IN the end, a point gained for Huddersfield Town from a game that, by rights, they should have lost.
That much explains the relieved faces all around the John Smith’s Stadium when referee Michael Oliver blew the final whistle to bring to a close what had been a largely forgettable Premier League game.
David Wagner’s Terriers had survived the final half-hour unscathed despite being down to 10 men following the dismissal of Jonathan Hogg and the sigh of relief among the locals was palpable.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post half-an-hour or so later, Jonas Lossl, after much pondering on his part, settled on “moral victory” as the best way to sum up a contest that had only spluttered into life once Hogg had been shown the red card.
It was as good a description as any, not least because the territory conceded by those 10 men meant the Bluebirds were effectively able to set up camp in the Town half when attempting to capitalise on their numerical superiority.
Lossl, an early substitute for the injured Ben Hamer, played a big role in that rearguard action proving successful.
They are two aggressive players and one was much more clever than the other. Unfortunately, the clever one was not my player.David Wagner
So, too, did the outstanding Terence Kongolo, while Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen provided useful support and a succession of vital interceptions to grind out a point that Lossl believes means Town’s season is now up and running.
“The coach said it very well after the game,” added the Danish international. “After 60 minutes, all of us felt this was a game to win three points.
“We all hoped that the season was going to start for real. But the red card meant we had to do things a little differently.
“In the end, I am standing here happy to have one point. It was a moral victory. Let’s go with that.”
Moral victories, of course, do not keep teams in the Premier League. But an ability to grind out points when the odds are against you does. Or, at least, it goes a long way towards ensuring survival.
What was concerning from a Town perspective, however, was the lack of quality from those in the famous blue and white stripes when going forward, even when both teams had the full complement of players on the pitch.
Not only did Huddersfield insist on pumping long balls or aimless crosses into the Cardiff penalty area, an approach that played right into the hands of Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison.
But the lack of finesse on those rare occasions when Town did find themselves deep in opposition territory suggests the creativity problems of last season are far from solved after a summer that has seen another £40m or so spent in the transfer market.
If the 2017-18 campaign taught us anything, it is that the Terriers look one-dimensional when Alex Pritchard is not in the side. Steve Mounie, as a consequence, then becomes horribly isolated up front.
History repeated itself against Cardiff, Pritchard left on the bench as Wagner handed Rajiv Van la Parra a surprise recall and brought Adama Diakhaby in for his full debut.
Neither impressed either side of a central midfield that had Aaron Mooy pushed further forward, leaving Philip Billing to anchor midfield with Hogg.
Ramadan Sobhi, the most impressive of the summer signings during pre-season, being ruled out by injury did not help Town.
But, even so, the lack of creativity from the hosts was such that, on this evidence, Huddersfield may even struggle to beat last season’s paltry tally of 28 goals.
Never was this more apparent than in a truly turgid first half. Kongolo’s shot into the side netting apart, Huddersfield created nothing despite enjoying 72 per cent possession.
Matters improved slightly after the break and Mounie was denied by a flying save from Neil Etheridge after Kongolo had found the striker with a searching cross from the left wing.
Any hopes, however, that Town might build on this rare foray forward were dashed when Hogg and Harry Arter locked heads just after the hour mark.
Oliver’s view had been poor but his assistant informed the referee that the Town man had hit the turf as the clear aggressor. Out came the yellow card for Arter, a moment or so before Hogg was given his marching orders.
“They are two aggressive players and one was much more clever than the other,” said Wagner afterwards. “Unfortunately, the clever one was not my player.”
Suddenly, Cardiff sensed a first Premier League victory under former Town manager Neil Warnock. Danny Ward, also once of this parish, came off the bench along with Bobby Reid and before long Huddersfield were struggling to escape their own half.
Chances came and went, the best falling to Morrison but the Terriers old boy’s header from a corner flew just wide.
Ward was then denied by Lossl, who was later relieved to see Josh Murphy blaze wide after Van la Parra had got himself in a tangle.
Lossl, having been dropped for the first two games due to Wagner believing he returned to pre-season out of shape, then underlined his value to Town by denying Reid in the third minute of stoppage time to ensure honours ended even.
“I feel great and I feel ready to stay in the team,” said the Dane, who played in all 38 league games last term as Huddersfield beat the drop.
“It kills me I cannot be (an ever-present) in the team again this season. But I loved being back. I hope I have shown the manager that I am ready.”