ALBION suffered opening day heartbreak for the second season running as Kenneth Zohore's 87th minute strike grabbed all three points for Neil Warnock on his return to the Brewers for the first time in a competitive game.
Nigel Clough opted for a back four for the opening game of the season with skipper John Mousinho deployed at right back, Kyle McFadzean and Jake Buxton paired together in the centre and Stephen Warnock making his Brewers debut at left back. A solid midfield three of Luke Murphy, Jackson Irvine and Matty Lund allowed wide men Marvin Sordell and Lloyd Dyer to push forward and support Lucas Akins in attack.
McFadzean earned himself the first yellow card of the new season with just four minutes on the clock for a foul on Junior Hoillett as the Canadian tried to burst past him in the middle of the park.
Cardiff’s leading scorer from last season Kenneth Zohore thought he had got his side off to a flying start when he side footed home a cross from Joe Bennett on seven minutes but the big Dane had strayed offside.
Albion grew into the game and a slow start and Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge was drawn from his line on several occasions to show ability to claim crosses. Burton’s pressure was almost undone when Lee Tmlin broke out from defence on a counter attack and set up Hoillett but Mousinho was quickly back to snuff out the danger before the striker could get his shot away.
The game started to open out as the first half wore on and last season’s leading scorer squandered Albion’s best chance so Far, Irvine latching onto a sliderule pass from Sordell but lifting his shot over as Bruno Ecuele Manga came across to try and close him down.
Zohore then fired wide as an untidy scramble in midfield gave him the chance to burst into the box but the challenge of Mousinho as he let fly was probably just enough to ensure his shot finished wide of the post.
As half time approached Albion had another good chance. Akins and Dyer linked up superbly on the left and when the winger raced into the box his main option was Sordell darting towards the near post but under pressure his shot went wide. A good chance gone begging.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Cardiff City
Cardiff pressed at the start of the second half and Burton were under severe pressure in the opening five minutes. Junior Hoillett flashed a deflected shot just wide and from the corner Cardiff went closer still, Sol Bamba at the back post seeing his effort saved at point black range by Stephen Bywater.
Another set piece offered Cardiff the opportunity to test the Brewers defence just after the hour and it was Bamba again, this time getting his head to Tomlin’s free kick, Bywater again well placed to snuff out the danger.
Dyer had claims for a penalty waved away by referee Geoff Eltringham as he burst into the box onto the end of a pass from Irvine before both sides rang the changes.
Albion sacrificed Sordell to add the strength of Hope Akpan in midfield whilst Cardiff made two attacking changes with the pacy Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and midfielder Loic Damour introduced in favour of Bruno Manga and Tomlin.
Cardiff found their second attacking wind and set pieces again threatened to undo the Brewers, a flicked header by skipper Sean Morrison being helped on by Zohore and Bywater finally tipping it just over the crossbar allowing Cardiff to pile another ball into the Burton box but the yellow wall stood firm.
Albion sent Luke Varney on for Dyer with Akins switching to the left and Cardiff continued to show attacking intent with summer signing Danny Ward replacing Hoillett.
Mendez-Laing wasted a good opportunity by lashing wide when a ball across the box would have more than likely picked out the unmarked Ward and when the pacy winger did find his fellow substitute shortly afterwards the outstretched leg of Buxton did enough to deflect the ball wide.
Zohore’s fine finish as he set himself up for a thunderous shot was the culmination of a strong spell of pressure from the Bluebirds and Albion had little time to come up with a response as they slipped to opening day defeat for the second successive season.