Patrick Gleeson reports on the Seagulls’ success in Wales.
Albion completed the ultimate smash and grab last night and will be leaving the Welsh capital with a shared sense of relief.
Gus Poyet has Tomas Kuszczak to thank for the 2-0 victory after he produced an outstanding performance throughout the 90 minutes, producing a massive number of saves.
The Seagulls travelled to Cardiff City Stadium as underdogs as the hosts sat 8 points clear at the top and nine games unbeaten, but a determined defensive display means the gap between Brighton and a play-off spot is now down to just 2 points.
Albion got a scare early on when Cardiff loan striker Frazier Campbell clipped the bar with an effort after 6 minutes, only for the referee to pull the play back for a clumsy challenge on Craig Bellamy on the edge of the box. The former Liverpool forward dusted himself down and took the set-play, but could only drill the free kick hard into the sturdy Albion wall.
Andrew Taylor then burst down the left flank and dragged a pass back to the perfectly-positioned Craig Noone, but the former Albion man was outdone by Tomasz Kuszczak who collected the ball with a low save.
Next it was Peter Wittingham to test the big Pole with his fizzing effort, but again Kuszczak was more than equal to it and steered it away from goal with fine, acrobatic save. Bellamy then thought he had opened the scoring with a low strike but after a touch from Kuszczak’s elbow the ball smashed the top of the crossbar.
The former Manchester United stopper then made a heroic double stop to deny Bellamy after a lapse of concentration from Dean Hammond at the back. He first threw himself at the feet of the Wales international to strip him of the ball, and then jumped to his feet to push away from a matter of inches.
Liam Bridcutt and Adam El-Abd then both made stunning blocks to keep the game at deadlock, but Albion then sprung a surprise on the home side by taking the lead on the stroke of half time. David Lopez picked out his compatriot Andrea Orlandi who easily tapped the ball past David Marshall at the near post.
Albion had to weather in another almighty storm from the league leaders in the second period. First of all Aron Gunnarsson rifled a shot from range which flew wildly over, and then Craig Conway, who replaced Craig Noone, could only watch as Kuszczak pulled off another spectacular save and pushed the ball onto the crossbar.
Gunnarsson then hit the base of the post before pelting the ball low towards the corner of the goal, but an outstretched Kuszczcak made another magnificent stop to curb the Iceland international.
Craig Bellamy and Wittingham both had late strikes repelled before Gunnarsson missed a glaring opportunity with a misplaced header.
It was not Cardiff’s day, and Leonardo Ulloa proved that when he tucked away Lopez’s cross deep into injury time and hand Malky Mackay an unwelcome birthday present.