Against a backdrop of Gary Medel’s protracted transfer to Inter Milan, seemingly, nearing completion with the Italian club finally matching City’s asking price and QPR having had a bid of £5 million for Jordon Mutch rejected (word is they’ll be back in quickly with an offer that will be accepted), it was, in some ways, a patched up Cardiff City side that faced Wolfsburg in their only home pre season friendly yesterday.
City’s lack of options at the back was summed up by the fact that it was Juan Cala (suspended for the first two matches of the league season) who partnered Matt Connolly at centreback – with Ben Turner not recovering from his knock at Yeovil and Mark Hudson, who I can only assume was also injured, missing, there was simply no one else to pick!
Aron Gunnarsson was in central midfield for Mutch alongside Peter Whittingham and, surprisingly, it was Nicky Maynard who partnered Adam LeFondre up front with Ole using a pretty basic 4-4-2 that featured Guido Burgstaller and Kimbo on the flanks.
Wolfsburg, whose Bundesliga season starts with a match against Bayern Munich in three weeks time, fielded most of their big names (e,g, Olic, DeBruyne, Rodriguez and Benaglio) and looked a couple of classes above a ragged City outfit in a poor first forty minutes in which the doubts about the team that I admit to having looked to be valid ones. It took the Germans just five minutes to go ahead and, for much of the time, it was as much as City could do to retain possession for a few seconds.
However, even when the game was completely one sided, City were able to put something together in the final third at times and Maynard was unlucky not to equalise when he hit the post. A shocking miss from a free kick by Malanda as City’s defence, not for the first time, went missing, kept the deficit at one and, if anything, it was over confidence on Wolfsburg’s part which led to the next opportunity as Burgstaller robbed a defender who was trying to play out from by his own corner flag to lay a chance on a plate for LeFondre who, carelessly, fired over.
Within thirty seconds, City were two behind as the Germans were allowed to play a short goal kick out to a defender, who passed to DeBruyne on the half way line and he was allowed to advance fifteen yards unchallenged before lashing a superb shot past captain for the day David Marshall.
It looked like a potential rout at this stage, but, to City’s credit, they began to impose themselves on proceedings and a typical Whittingham strike from twenty five yards smashed against the cross bar with Benaglio completely beaten to signal a complete change in the flow of the game as, amazingly, City hit back in the last five minutes of the first half to go in level at 2-2.
Having got in a sighter a minute earlier, Whittingham’s free kick from slightly closer defeated a flimsy wall and an irate keeper to half the deficit and when Fabio got a little bit lucky to gain possession about twenty yards out, the full back needed no second invitation to burst into the penalty area and turn back a low cross from the bye line which the hard working Maynard swept in from eight yards out.
I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Maynard starting on Friday at Blackburn, but, truth be told, his replacement by Kenwyne Jones, and Burgstaller’s by Magnus Eikrem at half time improved City who, while not enjoying the dominance Wolfsburg enjoyed in the first period, were the better side in the second half.
Jones showing a better attitude than we saw from him last season (as well as a surprising turn of pace at times) caused problems with his strength and aerial ability as City mixed things up by playing in a more direct manner at times and their third goal came when Eikrem (impressive throughout with his use of the ball) played in LeFondre (who had earlier forced Benaglio to tip over after good work from Brayford) and the striker showed good strength to brush off a defender and curl in a lovely cross which Jones headed against the bar only for Kimbo to tap in the rebound.
Jones was in the action again when his close range snap shot flew straight at the keeper and he should have done better on the near post when Kadeem Harris (given fifteen minutes at the end of the game) did well to get his cross in. Wolfsburg had little to offer against City’s aggression, but a classy finish from Olic when he diverted a low cross past another sub Simon Moore with eight minutes to go earned his side a draw which was a fair outcome on the balance of play.
So, a very entertaining game finished up 3-3 and it’s hard not to think that the whole thing was typically Ole! I’ve been banging on all summer about my misgivings concerning our lack of defensive organisation and I could have a field day again about how wide open we were at times, but, to be fair, I wouldn’t have thought that back four have had much chance to sort out an understanding because I don’t believe they have ever played together before. So, this time, I’ll concentrate more on how City were able to look dangerous so often without a contribution from Mats Dæhli, who is widely regarded as just about our most creative player.
Yesterday offered a glimpse of what an Ole side could offer if it can just get a bit more defensive discipline and nous. With reports that the outgoing Medel and Mutch will be replaced next week by three newcomers (including two defenders) the opportunity is there to get the players in who might make a difference – it’s not ideal that players arrive so late in the build up to the season, but we brought in newcomers much later than this two years ago and it didn’t do us any harm then.
* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/