Neil Harris enjoys first home match in charge as Leandro Bacuna goal sinks Stoke
Leandro Bacuna’s first-half strike earned Cardiff a 1-0 victory over Stoke in Neil Harris’ first home match in charge.
The Curacao international scored his first Bluebirds goal to maintain their new manager’s unbeaten start since taking over from Neil Warnock and hand Michael O’Neill his first defeat as Stoke boss.
The defeat kept the Potters in the Sky Bet Championship relegation places, while Cardiff moved up to 10th.
Harris brought Lee Tomlin into the starting XI after the midfielder’s late strike salvaged a draw at Charlton while former Swansea midfielder Joe Allen captained a Stoke side containing three changes from the 2-1 victory over Wigan.
Sam Clucas and Badou Ndiaye came into the midfield in place of Nick Powell and the suspended James McLean, and the final change saw Tom Edwards dropped to accommodate Cameron Carter-Vickers in defence.
Harris promised a “forward-thinking” approach from his Cardiff side in his pre-match programme notes, and his players delivered on his pledge after 11 minutes.
A quick break upfield led to a Cardiff throw deep in Stoke territory that Lee Peltier delivered into the box.
The ball evaded Bacuna but landed kindly for Gary Madine to send a deft flick in behind Stoke defender Bruno Martins Indi and Bacuna raced on to the ball before firing it high past Jack Butland for his first Cardiff goal.
Tom Ince curled a free-kick a yard past a post four minutes later after being tripped by Tomlin on the edge of the box.
But the Cardiff playmaker was making a positive impression at the other end of the pitch moments after his foul almost cost his side.
Tomlin won the physical battle with Allen as he drove into the area and sent a low cross along the six-yard box, where Madine looked certain to net his first Cardiff goal only for a fine save from Butland keeping it at 1-0 at half-time.
Ince was giving Cardiff more defensive headaches as Stoke went on the attack after the interval. First he cut inside Joe Bennett and bent an effort a yard wide, before being stopped in his tracks by a late Junior Hoilett challenge on the edge of the box.
He got a second opportunity after his free-kick rebounded back to him off the wall, but his low shot was straight at Neil Etheridge.
O’Neill introduced Sam Vokes and Scott Hogan in search of a late leveller, but the hosts held firm to claim all three points.