Cardiff slip to third as superb Grealish goal gives Villa win

Cardiff slip to third as superb Grealish goal gives Villa win
Jack Grealish scored for the second game in a row for the first time this season

Aston Villa boosted their hopes of promotion from the Championship with a narrow win as Cardiff City dropped out of the top two.

Villa dominated a hotly-contested encounter, but it was Neil Warnock’s side who squandered the best chances.

Cardiff lived to regret their wastefulness as Jack Grealish’s second-half volley from 20 yards secured a massive win for Steve Bruce’s side.

Aston Villa stay fourth while Cardiff drop to third following Fulham’s win.

Bruce’s team remain five points behind Fulham, who beat Reading 1-0 at Craven Cottage.

For Warnock’s men it is two defeats on the bounce, after losing to leaders Wolves on Friday, as they drop out of the top two for the first time since 17 February.

Cardiff still have a game in hand over Fulham, meaning a top-two finish is still in their hands, but they will have to bounce back after picking up just one point from the last nine available.

Cardiff have lost back-to-back league games for the first time since December 2017

Villa had the first chance of the game, Lewis Grabban finding space in the 18-yard box but he could only manage to hit the side-netting under pressure from a closing Joe Bennett.

However it was Cardiff who had the first clear-cut opportunity, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing winning the ball on the halfway line before he was released by Kenneth Zohore. The former Rochdale winger beat Axel Tuanzebe to the ball before slotting the ball past Sam Johnstone only to see it bounce back off the post.

Cardiff continued to push forward and a combination of good fortune and superb goalkeeping from Johnstone stopped three goal-bound chances to keep the game goalless.

Referee Jeremy Simpson had a busy evening in a feisty encounter, dishing out nine yellow cards

The home side started the second half brightly as Cardiff struggled and they had a penalty appeal turned down after Robert Snodgrass was bundled over by Sean Morrison.

Cardiff pushed forward again when Junior Hoilett’s cross from the left was passed back to Zohore, but the Danish striker could not convert from 10 yards at the second attempt.

Villa continued to grow into the game as Cardiff’s goalkeeper Neil Etheridge become increasingly busy, but it took a moment of magic from Grealish to break the deadlock.

A deep free-kick was only cleared as far as Grealish, who took it out of the air with a first-time volley that sailed past a helpless Etheridge to secure the points.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce told BBC WM:

“Near half-time, our goalkeeper pulled off a couple of remarkable saves. Cardiff will always ask you that question and Neil’s being doing it for years.

“That bit of quality could win any game. It was a wonderful strike and we’re pleased it was our night.”

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock:

“I think it’s nice to be the hunter not the hunted all the time.

“[Fulham] are a good side but they don’t just have simple games and I think we have an opportunity.

“I know the lads will be disappointed tonight but I thought they put in a great shift.”

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