Valerien Ismael greeted the press with a general smile as he famous his 46th birthday with an emphatic West Bromwich Albion victory in Cardiff.
The Albion boss has now presided over a 10-match unbeaten run at the beginning of his reign and his players presented him with the best gift he could’ve possibly asked for – a performance of quality, a score-line that will have the division sitting up and taking notice and a return to the top of the league table.
Cardiff were dreadful, but Albion – who have slipped up against similar sides recently – put them to the sword. It began within five minutes when Karlan Grant’s rasping strike picked out the far corner and, after a fleeting Bluebirds effort, the Baggies tore their hosts to shreds in the second half thanks to goals from Alex Mowatt, Matt Phillips and a Curtis Nelson own goal.
Things couldn’t have gone much smoother for Ismael, who would otherwise have been enjoying a birthday with his family.
“Straightaway after the game I must say a enormous thank you for the three points but especially for the performance,” he said.
“At a time when you could be celebrating with your family, you need to make a sacrifice and when you see a game and a performance like that, it’s worth it sometimes.
“It was a great evening for us; it was a similar situation to Luton, to Sheffield United, to Blackburn – when we score first, we know we can set the tone in the game and we moved the ball quickly.
“We knew we had to keep the ball in play and we made it perfectly in the first half. Second half, we knew we had to stay on the front foot against Cardiff and defend their set pieces and long ball.
“Kieffer Moore was on the bench, and you knew Cardiff would do something in the second half. The first nine, ten minutes Cardiff were strong, but we were really stable and we scored the second goal at the right time.
READ: Our Albion player ratings as they demolish Cardiff
“It gave us enormous confidence and we then scored two bright goals to get the deserved win.”
The quality of the goals from Grant – his third in two games – and Mowatt – who equaled his rocket at Blackburn with a finessed half volley into the top corner here – were quite something to behold.
Ismael will enjoy watching those strikes back as he digests his players’ characterize, but already the man himself is looking quickly onto the meeting with Stoke later this week.
“All the goals were bright, it showed the confidence and mentality in the team. We have a great feeling,” he additional. “We work altogether, but now as I said to the guys and I say to you the same – let’s focus on Friday night.
“We have another difficult away game and we need to retrieve. We need another forceful performance to finish the week positively, and to make sure we do the right thing on Friday night.”
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