Match ends, Cardiff City 2, Luton Town 1.
|Saturday's Championship as it happened|
Isaac Vassell scored a dramatic winning goal just minutes after coming on for his debut to give Cardiff City a first win of the Championship season against newly promoted Luton Town.
Although the Hatters were allowed to control possession for long periods, Cardiff created the vast majority of scoring opportunities thanks to their pace on the break and aerial prowess from set-pieces.
Their direct approach paid dividends early in the second half as towering centre-back Aden Flint volleyed in from Josh Murphy's free-kick.
With four minutes left, they were given a taste of their own medicine as Matt Pearson headed in firmly from Luke Berry's corner - but then Vassell nodded in from fellow substitute Junior Hoilett's cross to spark jubilant celebrations at Cardiff City Stadium.
Signed from Birmingham City on the final day of the transfer window on Thursday, Vassell had only replaced fellow debutant Robert Glatzel in the 91st minute before striking less than five minutes later.
The forward was mobbed by his team-mates, who moments earlier had thought they were to be denied a first victory of the campaign.
This was a real clash of styles, with Neil Warnock's physically imposing, counter-attacking hosts posing a stark contrast to a Luton side whose patient, passing style had helped them win last season's League One title with a flourish.
Content to let their opponents keep the ball at times, Cardiff were most dangerous when they broke at speed and put their significant size to use from set-pieces.
Murphy threatened with his pace on the left wing and had three early chances to score, while centre-back and captain Sean Morrison had a header tipped on to the bar by Simon Sluga.
With six of their starting line-up taller than six feet, Cardiff dominated in the air throughout, so it was no surprise to see their biggest player of all, Flint, give them the lead.
Naturally, the goal came from a set-piece, Murphy curling an inviting free-kick towards the back post, where 6ft 6in centre-back Flint was on hand to volley in his first goal for the club in only his second appearance since joining from Middlesbrough.
Luton struggled to repel Cardiff's corners and free-kicks but, when they advanced into the opposition half, the visitors showed glimpses of their attacking threat, such as James Collins' first-time effort which hit the side netting.
Graeme Jones' men thought they had snatched a point with Pearson's thumping header, but they were dealt a cruel late blow as Vassell nodded in.
It was a moment of huge relief for Cardiff, who demonstrated the kind of determination which will delight Warnock as he aims for a record ninth promotion and an instant return to the Premier League.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock:
"I thought we showed a lot of character. We had five players making debuts and had nervous characters before the game but I thought we really grew into it.
"We needed a goal to dampen Luton's enthusiasm and we had enough chances 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."
Luton Town manager Graeme Jones:
"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.
"We made some rash decisions when we were fatigued. I am disappointed with the first goal because we had worked at that a lot.
"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."
- 20WhyteSubstituted forVaulksat 76'minutes
- 13PatersonBooked at 45mins
- 11MurphyBooked at 21minsSubstituted forHoilettat 68'minutes
- 9GlatzelSubstituted forVassellat 90+1'minutes
- 2CranieSubstituted forBreeat 74'minutes
- 3PottsBooked at 90mins
- 29ButterfieldSubstituted forBerryat 84'minutes
- 20MoncurSubstituted forCornickat 55'minutes
- 19CollinsBooked at 61mins
- Darren Bond
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Cardiff City 2, Luton Town 1.
Offside, Luton Town. Dan Potts tries a through ball, but James Collins is caught offside.
Goal! Cardiff City 2, Luton Town 1. Isaac Vassell (Cardiff City) header from very close range to the top left corner. Assisted by David Junior Hoilett with a cross.
Dan Potts (Luton Town) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Luke Berry (Luton Town).
Will Vaulks (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Joe Ralls (Cardiff City) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Callum Paterson.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Cardiff City. Isaac Vassell replaces Robert Glatzel.
Delay in match because of an injury Simon Sluga (Luton Town).
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Marlon Pack (Cardiff City).
Ryan Tunnicliffe (Luton Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Callum Paterson (Cardiff City).
Goal! Cardiff City 1, Luton Town 1. Matty Pearson (Luton Town) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Luke Berry with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Luton Town. Conceded by Joe Ralls.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by James Bree.
James Collins (Luton Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Aden Flint (Cardiff City).