Huddersfield Town fell to a disappointing defeat in the Sky Bet Championship on Wednesday evening, with Cardiff City securing an emphatic 3-0 away victory in West Yorkshire.
Results elsewhere on a busy midweek has left Huddersfield still five points and two places above the relegation zone, with Saturday’s win over Queens Park Rangers easing fears of falling into League One.
However, there was no chance to build on that against a Cardiff side with eyes on the Championship’s top-six. Josh Murphy and Will Vaulks ruined a bright Huddersfield start by firing the Bluebirds into a two-goal lead either side of the half-hour mark, before Callum Paterson wrapped up the scoring late in the second-half.
It was a lesson in finishing efficiency from Neil Harris’ side, who highlighted Huddersfield’s inconsistency, despite the fact Cowley has got the Terriers moving back in the right direction.
Overall, it was an evening of disappointment, which Cowley pointed to in the aftermath. However, as the two managers traded press conferences, Harris pointed to which Town player was causing his side a few problems despite the convincing nature of the result: Juninho Bacuna.
Discussing his decision to bring on Leandro Bacuna (Juninho’s brother) he alluded to the fact he did that to combat to Huddersfield man’s menace.
“How good was Leo when he came on?” Harris told the press. “I know he had to come on in a slightly wider area and deal with his brother; because he was causing us problems.”
Town’s Bacuna was filling in for Karlan Grant on the left of Huddersfield’s attack, once again showing his versatility after a stint at right-back. He was a nuisance throughout, and when the opposition boss – on the back of a 0-3 win – name-checks you, you know it’s been a decent evening individually.
So, with that in mind, we break down the impact of the 22-year-old on Wednesday…
It was Bacuna carrying a lot of Huddersfield’s threat in the opening 28 minutes of the game, with Cowley surely impressed with how his side handled the opening exchanges; they bossed possession and territory, with Harris accepting Murphy’s opener did come against the run of play.
Bacuna was heavily involved in that positive opening, twice springing Alex Smithies into action; the first was a looping header that never really tested the goalkeeper, but the second was a fizzing drive from the left-edge of the area, which was turned behind for a corner.
They were two of three shots on target, whilst the Dutchman’s positivity on a tough evening was underlined by the additional off target efforts, six touches in the box, four progressive runs and a good pass success rate.
Murphy’s opener and Vaulks’ sublime volley took the game away from Huddersfield after 33 minutes, but there was still plenty of effort coming from Bacuna on the left as he drew fouls and created opportunities (three shot assists in 90 minutes).
60% of the wide-man’s dribbles were successful, with Jazz Richards knowing that he’d been in a game by full-time.
However, he, and the rest of Cardiff’s defence, dealt with Huddersfield’s main threat very well. That’s evident in the fact the only 33% of Bacuna’s crosses found a teammate, with the height of Curtis Nelson and Sean Morrison, as well as the likes of Marlon Pack, allowing the Bluebirds to clear almost everything coming their way.
Despite a convincing scoreline, it was an exceptional defensive display from Cardiff; they held their ground in the opening half-hour before landing two killer blows, then reverted back to some stern defensive work.
That’s the difference in a team on the brink of the top-six and one still looking over their shoulder in the relegation scrap. Cowley knows that and as he talks about his process, he will aim to be more like Cardiff in another 12 months time. Town can’t afford the cheap concessions anymore and they need to be as ruthless as the Bluebirds were on the break.
What can be said, though, is that it isn’t all doom and gloom at The John Smith’s Stadium in wake of such a poor result, and Bacuna, and his ability to be such a nuisance, is a big reason for that.