There are some moments in life when thought escapes you, when the breath is snatched from your mouth by the events unfolding before you. As I stand, typing this recap with my shaking hands into a phone, I can barely believe what I’ve seen. That match should not have unfolded in that way
It was just a goal. Just a game.
We should probably start at the beginning though, shouldn’t we? When both Cardiff City and Aston Villa stormed onto the Villa Park turf in a mild and misty Aston, before drawing their battle lines. Villa defending the Holte End, and then the North Stand in the second-half.
There is something special about the walk from the concourse to your seat, as when you enter the stadium proper and draw your eyes upon the pitch, you can only get the sense that some kind of great and legendary battle is about to unfold.
In every sense, the match between Cardiff and Aston Villa was just that, a battle. The match, and even the entire sport, were placed under siege in a spectacle that saw each team attempt to ping the match ball from their defensive lines towards the opposition goal. The trebuchet feet of Sol Bamba vs the bombing raid onslaught of Ahmed Elmohamady and Mile Jedinak. It didn’t amount to much for either team, who wasted most of the game patiently awaiting the descent of the football from its newly found home in the sky.
The aura of the game was one of frustration. Aston Villa never truly got with the game in the first half, much to the delight of Neil Warnock in the away dugout. As the frustration caught on, the match seemed to spin out of control, with pulled shirts, spats, shouts, kicks and yellow cards became the order of the day. Chaos reigned, with Sam Johnstone providing a light in the darkness for Villa, with two point blank stops to end the half.
The second-half began in a similar vein, but with an Aston Villa team fired up with anger, and ready to fight back with a jubilant midweek crowd roaring them on.
Cardiff retreated, firmly on the back foot and looked slightly concussed by a raging Villa attack led by the slippery Lewis Grabban, before the game truly changed with Johnathan Kodjia’s introduction.
Kodjia proved to be a literal handful for Cardiff, who now had a new man to focus on rather than the roving Jack Grealish. Much to their chagrin, this provided the catalyst for the opening goal of the match, which came with time dying out.
Grealish found the ball, as many did, falling to him, before pulling the trigger and launching a divine arrowing shot into the goal, past a flailing Neil Etheridge. Grealish ran to the dugout to celebrate in front of Warnock, one of his major critics, before finishing the match with plaudits.
Villa fought on and survived to take three points, and if anything, they might make a believer out of the most agnostic of minds. The springs of hope will once more erupt from Villa Park, but far too late.
Just a goal. Just a game. Isn't it always like that?