The Wrap – Cardiff City – 1-0

Coventry City kept up their perfect home record this season at the Coventry Building Society Arena with a 1-0 victory over a competitive and physical Cardiff City side.

Some of the football the Sky Blues produced in spells in this game was scintillating. This was underlined by a thrilling counter-attack in the fifteenth minute that was rounded off by a confident finish from Coventry City’s in-form striker, Viktor Gyokeres.

From that point onwards, Coventry City had to deal with a physical bombardment from Cardiff City, as they looked to get back in the game. However, a fantastic defensive effort limited the Bluebirds to just one late chance in what was otherwise a rather comfortable home win.

Further Big Vik Energy

It’s been a fantastic start to the season for Viktor Gyokeres. The Swede has really come into his own and his goal in this game was the finish of a confident man. It said everything about the striker’s relentlessness and work-rate, that the move for his goal began with Gyokeres in his own half, to then run the length of most of the pitch and still pick out a fantastic finish further underlined Gyokeres’ all-round ability as a striker.

More than the goal, some of the moments of skill that Gyokeres produced in this game were absolutely jaw-dropping. There were two notable dribbles in either half where he surged past multiple Cardiff defenders, utilising both his skill and physicality in a devastating manner. Gyokeres is more than just a handful to contain, on this kind of form, he is simply irresistable.

If he can keep this up, it is hard to identify too many other strikers at this level who are better than Gyokeres. It’s not just that he’s scoring goals, but the all-round threat that he poses that makes him a constant threat. If a defence feels they can contain him physically, he can beat them for skill and pace, and vice versa. Gyokeres could well be the best all-round striker the club has had since the Premier League era.

The scary thing for Championship defences is that Viktor Gyokeres can get even better. That those two excellent runs in this game were not rewarded with goals – for either Gyokeres or his team-mates – underlines that he can still add composure and ruthlessness to his play in the final third. If he does, Gyokeres could sustain a push for the play-offs on his shoulders alone.

The Defence Has Arrived

For the opening games of the season, the team’s excellent attacking play came at the cost of defensive solidity, after back-to-back clean sheets, this Coventry City side has demonstrated that it has found a level of balance.

It is no coincidence this has coincided with Mark Robins naming a settled defence for consecutive games for the first time this season. Jake Clarke-Salter has started to settle into the back-line and looked a confident figure on the left of the back three in this game. With Hyam imperious on the right of the three, McFadzean was able in this game to defend aggressively in the manner he is best-suited to. It looks a nicely balanced trio.

It helps that Simon Moore has proved to be a calming presence in goal. Aside from one mishandle from a ball into the box in the second-half, Moore’s presence in the penalty area helped the team deal with Cardiff’s threat from set-pieces. Furthermore, the Sky Blues have proved just how effective zonal marking can be at limiting a dangerous opponent’s threat from dead-ball situations.

A mention too for Gustavo Hamer’s contribution, after playing as the team’s most defensively-minded midfielder for the past two games. The midfielder is looking a really mature presence in front of the back-line, without sacrificing some thrilling moments going forward. Hamer’s reading of the game saw him break up Cardiff City’s attacking play superbly at times here. The right kind of aggressive in the challenge, it was frustrating that he picked up a yellow late-on in this game that leaves him one more away from a suspension.

Cardiff City threw everything at the Sky Blues back-line and they more than stood up to it. If anything demonstrated the improvement in the defensive unit, it was how well Kieffer Moore was nullified after he had tore the defence to shreds in the last meeting between the two sides – the striker’s yellow card in this game was borne out of pure frustration. Aside from a free header for James Collins late-on, Cardiff City had little to show for the bombardment they threw Coventry City’s way.

Turning An Opponent’s Strength Against Them

Thanks to the excellent organisation and performances in defence, a key theme in this game for the Sky Blues was in how quickly they were able to turn defensive situations into attacking opportunities. As threatening as Cardiff City’s height and physicality in the penalty area notionally was, their set-pieces often proved to be Coventry City’s best opportunity to attack.

Mark Robins took the approach of leaving both Callum O’Hare and Ian Maatsen around the half-way line at set-pieces so that the team’s quickest players were available to quickly launch counter-attacks. Aided by Gustavo Hamer’s passing ability in that deeper midfield position, as well as Viktor Gyokeres’ mobility when pushing out of his own penalty area, the Sky Blues produced some positively thrilling football in transition in this game.

There really looks to be a good understanding developing in the team’s attacking play that led to some scintillating moments of quick passing. The goal, with Jamie Allen carrying the ball forward, Callum O’Hare then deftly poking it into the path of Gyokeres, demonstrated that. It wasn’t an isolated moment of brilliance, there were a number of other passages of play just like this, which could have made the final score more comfortable.

Having demonstrated in the opening games that this is a team that can pass through opponents that sit deep, the Sky Blues have shown over the past two games that they can deal with teams who look to impose themselves. Games have been won from behind, from scoring late goals, holding onto the three points here after scoring early is another test that this Coventry City side has passed.

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