The Football League kicked on Friday night with Championship promotion favourites Cardiff City held to a one-all draw at play-off hopefuls Blackburn Rovers.
The big surprise pre-match came from the team news as Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted for an ambitious looking 4-3-3 formation with Kenwyne Jones joining Adam Le Fondre and Nicky Maynard in attack. It was a move that paid off for Solskjaer as Jones struck first to give the bluebirds the lead.
It was the home side that started the match brightest though, with ex-Cardiff striker Rudy Gestede at the heart of things. The big Benin striker’s battle with Cardiff’s centre halfs Mark Hudson and Matt Connolly would prove to be one of the features of the match, and he was involved in the first major incident of the game.
Gestede beat Hudson to a header on the edge of the Cardiff penalty area and the ball made contact with the Cardiff captain’s arm. Referee Andy Madley awarded a dubious free kick, although television replays suggested contact was inside the box. The subsequent free kick was wasted as Tom Cairney failed to beat the defensive wall.
Cardiff settled into the game after this and established their threat at set pieces, with Jones the focal point. From a Whittingham corner Jones had a header tipped over by Blackburn keeper Robinson, then on 19 minutes the Trinidad & Tobago striker stole in at the back post to head home a Hudson flick on from close range.
Jones had another chance soon after, combining well with Maynard, but he shot weakly at Robinson. However this was as good as it got for the bluebirds as they failed to make the most of their ascendancy and allowed Rovers back into the game.
Blackburn’s feisty and determined approach was no better exemplified than their equalising goal five minutes before half time. Cardiff midfielder Peter Whittingham dilly dallied in possession 30 yards from his own goal and under pressure by Jordan Rhodes surrendered the ball to Tom Cairney. The former Hull playmaker burst forward into space and unleashed an unstoppable 20-yard drive past David Marshall.
After the break Blackburn continued to dominate and they controlled the football for most of the second half without creating any clear cut chances. Craig Conway was probing force on the left hand side, delivering plenty of balls into the danger zone. In fact the Scottish winger did create Blackburn’s best chance of the second half, crossing for Gestede to head wide early in the second half.
Despite Blackburn’s tight grip on possession, Solskjaer took steps to assert some control by bringing on Tom Adeyemi for his debut and the ex-Birmingham player did an efficient job in providing some energy to the midfield and breaking up play.
As the game drew to a close the sting went out of Blackburn’s assault and both teams settled down in acceptance of the draw. A full quota of Cardiff substitutions and several niggly yellow cards put the brakes on Blackburn’s flow and the season’s opener wound down into a stalemate with both manager’s seemingly happy to take a point.
Blackburn: Robinson, Baptiste, Hanley (c), Kilgallon (Williamson), Olsson, Lowe, Evans, Conway, Cairney, Gestede, Rhodes
Cardiff: Marshall, Brayford, Hudson (c), Connolly, Fabio, Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Daehli (Adeyemi), Maynard, Le Fondre (Eikrem), Jones (Burgstaller)
Attendance: 15, 625