PABLO HERNANDEZ smashed in one of the goals of the weekend and then spoke of Leeds United receiving an “unbelievable” confidence boost by netting back-to-back wins.
Former Valencia and Swansea City winger Hernandez rifled an 82nd-minute gem into the top right-hand corner, doubling United’s lead in Cardiff after Chris Wood’s 62nd-minute penalty.
Striker Wood coolly stroked the ball home from 12 yards by sending Bluebirds goalkeeper Ben Amos the wrong way after United’s man-of-the-match centre-back Pontus Jansson had been hurled down in the box.
Swedish international defender Jansson was a commanding presence throughout and integral to United netting their third Championship success of the season and second in a week.
Four days after Tuesday night’s 2-1 triumph at home to Blackburn Rovers had lifted Leeds out of the relegation zone, Saturday’s win in Wales elevated them to 15th.
In a tightly congested division, Leeds are now only four points off the play-off spots and five points clear of the drop zone.
Hernandez, whose stunning strike was voted Sky’s goal of the weekend, was reluctant to set specific targets, but nevertheless admitted this week’s two quickfire victories have now left confidence brimming within the Whites.
“It’s always good for my confidence when I score and it’s good for my confidence in the future, but more important is the three points,” Hernandez said.
“It was very important for us to win two games in a week because we haven’t started the season very well. Now with these two wins I think the team can go up in confidence and keep more calm. For the confidence of the team it’s unbelievable these two wins.”
Victory at home to Ipswich Town next Saturday could feasibly take Leeds into the division’s top half, but Hernandez warned: “You win one game and you go up three or four positions.
“But if you lose one game you go four or five positions down.
“It’s too early (to make predictions) and the key now is to only think about the next game and to keep this performance going. With this performance the team can win a lot more games.”
Leeds lined up in Cardiff missing their captain Liam Bridcutt who limped off with a foot injury in the win against Blackburn and was not risked by Whites’ head coach Garry Monk.
Eighteen-year-old midfielder Ronaldo Vieira took his place and excelled, with centre-back Kyle Bartley taking the captain’s arm-band.
Leeds were somewhat fortunate not to concede in the first half as Cardiff twice hit a post from corners as efforts from Sean Morrison and then Aron Gunnarsson cannoned back off the woodwork.
But United also squandered a golden opportunity themselves in the first period when Hadi Sacko and Hernandez set up Wood, who fired straight at Amos from 12 yards.
Cardiff again threatened from set pieces and crosses immediately after the break with the presence of 6ft 5ins defender Jansson crucial in maintaining United’s clean sheet.
But Leeds continued to offer a big threat themselves and after Wood fired wide from a tight angle, the New Zealand international striker then gave the Whites a 62nd-minute lead.
There could be no arguments with the decision to award a penalty as Connolly hauled down Jansson and Wood showed admirable composure to slot the ball home calmly for his fifth goal of the new campaign.
Cardiff threatened to equalise immediately through two corners, which were both cleared, but United continued to bomb forward in search of a second.
Hernandez was guilty of failing to play in Wood from a two-on-one counter-attack, before Hadi Sacko’s stinging low shot was tipped around the post by Amos.
But there was no stopping Leeds in the 82nd minute when the lively Hernandez again moved forward before curling a peach of a shot into the top right corner from just inside the area.
This goal sparked an exodus among the home contingent with Cardiff now bottom under new boss Paul Trollope.
United’s players, meanwhile, were left to celebrate in front of just over 2,000 hardy Leeds fans who had made their way to the Welsh captial for a 12.30pm kick-off. The victory also eased any alleged pressure on new Whites head coach Monk from United chairman Massimo Cellino.
“We have a new group, new manager, new ideas, and we are taking it step by step,” said Monk.
“We are right at the start of that journey and if we give this group time to show their quality they can potentially grow into something very good.
“This is another step in the right direction. We are getting there slowly, we’ve not yet had that complete performance, but we are growing.
“It was important to get those back-to-back wins and see how these young players deal with that momentum.”
United welcome Blackburn Rovers again tomorrow evening for their second meeting in eight days, this time in the third round of the EFL Cup.
Cardiff City: Amos, Peltier, Morrison, Richards, Whittingham, Ralls (Harris 70), Noone, Pilkington (Immers 88), Connolly (Gounongbe 83), Gunnarsson, Lambert. Unused substitutes: Wilson, Ecuele Manga, John, Huws.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Jansson, Bartley, Taylor, Vieira, O’Kane, Hernandez (Phillips 89), Dallas (Roofe 71), Sacko, Wood (Antonsson 89). Unused substitutes: Silvestri, Coyle, Cooper, Mowatt.
Referee: G Scott.