Cardiff City 0 West Brom 4
Valérien Ismaël’s Albion side set a new club record of ten games unbeaten at the start of a league campaign as they trounced Cardiff City on their home soil. It was also the Baggies’ first win in the Welsh capital for almost 47 years and moved them back to the top of the table ahead of Bournemouth’s game at Peterborough on Wednesday evening.
It was a dominant performance from Albion, kicked off with an early goal from Karlan Grant, a sweet strike from the edge of the box, his third in about 20 minutes of football after his late double against QPR on Friday.
While that was a good goal, it was overshadowed by Alex Mowatt’s second half strike, a spectacular half volley from about 20 yards that flew into the top corner. Those two wonderful goals sandwiched Curtis Nelson’s comedy own goal while Matt Phillips added a fourth after a quick free kick from Grady Diangana.
Ismaël and his team seem to have found a way to play that maintains the high press foundation of Val-ball but now includes the option of playing through midfield on the floor when faced with an aerially dominant opposition defence. Cardiff boss, Mick McCarthy, opted to play with a Pulis-like five centre-backs across defence which made an aerial approach from Albion less than effective. On the floor, however, City had no answer and Albion played some lovely football at times and that should start to win over some of the Ismaël sceptics.
This was by no means a perfect performance. A lot of what Albion tried didn’t come off, the all-important second goal, coming after the hosts’ most concerted spell of pressure, was something of a fluke, and Cardiff were hardly strong opposition. However, the Baggies looked good in possession and were barely troubled with Sam Johnstone not called into action once. The result didn’t flatter Albion, but perhaps that was because the Bluebirds were so poor rather than the visitors being so good.
Nonetheless, it was a potentially tricky game at a venue that Albion have not won at before and it was a further evolution of Ismaël’s tactics at Albion – dominant in possession and more effective in the final third. While there were only 11 attempts from the Baggies, six of those were on target and three produced goals.
Such was the quality of the performance that there is little need for discussion of the personnel. My fear that Townsend would come under pressure from an aerial threat proved unfounded, and that Big Val opted to switch around the front three once again was little more than a side show – all five of the forwards that played contributed in one way or another, and each offers something slightly different. And we should not forget that we finally got to see Jayson Molumby who came on for the final nine minutes to replace Jake Livermore who had once again impressed.
Friday evening’s trip to Stoke City should prove a much more difficult test, but the Baggies will be full of confidence and looking to extend their unbeaten start to the campaign.