It was a rough introduction to the Premier League for the yellow-card red Bluebirds of Cardiff City. Although the newcomers spent heavily in their quest to avoid relegation, they're still far from a coherent unit, and they were beaten 2-0 by West Ham at Upton Park in their opening game of the season.
The Hammers were on top from the beginning and it took a last-ditch intervention from Peter Whittingham to prevent Joe Cole opening the scoring in the second minute when the former Chelsea and Liverpool man appeared set to convert Matt Jarvis' far-post cross. The hosts were ripping Cardiff apart almost at will, and should have gone 1-0 up after fantastic work from the trio of Cole, Modibo Maiga and Guy Demel picked out Jarvis in the box, but the winger couldn't clear his feet and the chance was lost.
A goal was coming, so it was no surprise when Cole converted with 13 minutes on the clock. Jarvis found the byline and cut the ball back into center, where Cole managed to hold off Steven Caulker and fire in a shot on the turn. David Marshall was well beaten as the ball scampered into the bottom corner.
It could have been more. Cole's lack of pace meant he couldn't convert a one-on-one after beating the visitors' line, chipping tamely at the goalkeeper when almost any other attacking player in the league would have scored, and a vicious deflection off Matthew Connolly from Mohamed Diame's shot flew inches wide of Marshall's left-hand post.
West Ham didn't give up a serious chance until after the break and even that came after a referee error. Jussi Jaaskelainen and Fraizer Campbell clashed in the Hammers' box and the ball broke free over the line. Despite Campbell's touch being the last, Howard Webb signaled for a corner, and the delivery caused utter panic in the home side's defense, eventually being cleared after half-a-dozen failed attempts.
The Bluebirds were a little more adventurous in the second half, but they were still struggling to actually trouble their hosts, who were still having the better of the chances. Jarvis blasted over after being played in by Mark Noble, and it took an absolutely superb save from Marshall to deny Maiga on the hour mark.
West Ham needed a goal to feel safe and they deployed new signing Stewart Downing to help get it. He made an immediate impact, tormenting Cardiff's defense with some teasing crosses, and it wasn't long after his arrival before the hosts doubled their lead. Noble surged forward to tee up skipper Kevin Nolan in the box, and his shot was blasted past Marshall before the goalkeeper could react.
The visitors finally showed a bit of initiative after the second goal, but it was too little, too late, and aside from a late Whittingham free kick, Jaaskelainen's clean sheet was never in any real doubt. Neither were West Ham's three points.
West Ham (4-4-1-1): Jussi Jaaskelainen; Joey O'Brien, Winston Reid, James Collins, Guy Demel; Matthew Jarvis (Stewart Downing, 71'), Mohamed Diame (Alou Diarra, 82'), Mark Noble, Joe Cole (Ricardo Vez Te, 90'); Kevin Nolan; Modibo Maiga.
Goals: Cole 13', Nolan 76'.
Cardiff City (4-2-3-1): David Marshall; Declan John, Ben Turner, Steven Caulker, Matthew Connolly; Aron Gunnarsson, Gary Medel; Kim Bo-Kyung (Nicky Maynard, 75'), Peter Whittingham, Craig Bellamy (Rudy Gestede, 75'); Fraizer Campbell (Jordon Mutch, 90').