firm to claim what could prove to be three vital points.
What does it mean? Struggling Seagulls in freefall
Brighton have now lost their last four league games, by an aggregate score of 11-0 too, with main man Murray having failed to score in his last 10 top-flight appearances at home. While having an extra game to play may prove helpful, their run-in includes fixtures with Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Cardiff, meanwhile, have given themselves a fantastic chance of survival after claiming just their second win in eight league outings.
Mendez-Laing’s moment of magic
Brighton had been firmly on top prior to Cardiff’s opener, which was all down to Mendez-Laing. The winger picked up the ball in his own half and, after combining with Junior Hoilett, produced a sensational finish to put the Welsh club in front.
Reckless Ecuele Manga gets lucky
Cardiff have been on the receiving end of some controversial decisions in recent weeks, much to Neil Warnock’s chagrin, but lady luck shone on them when Ecuele Manga escaped unpunished for what seemed a clear foul on Dunk early on.
Key Opta facts
– Cardiff have completed the league double over Brighton for the first time since the 1998-99 season when in the fourth tier – they won the reverse fixture 2-1 in November.
– The Bluebirds have won a top-flight away match by more than a single goal for the first time since November 1956 (2-0 at Charlton Athletic).
– Only already relegated Fulham (6) and Huddersfield (4) have won fewer Premier League points in 2019 than Brighton (8).
– Brighton have lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since January 2016 – they failed to score a single goal during both losing runs.
– Sean Morrison has scored his third Premier League goal, his first for the Bluebirds and his first for 2,327 days since scoring for Reading against Manchester United in December 2012.
Brighton face a trip to Wolves on Saturday, while Cardiff play host to title-chasing Liverpool a day later.
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