A Sunderland side devoid of skill, luck and just about anything else positive slumped to yet another disheartening defeat today in South Wales.
The Black Cats did enough in the first half to contain Cardiff, but allowed the game to gradually slide away from them and were, in the end, comfortably beaten.
Defeat means that Chris Coleman’s side will remain bottom of the Championship coming out of this weekend.
Cardiff: Neil Etheridge, Jazz Richards, Sean Morrison (c), Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sol Bamba, Joe Bennett, Joe Ralls, Callum Paterson, Junior Hoilett, Nathanel Mendez-Laing, Kenneth Zohore
Subs: Brian Murphy, Lee Tomlin, Liam Feeney, Anthony Pilkington, Greg Halford, Loic Damour, Yanic Wildschut
Sunderland: Robbin Ruiter, Billy Jones, Bryan Oviedo, John O’Shea (c), Jake Clarke-Salter, Tyias Browning, Marc Wilson, Didier NDong, George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Josh Maja
Subs: Jason Steele, Adam Matthews, Donald Love, Lee Cattermole, Callum McManaman, Ethan Robson, Joel Asoro
Chris Coleman made four changes to the side that crashed out of the FA Cup on Teesside last weekend. Jason Steele, Callum McManaman, Ethan Robson and Donald Love made way for Robbin Ruiter, Lynden Gooch, Didier NDong and debutant Jake Clarke-Salter, as Sunderland looked to adopt a rather strict defensive shape.
The first chance of the game fell to the home side. Joe Ralls swung in a free-kick which was met by the head of Sean Morrison, but the effort was tame and gathered comfortably by Robbin Ruiter.
Cardiff enjoyed a greater share of the possession for the opening ten with Sunderland seldom threatening. Tyias Browning’s skyward effort from outside the box was the closest the visitors had got so far.
Sunderland could’ve been caught out on the nineteenth minute as Junior Hoilett picked out an unmarked Ralls, but his finessed effort was straight into the path of Ruiter.
Ralls would offer a much more formidable effort shortly after, though. The Cardiff midfielder hit a volley from a weak clearance just outside the box; the Sunderland stopper at full stretch to tip it behind. A free-kick from Hoilett called the Dutch ‘keeper into action again, but the effort curled just wide of the left post.
As the first half ticked on, it became more and more apparent that the lads’ lack of forward movements were due to an inability to pick out passes - with Didier Ndong and Marc Wilson exemplifying this as they misplaced more than their fair share.
Hoilett had another opportunity to line up a dead ball as Bryan Oviedo fouled on the edge of the box, but Ruiter was able to deny the Canada international as he found the target this time.
Oviedo found himself a similar opportunity from a set-piece up the other end, and whilst there was plenty of pace on the shot, it was gathered easily by Cardif ‘keeper Neil Etheridge.
While there were many chances in the first half - most coming from the home side - it ultimately ended goalless.
HT: Cardiff City 0 - 0 Sunderland
Coleman made a chance as the latter interval commenced, with Lee Cattermole making his return from injury as he replaced Wilson in the holding midfield role.
But his re-introduction hardly signalled a change in fortunes. Just a minute into the second half, Cardiff won a corner and Callum Paterson rose for a header and glanced it beyond a flapping Ruiter. The home side were ahead.
Things went from bad to worse minutes later, as Ndong capped off the opposite of a shop window performance with a reckless challenge on Hoilett which subsequently earned him a red card - though the decision made by the referee was a dubious one.
Cardiff doubled their advantage eight minutes later. Kenneth Zohore proved to be too much for Jake Clarke-Salter as he raced down the wing and squared the ball to Ralls who, with only the keeper to beat, fired the ball into the net.
Sunderland nearly found a way back into the game as Bruno Manga’s sliced clearance from an Oviedo free-kick spun away from the defender and hit the bar. Luck was quite clearly not on the Black Cats’ side today.
Cardiff’s Paterson put the game out of sight after a fairly uneventful twenty or so minutes. A free-kick from the home side came off the wall and fell into the right-back’s path, giving him the chance to take a shot which eluded both Jones and Ruiter as it ended up in the net.
And three became four right at the death. Yanic Wildschut picked out an unmarked Anthony Pilkington to compound Sunderland’s misery somehow even further.
How Chris Coleman stops his haphazard ensemble of hapless players from crashing into League One is anyone’s guess.
FT: Cardiff City 4 - 0 Sunderland (Paterson 46’, 80’, Ralls 55’, Pilkington 90+3’)
Robbin Ruiter - 5/10: Did well in the first half. At fault for Cardiff’s opener.
Billy Jones - 3/10: He’s just awful, isn’t he?
Bryan Oviedo - 4/10: Took a bunch of tame free-kicks, that’s about it.
John O’Shea - 3/10: If this is the leader that’s meant to me galvanizing our troops in the changing room, then no one should be surprised that we are where we are.
Jake Clarke-Salter - 4/10: Not the most impressive debut in the world.
Tyias Browning - 4/10: Like the other defenders, poor today.
Marc Wilson - 4/10: Is quite clearly not an adept CDM and couldn’t place a single pass toward the end of the first half.
Didier NDong - 2/10: Hope every single one of our potential buyers weren’t watching him today.
George Honeyman - 4/10: Just not good enough.
Lynden Gooch - 5/10: Positive in intent, average in application.
Josh Maja - 4/10: Never got going.
(SUB) Lee Cattermole - 3/10: Whatever.
(SUB) Joel Asoro - 4/10: We were already mid-capitualition by the time he came on.
(SUB) Callum McManaman - 3/10: Did nowt.
Man of the Match: Ha! Good one.