ROTHERHAM UNITED earned their first victory of the season in dramatic circumstances as an injury-time winner put high-flying Cardiff City to the sword.
Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe’s spot kick after David Marshall was red-carded for a clash with Matt Derbyshire put the Millers in charge but their joy was shortlived as Peter Whittingham levelled matters before the interval.
The Millers looked like having to settle for a share of the spoils despite knocking on the door for the majority of the second half until sub Chris Maguire’s cross was deflected into his own net by Matthew Connolly with just seconds remaining to send the AESSEAL New York Stadium into raptures.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Bluebirds as Jonson Clarke-Harris was rewarded for his strike at the AMEX with a starting berth as Chris Maguire had to settle for a substitutes berth.
The AESSEAL New York faithful had their first glimpses of goalkeeper Lee Camp and Norwich loan pair Odjidja-Ofoe and Tony Andreu with the latter being handed his second start at the expense of Aidy White.
Despite the Millers starting the stronger, the visitors had the first sight of goal when Derbyshire’s pass was intercepted by Joe Ralls, who tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to trouble Camp in the home goal.
In the Millers’ foray of note, Joe Newell swung a tantalising corner which saw skipper Danny Collins ghost in at the far post to power a downward header which was blocked en-route to goal by Fabio De Silva.
Just before the quarter hour, Joe Mattock became the first to see yellow for a mistimed tackle on Craig Noone before Newcastle loanee Sammy Ameobi soon joined him in the book for a crunching challenge on Farrend Rawson.
Minutes later, Whittingham curled a outswinging corner which was met by the head of Sean Morrison, who looped a header which had Camp anxiously backtracking towards his own goal but the home stopper kept his nerve to catch underneath his own crossbar.
Brazilian defender Fabio became the next to incur the wrath of the referee when he was cautioned for unceremoniously hauling over Andreu near the touchline before Whittingham and Morrison combined once again when the latter met the ex-Villa midfielder’s free-kick to head dangerously across goal but the ball fizzed harmlessly past the upright.
Just before the half hour mark, Clarke-Harris flicked on Camp’s punt forward into the path of Andreu, who fired a bobbling effort from distance which stung the palms of Scottish international ‘keeper Marshall in the visitors’ goal.
Moments later, the Millers came within a whisker of the opener when Rawson’s clearance was misjudged by Connolly and Derbyshire pounced on the error to play a slide-rule ball across the box which was inches away from the outstretched leg of Clarke-Harris, who had the Cardiff goal at his mercy if he was able to make a meaningful contact.
The game took a twist five minutes before the interval when Collins’ chip over the top skimmed off the turf to evade the run of Derbyshire as Marshall collected on the edge of his box and the duo seemed to clash before the visitors’ stopper appeared to flick out at the ex-Olympiakos striker and the referee had no hesitation in brandishing the red card to the visitors ‘keeper and point to the spot in the process.
The Bluebirds immediately brought Simon Moore into the fray and his first piece of action was to pick the ball out of his own net as from the resultant spot kick, Odjidja-Ofoe kept his nerve to wrongfoot the replacement ‘keeper as he slid the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
With half-time approaching, Ameobi fired a speculative effort from distance but Camp was well-stationed on his own line to snuff out the danger before Cardiff had an opportunity to get themselves back on level terms when Fabio injected pace into a visiting move following a one-two from the left flank before tumbling over the challenge of Rawson in the box and the referee again pointed to the spot before showing the yellow card to the Derby loanee.
From the resultant penalty, Whittingham levelled matters as he fired into the heart of the home goal as the ball evaded the dive of Camp.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 1
Following a slow start by both teams to the second half, the Millers had the first attack of note when Richie Smallwood’s clipped ball to the flank was hit first time by Mattock across the face of goal and although the ball was half-cleared by a retreating Bluebird, Clarke-Harris fired a volley which brought a fine reflex save from Moore before the ball dribbled to safety.
Minutes later, Cardiff failed to deal with an arrowed ball forward and Andreu pounced on the loose ball before setting his sights on goal but he dragged his shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Just before the hour mark, Rotherham countered with purpose and Newell swung a delightful centre which was met by the head of Clarke-Harris but his towering header failed to trouble the visitors goal.
The Millers were looking the most likely and they squandered an opportunity to regain the lead when Newell’s deflected centre was headed back into the danger area by Andreu into the path of Derbyshire, who looked decidedly offside, but his point-blank header was straight down the throat of Moore.
Minutes later, Cardiff failed to deal with Odjidja-Ofoe’s corner and the ball narrowly evaded the head of Clarke-Harris and in the ensuing melee, both Mattock and Collins failed to make a clean contact as they looked to swipe the ball towards goal.
Minutes later, Rotherham switched play effectively and sub Emmanuel Ledesma cut inside to fire a cross which saw Derbyshire nip infront of Connolly but his deft flick narrowly cleared the visiting crossbar.
The Millers were penning the visitors deep and Ledesma’s pass saw Mattock’s cross-cum-shot deflected behind by Lee Peltier while from the resultant phase of play, Derbyshire picked the pocket of a visiting defender before firing a ferocious cross across goal and although Rawson was just yards out, he was unable to adjust his body sufficiently to turn the ball goalwards.
With time running out for the hosts, Derbyshire’s run and pass in the channel paved the way for Newell to swing a first-time cross which looked tailor-made for the run of Clarke-Harris, whose looping header skimmed the far post with Moore rooted to the spot.
Moments later, Cardiff failed to clear decisively and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Newell, who calmly watched the ball come down before striking a fantastic volley which smashed against the inside of the post before falling to safety.
However, the Millers were not to be outdone and they deservedly grabbed the winner when the ball was switched to the right flank and sub Maguire weighed up his options to fire a cross to the near post which saw Ledesma look to turn the ball home and the ball seemed to strike the leg of Connolly and the ball rolled tantalising over the line to send the home fans wild and give the Millers their first three points of the season.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Cardiff City 1
Teams- Rotherham- Camp, Buxton, Mattock, Collins, Clarke-Harris, Rawson, Newell, Andreu (Ledesma 68), Odjidja-Ofoe, Derbyshire (Maguire 83), Smallwood. Unused- Collin, D Ward, Green, Halford, G Ward.
Cardiff- Marshall, Peltier, Da Silva, Morrison, Whittingham, Ralls, Mason (Moore 42), Noone (Jones 75), Dikgacoi, Connolly, Ameobi (Revell 86). Unused- Ecuele Manga, Pilkington, Gunnarsson, Malone
Referee- K Hill
Attendance- 8935 (818).