Cardiff City proved too strong for Livi as they ran out comfortable winners in this pre-season friendly at a rain-lashed Cardiff City Stadium.
After falling behind early on, the Lions held firm until the break but the Bluebirds’ strength in depth shone through as they pulled away in the second half to run out emphatic winners.
Lions boss David Hopkin made two changes to the side that won at Stranraer to reach the last-16 of the Betfred Cup as Danny Mullen and Matthew Knox returned from their trial spell with Neil Warnock’s side, coming into the starting line-up in place of Dylan Mackin and Jackson Longridge.
Livi saw a lot of the ball in the early stages but almost fell behind on seven minutes when a loose pass from Keaghan Jacobs was seized upon by Junior Hoilett who raced to the byline and cut the ball back for Kenneth Zohore but he fired his shot inches wide.
The home side broke the deadlock on 11 minutes as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing got in down the right and played a perfect low ball across goal for Hoilett to fire home from close range. Cardiff took control after that and came close again when Mendez-Laing found Lee Tomlin, who cut inside Alan Lithgow before the Livi man got back to block his shot. Sean Morrison headed the resulting corner just wide.
More Bluebirds pressure saw Joe Ralls latch onto Declan Gallagher’s clearance and drive forward before firing in a low shot that was deflected wide for a corner that Livi cleared. Mendez-Laing got in behind again on 21 minutes but Craig Halkett was well-placed to toe his low cross away from Zohore, before the big striker headed wide under pressure from Lithgow.
Hoilett was next to breach the Livi backline on 25 minutes but Mendez-Laing couldn’t get on the end of his pinpoint low cross. Livi finally forced a chance on 30 minutes when Jacobs’ free kick was punched clear by Neil Etheridge as far as Knox but his lobbed effort from the edge of the box dropped just over the bar.
The Lions were fortunate to avoid going 2-0 down on 33 minutes when Mendez-Laing released Greg Halford on the overlap and he curled an inch-perfect low ball across the face of goal but there was no one there to turn it home. Two minutes later, Hoilett did well to cut in from the left before curling an effort inches wide.
The home side were swarming forward at every opportunity and a fine first-time ball from Halford played in Aron Gunnarsson but he dragged his shot wide from the edge of the box. In the final minute of the half, Hoilett’s low cross found Mendez-Laing at the back post but he fired his powerful effort over the bar.
Half-time: Cardiff City 1-0 Livingston
Both sides rang the changes at the interval. Livi made three alterations as Knox, Dale Carrick and Dale Carrick were replaced by Longridge, Nikolay Todorov and Josh Mullin. The home side went one better as Etheridge, Halford, Zohore and Hoilett were replaced by Brian Murphy, Bruno Ecuele Manga, Danny Ward and Kadeem Harris.
Livi kept things tight in the early stages of the half but almost conceded a second on 53 minutes as Tomlin showed quick feet to find space at the edge of the box and fire a low shot inches wide. Sub Ward then tested Neil Alexander with a low shot that the Livi stopper did well to save. The second goal did arrive four minutes later as Ward fired home from close range after his initial effort had been brilliantly saved by Alexander.
David Hopkin made two changes soon after as Lithgow and Jacobs were replaced by Scott Robinson and Nicky Cadden before the home side were forced to replace injured half-time sub Harris with Matthew Kennedy. Two minutes later a third goal arrived for the Welsh side as Ecuele Manga was released down the right and he played a perfect ball across goal, leaving Ward with a simple task of tapping into the unguarded net.
It was nearly 4-0 within a minute as Ward got in behind again but Alexander made a fine save to keep his effort out at the near post. Livi then sent on Mackin in place of Raffa De Vita before Anthony Pilkington replaced Lee Tomlin for Cardiff. Joe Bennett came close for the home side on 72 minutes when he curled a free kick just over the bar from 25 yards.
Josh Peters replaced Mullen on 72 minutes before Livi won their first corner a minute later but Murphy punched clear. Tormentor-in-chief Mendez-Laing went off shortly after to be replaced by Jazz Richards before the fourth goal arrived when Kennedy’s corner was met by a bullet header from Ecuele Manga.
Alexander then went off to a rousing reception from the home fans after his six-year spell at the club from 2001-07, Gary Maley coming on. Ward almost had a hat-trick on 78 minutes as he got on the end of a corner but Byrne made a terrific goal line clearance. Another Kennedy corner was met by Ward soon after but he swept his effort wide.
Mackin had Livi’s first effort on target on 87 minutes but his long-range effort was deflected into Murphy’s arms before Ward fired inches wide up the other end as the Bluebirds ran out easy winners.
Full-time: Cardiff City 4-0 Livingston
Putting the result aside, this will undoubtedly prove a valuable learning experience for the players for the season ahead.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Halford, Bamba, Morrison, Bennett, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Hoilett, Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Zohore
Subs: Murphy, Ecuele Manga, Richards, Ward, Harris, Pilkington, Damour, Kennedy
Livingston: Alexander, Longridge, Lithgow, Byrne, Pittman, Mullen, Jacobs, Carrick, De Vita, Halkett, Gallagher
Subs: Maley, Mullin, Todorov, Cadden, Mackin, Robinson, Peters
Referee: B Markham Jones
Report: Andy Crawford