Cardiff City 2-3 Blackburn Rovers: Visitors fight back to boost play-off hopes

Cardiff City winger Junior Hoilett played for Blackburn from 2007 to 2012

Blackburn Rovers twice came from behind to beat Cardiff City and damage the Welsh club’s play-off prospects, while maintaining their own slim hopes of finishing inside the Championship’s top six.

Will Vaulks’ exquisite chip from the edge of the penalty area put the hosts ahead, before Blackburn equalised as former Swansea City striker Danny Graham tapped in from a rebound.

Cardiff regained the lead shortly before the interval as Robert Glatzel finished a flowing team move but, within a minute of the second half, Blackburn were level again as Dominic Samuel volleyed in.

Rovers then secured victory as Adam Armstrong seized on a misplaced pass from Leandro Bacuna to unleash a brilliant curling shot from more than 40 yards which dipped over goalkeeper Alex Smithies and into the net.

Cardiff keep hold of the final play-off spot but are still only three points clear of seventh-placed Derby, who could close that gap when they visit promotion-chasing West Brom on Wednesday.

Blackburn, meanwhile, climb up to ninth in the table and are now within five points of the top six with four matches left this season.

Having effectively ended Bristol City’s play-off aspirations with victory at Ashton Gate on Saturday, Cardiff manager Neil Harris had called on his side to be ruthless and eliminate more of their rivals for the top six.

Blackburn certainly fell into that category, with their dreams of promotion fading after three successive defeats had seen them slump from seventh to 11th in the table.

Not that Tony Mowbray’s side had lost all hope, as they demonstrated with a confident start which almost brought them a goal inside 10 minutes.

Armstrong swept a fine low ball across the six-yard box but, from point-blank range, right-back Ryan Nyambe miscued his shot over the bar.

Despite seeing little of the ball during the early exchanges, Cardiff took the lead in elegant fashion.

Vaulks beat the offside trap wide on the left and, after looking up to see no support runners in the Blackburn penalty area, he flicked a speculative shot with the outside of his right boot which clipped the crossbar on its way into the net.

Cardiff’s joy was short-lived as Blackburn replied with a scruffy equaliser, Darragh Lenihan heading against the post and the ball bouncing off Smithies and into the path of Graham, who had the simple task of tapping in from less than a yard.

Following chances for Junior Hoilett and Josh Murphy, Cardiff restored their lead four minutes before the break with a smartly crafted goal.

Joe Ralls found Murphy in the Blackburn box and the winger intelligently stopped for a moment in order to lay the ball on for the overlapping Joe Bennett, whose low cross was turned in by Glatzel.

Cardiff City players celebrate Robert Glatzel’s (centre) first-half goal, the German’s eighth of the season

Once again, however, the home side could not hold on to their advantage for long.

Less than a minute into the second half, Armstrong’s deflected cross floated towards the back post, where Samuel beat Bennett to the ball and hooked in.

Cardiff faded badly during the second half and they fell behind to a goal which was partly due to their own sloppiness but still superbly executed by Armstrong.

Bacuna played a tired pass inside his own half and it fell kindly for the Rovers midfielder, who did not break his stride before launching a beautiful arcing shot from 40 yards or more over Smithies and into the net.

Cardiff made a flurry of late substitutions in an attempt to salvage a point but they were off the pace and repelled with relative ease by a Rovers side who deserved their win and looked to have revived their play-off hopes.