Cardiff succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in their first game since the tragic disappearance of Emiliano Sala.
Second-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette overcame a valiant display from Neil Warnock’s side on a sombre night at Emirates Stadium.
Tributes were paid to Cardiff’s club-record signing ahead of kick-off, and the Bluebirds fittingly had the final word as substitute Nathaniel Mendez-Laing struck a consolation goal, even though this was a night when much more mattered.
The defeat leaves Cardiff three points from safety in the relegation zone, while Arsenal stay fifth in the Premier League but move level on points with fourth-place Chelsea, who play Bournemouth on Wednesday.
Arsenal: Leno (6), Lichtsteiner (6), Mustafi (7), Monreal (6), Kolasinac (7), Elneny (6), Guendouzi (6), Torreira (6), Ozil (7), Lacazette (7), Aubameyang (7).
Subs: Jenkinson (6), Ramsey (6), Iwobi (7).
Cardiff: Etheridge (6), Peltier (6), Manga (6), Bamba (6), Bennett (6), Arter (6), Gunnarsson (6), Ralls (6), Reid (7), Paterson (7), Niasse (6).
Subs: Mendez-Laing (7), Harris (6), Zohore (6).
Man of the Match: Bobby Reid.
Daffodils and tulips were laid ahead of kick-off by both captains, but at the request of Sala’s family, black armbands were not worn, with the search for Sala and pliot Dave Ibbotson still ongoing.
Given the testing circumstances, a tough away assignment looked to be following the script when Sead Kolasinac’s low cross presented Alexandre Lacazette with an early chance, but Bruno Manga’s decisive block laid the foundation for a spirited first-half display from Cardiff.
The visitors could have been two up inside their opening quarter of an hour, but Bobby Reid flashed a shot wide on 12 minutes before the unmarked striker headed a Callum Paterson cross over from close range.
Both sides then exchanged penalty appeals as Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal’s challenge on Oumar Niasse went unpunished before referee Mike Dean waved Lacazette’s claims away after a coming together with Manga.
Mesut Ozil captained Arsenal on his first start since Boxing Day, with Unai Emery making seven changes following Friday’s FA Cup exit. Sead Kolasinac, Lucas Torreira, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were the only players to retain their places. Neil Warnock made three changes from Cardiff’s defeat at Newcastle, as Bobby Reid, Aron Gunnarsson and Harry Arter returned.
Unai Emery brought on Alex Iwobi at half-time in a bid to inject some pace into his static attacking line, but Cardiff continued to have the better opportunities in front of goal, a last-gasp Shkodran Mustafi block preventing Niasse from finding the target shortly after the hour.
That was, however, until Iwobi’s incisive through pass released Kolasinac in the area and he was upended by Manga. Aubameyang sent Neil Etheridge the wrong way to put Arsenal into the lead on 66 minutes, though they scarcely deserved it.
Iwobi had the chance to add a quickfire second when Ozil’s deft flick played him through on goal, but he was denied by the outstretched arm of Etheridge.
But Lacazette put the game to bed with a solo goal seven minutes from time, spinning away from Sol Bamba on the touchline before driving a shot through Etheridge’s defences.
Mendez-Laing then rewarded Cardiff for their battling display, rifling a low shot into the far corner, but that, and the defeat, paled into insignificance after the events of last week.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 Premier League home games, since losing their first game of the season against Manchester City (0-2) in August (W10 D2).
- Cardiff City remain the only side in English league football yet to lead at half-time in a game in any competition this season (26 games).
- Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil created his 500th goalscoring chance for a teammate in the Premier League (501 in total). Since his debut in the competition back in September 2013, only Christian Eriksen (510) has created more.
- Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have each scored five Premier League goals against promoted sides this season, more than any other player.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit his 25th goal in his 37th Premier League appearance for Arsenal, the quickest of any player to reach that total for the Gunners in the competition.
Man City vs Arsenal
Arsenal travel to champions Manchester City on Renault Super Sunday(4.30pm), while Cardiff host Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday (5.30pm).