Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash between Cardiff City and Middlesbrough at the Cardiff City Stadium as goals from Andraz Sporar and Martin Payero dealt Mick McCarthy's Bluebirds their eighth straight defeat; McCarthy later axed by Cardiff
Saturday 23 October 2021 18:35, UK
Middlesbrough inflicted a club-record eighth straight defeat on Cardiff with a 2-0 win - a result that cost Mick McCarthy his job.
There was an anxious start at the Cardiff City Stadium, before a chorus of boos accompanied the half-time whistle after Andraz Sporar's controversial penalty (35) had left the hosts trailing.
McCarthy's men flew out of the traps after the break and hit the crossbar through Aden Flint, but the momentum waned, with Martin Payero's neat finish (74) enough to kill off chances of a late resurgence.
Cardiff sit just two points above the Championship relegation zone, while victory for Neil Warnock against his former employers lifts Boro to sixth.
The result proved the final straw for the Bluebirds board, with McCarthy's departure confirmed hours after their latest defeat.
The nerves were evident from a very early point in South Wales. Staring down the barrel of a club record run of eight defeats, it wasn't long before Cardiff were under the cosh and being peppered by shots from Paddy McNair, Payero and Sporar.
With half an hour gone, Cardiff fans' nerves were tested when ex-Bluebird Sol Bamba had a powerful header well saved by Alex Smithies, but things got worse within two minutes when the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty.
Sporar's shot from outside the box struck the hand of Mark McGuinness, which was down by his side, on its way through to Smithies. Referee Jeremy Simpson pointed to the spot, with Sporar on hand to tuck home his third goal of the season.
Matt Crooks came close to doubling the visitors' lead shortly afterwards, but he managed to drag a shot wide of the left-hand post despite appearing to have plenty of time to pick his spot from the edge of the box.
Cardiff exploded into life after the break, desperate to salvage something from the game. Flint saw a series of shots blocked, before Joe Lumley reacted well to push away a bouncing effort from James Collins and Flint's downward header agonisingly hit the underside of the crossbar.
But Middlesbrough kept their composure, managed to take control of the game again and piled the misery on their stricken opponents when Uche Ikpeazu's searching cross was moved on by Sporar to Payero, who finished well to seal the points.
Sky Sports' Don Goodman:
"It was not just his work defensively, it was his organisation the entire time and that's a proper leader. His presence is what a lot of clubs miss in this day and age."
Here's the statement released on the Bluebirds' official website, confirming the 62-year-old's departure after 10 months in the job:
"Cardiff City Football Club can confirm that First Team Manager Mick McCarthy and Assistant Manager Terry Connor have left the Club by mutual agreement and with immediate effect.
"We would like to thank Mick and Terry for their efforts during their time with the Bluebirds and wish them all the best for the future.
"Steve Morison and Tom Ramasut will oversee first-team duties at this time, as the Board of Directors begin the process of appointing a permanent replacement."
Cardiff's Mick McCarthy: "It is looking like it is very difficult to perform. We didn't start particularly well - it was a bitty game - but the penalty, I'm not certain it was a stonewall penalty. But we get it given against us. We had a go just after half-time and I said: 'Let's go and see if we can get something out of it. We didn't. We had our chances and conceded another poor goal.
"If anybody thinks I send them out to be as benign, as static and as poor as we were in the first half, they want their heads seeing to. That has never been the case, that has never been my teams. I said to them: 'If it is going to be my last game, have a right go at it and then at least, if I do, I can at least walk out and think that we did. We did, to a point, and then it petered out, unfortunately."
Middlesbrough's Neil Warnock: "We won that game because of the 10 minutes after half time when we were right under the cosh and put heads and bodies [on the line] and protected our goal. That's what I love to see. I said to that lads that I know we have ended up winning 2-0, but that 10 minuts won us the game, I thought.
"We have created a lot of chances in the last few weeks, but that's us and we don't make anything easy. I thought we played some good stuff at times today and I was pleased for them. I was pleased for Sol as well."
Danny Gabbidon on Sky Sports Football before McCarthy's exit:
"As soon as the second goal goes in, you see what has been happening all season for Cardiff. They lose their way, their discipline, their shape and, to be honest, Middlesbrough probably could have had a couple more.
"It was a really poor performance and it is the manner of the performances, the manner of the losses that is what has got Mick McCarthy in trouble. You are looking and thinking: 'Where's the plan?'
"We saw the charge for 15 minutes at the start of the second half. They don't get the goal and are perhaps a little bit unlucky. You could see what they did for the crowd, who got behind the team, but they didn't get the goal and then conceded the second.
"We have seen it so often this season where their heads seem to go down and they seem to lose their discipline, the spaces in between the defence, the midfield and the attack seem to become bigger.
"Where do Cardiff go from here? I really don't know. It's a tough one and something needs to happen because the way the players are performing and the body language of some of them is just not right."
Both sides are next in action at 3pm on Saturday, October 30. Cardiff travel to the bet365 Stadium to face Stoke, while Middlesbrough host Birmingham at the Riverside Stadium.