Cardiff 2-1 Luton: Isaac Vassell hits last-gasp winner
Cardiff claim their first points of the season as Isaac Vassell comes off the bench to score in stoppage time
Last Updated: 10/08/19 7:11pm
Isaac Vassell headed a dramatic winner in the final seconds of his Cardiff debut to snatch a 2-1 triumph over Luton.
Graeme Jones' men looked to have earned a hard-fought draw thanks to Matty Pearson's header in the 86th minute after Aden Flint volleyed the hosts in front.
With the clock ticking down, Pearson rose highest to head Luke Berry's delivery into the bottom corner.
But there was another twist in the tale as Vassell came on in stoppage time and converted Junior Hoilett's cross in the 96th minute to seal Cardiff's first victory since their return to the Championship.
Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock reacted to the opening day defeat at Wigan by making several changes to his starting XI.
Summer signing Robert Glatzel was tasked with leading the line for the first time and Marlon Pack was thrust into the heart of midfield after arriving on deadline day alongside Vassell. Alex Smithies made his first start in goal after Neil Etheridge's hamstring injury last weekend with Northern Ireland international Gavin Whyte also making his full debut.
Josh Murphy wasted a chance in the opening minute when he pulled a shot wide after Glatzel hustled Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu out of possession and put his new colleague through on goal.
The Hatters almost got their noses in front when Callum McManaman latched onto a loose touch from Mpanzu, but Smithies smothered the ball and the drab first half ended without a goal.
The breakthrough came six minutes into the second period after Pearson brought down Callum Paterson deep inside the Luton half.
Murphy delivered a threatening ball in between the goalkeeper and his defensive line and centre-back Flint took advantage of the confusion to side-foot a volley home from six yards.
A lapse in concentration from Murphy allowed Luton substitute Harry Cornick to get in behind the defence and send a low cross into the danger area, but James Collins could only fire the ball inches wide.
Glatzel should have capped a positive debut with a goal after Hoilett delivered an inch-perfect cross into his path, but the German forward failed to make contact with the ball in front of an empty net.
And Cardiff were made to pay for their miss after Joe Ralls conceded a corner, despite his strong protests for a goal kick. Berry swung a dangerous delivery into the box and Pearson craned his neck to power the ball away from Smithies and into the bottom corner.
Warnock responded by pulling Glatzel off and sending Vassell into the fray after his deadline-day move from Birmingham. And the Cardiff striker made a move across the defence to get his head to Hoilett's in-swinging cross to secure all three points.
Neil Warnock: "There are twists and turns in the window and you have to take advantage if you can. It's not just a goalscorer goal, he [Isaac Vassell] ran 50 yards to close someone down and it just spread to the crowd and the other players. I watched him on a cold windy night at Truro when I was out of work for a few weeks and he did everything right that night.
"I thought we showed a lot of character, we had five players making debut and had nervous characters before game. But I thought we really grew into it. We needed a goal to dampen Luton's enthusiasm and we had enough chance to make it comfortable. They took their chance in the second-half and made it difficult for us, but credit to us we didn't sulk. Junior came on and delivered a great ball and it was nice to see Isaac come on and finish."
Graeme Jones: "At one stage, he was coming [to Luton]. But other clubs got involved and we were unable to compete financially," said Jones. But not defending the cross is more disappointing than not signing him. It just showed how ruthless the Championship can be. We have (to) learn from it. I'm not thinking about who scored, but who's stopping the cross.
"We didn't control the moment. We were slicing things and putting it out for throw-ins. That's how they play. It's not how we play. We played really well for 94 minutes and competed but the game is about 95. The only thing I asked the players to do was be themselves before the game. Overall they were, it's just the last minute of the game, we got punished."