Jeremy Sarmiento produced a moment of magic to give West Brom a precious 1-0 win at Cardiff.
Sarmiento’s second Albion goal five minutes after the restart lit up a contest that had been largely forgettable until that point and was enough to take West Brom into the top three of the Sky Bet Championship.
The Ecuador winger, on a season-long loan from Brighton, was at the World Cup this time last year and his goal would not have looked out of place at that tournament.
Sarmiento broke down the left before cutting inside Josh Bowler and unleashing a vicious curling 25-yard shot that flew into the far corner of Alex Runarsson’s net.
Although not as spectacular as Alejandro Garnacho’s stunning overhead kick for Manchester United at Everton on Sunday, it will be a chief contender for West Brom’s goal of the season.
Albion’s fifth win in six games moved them above Leeds and Southampton – who both play on Wednesday – and seven points behind second-placed Ipswich.
Victory would have taken Cardiff above Albion, but the Bluebirds were flat throughout as they slipped to a second successive home defeat.
The game quickly settled into a cautious affair with neither side willing to take too many risks.
Cedric Kipre, who spent last season on loan at Cardiff and whose April winner at Rotherham virtually guaranteed the Bluebirds’ survival, was on hand for Albion to block from former team-mate Joe Ralls.
West Brom struggled to make an impact in the final third and were handicapped by the departure of Jed Wallace, who left the action holding his arm and in obvious pain.
Okay Yokuslu fired wildly from 25 yards for the visitors before Sarmiento and Bowler tangled at the other end.
Bowler went down to some half-hearted penalty appeals as Callum Robinson, against his former employers, picked up the loose ball and shot over.
The deadlock was almost broken after 31 minutes when Cardiff were exposed defensively from their own corner.
Albion had a four-on-two situation but Grady Diangana delayed the final pass and the stretching Sarmiento could only trickle his effort against the post.
Bowler, Cardiff’s biggest attacking threat down the left, immediately escaped marker Conor Townsend and shimmied his way past Kipre but Alex Palmer was off his line quickly to smother.
Sarmiento’s sublime strike gave Albion the edge as both sides turned heavily to their bench for the final half-hour.
Yokuslu had excelled in the midfield battle before being withdrawn in the final quarter and Albion should have doubled their advantage 15 minutes from time.
Ryan Wintle sliced Darnell Furlong’s long throw to the far post where the unmarked Brandon Thomas-Asante directed his header over.
Cardiff stirred in the final 10 minutes as Rubin Colwill made a lively impact from the bench, the Wales international having two shots blocked, and Bowler and Manolis Siopis blasted over.
But the night belonged to Carlos Corberan’s Albion and in particular Sarmiento.
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