‘Marvellous’ West Brom defender Semi Ajayi wins Slaven Bilic plaudits

Head coach Slaven Bilic hailed Semi Ajayi as ‘marvellous’ following the defender’s goalscoring display at Fulham.

Semi Ajayi of West Bromwich Albion applauds the travelling West Bromwich Albion Fans at the end of the match. (AMA)
Semi Ajayi of West Bromwich Albion applauds the travelling West Bromwich Albion Fans at the end of the match. (AMA)

The 25-year-old netted his first Baggies goal in the 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage on Saturday – a result which extended his team’s unbeaten start to the season.

As well as finding the target, Ajayi also impressed at the back with the Nigerian international winning his duel with Aleksandar Mitrovic. And Bilic admitted he is delighted with the way the defender has adapted to life at The Hawthorns following his summer move from Rotherham.

“The lad is totally focused and totally into it – that’s why he is playing,” the 51-year-old said. “In all the games so far he has been marvellous for us, marvellous.

“That is why he is playing now for Nigeria. He’s a top man, a top man.

“For the goal, he was in the right place at the right time. I’ve said before, it’s not just about size, it’s not just all about the leap or whatever.

“It’s about that hunger to score goals. When he sees a bad cross he doesn’t turn his back. He thinks maybe the keeper will drop it. Maybe. He is hungry, he wants to score goals. And he has the pace of a centre forward, which helps us a lot to keep a high line.”

Bilic was pleased with the way Ajayi and centre-back partner Kyle Bartley handled Mitrovic – with the striker having previously scored eight goals in seven games.

“I know Mitrovic – we’re from the same part of Europe,” the head coach continued.

“Top player. Makes a difference, strong, a great finisher.

“I told my centre backs that they’d have to take care of him, but they’re good centre backs. They’re physical, both are good on the ball when they’re confident.”

As well as Bilic, Filip Krovinović also praised Ajayi’s performance at Craven Cottage.

“I just want to say congratulations to him, hopefully, that goal will be the first of many,” the Benfica loanee said.

“I can only say good things about him. He is playing for the national team of Nigeria. He is playing in the first team here. He is doing very well.

“And he is a very good guy which is more important than being a good football player.”

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