Joe Ralls netted a hat-trick as Cardiff City returned to winning ways with a 4-2 victory over Birmingham at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Bluebirds were looking to bounce back from their damaging 1-0 defeat to bitter rivals Swansea in their last match, and they responded in style despite going down to ten men in the second half following Danny Ward’s dismissal.
Neil Warnock’s side battled hard in the second period and they even scored twice following Ward’s red card, with Ralls on target with just over 20 minutes remaining before he completed his hat-trick with a stoppage-time penalty.
The midfielder delivered an excellent performance in the centre of the park, as he not only scored three goals, but he also provided a calm presence in midfield alongside Marlon Pack and Leandro Bacuna.
Ralls was comfortably the best player on the pitch for Cardiff on Saturday, and here we take a look at his stats from the match…
Is Joe Ralls Cardiff's most important player?
Ralls had scored two goals in the 2019/20 season before Saturday’s match, but he surpassed this tally in one match against Birmingham as he netted three times to lead the Bluebirds to victory. The midfielder played the full 97 minutes of the match, including stoppage time, with his final goal coming right at the death in the 95th minute.
The fact Ralls managed to score three goals is made even more impressive when it is noted he only had three shots on target during the whole match. Two of his goals were indeed penalties, but the fact he found the net with each of his shots on target is clear evidence of his effective use of the ball in the final third.
This is also represented in his 88% passing accuracy during the match, which he recorded while dictating play in the middle of the pitch. The Bluebirds needed to be more careful in their use of the ball following Ward’s dismissal, and Ralls was key to this with his ball retention qualities.
However, the 26-year-old was not only important to his side in terms of keeping hold of the ball, as he also proved his capability of winning possession back for his side. He won 48% of his duels as he proved his competitive nature in the middle of the pitch, while the three interceptions was evidence of his ability to read the game and then win the ball back for his team.
The midfielder produced an all-round accomplished performance, with his display showing how important his presence is to this Cardiff side.