West Bromwich Albion 3 - Blackburn Rovers 2
Given the injuries to Gibbs and the unlucky Townsend I thought Bilic went with our boldest and strongest side available - Austin up front, Pereira in for the graceful and talented but thus-far ineffectual Krovinovic and Diangana getting the nod over a perhaps slightly unfortunate Edwards. The team was certainly set up to attack and shoot. The only dubious call was to go for Ferguson over Brunt at left back but it was a big show of faith.
Before we could even get going we were behind through something straight out of last season - a terrible ball into Bartley who made a total hash of his pass into midfield and Dack stole in to finish.
Inexcusable as far as I’m concerned- anyone who has played 5 games with Bartley should know not to give him the ball in situations like that and just go long.
Thankfully after 4 or 6 minutes of shell shock we got to grips with the game - Peirera running the show.
We looked to have more threat in the final third despite not being fully coherent and it was a forward pass that put Phillips through in a 50/50 - he looked slow to it but his strength bundled the defender off the ball and he slotted home.
We created more and scored another 2 excellent goals but right on half time a calamitous error from SJ let Blackburn back in it.
The first 10 minutes of the 2nd half we were terrible - all flicks and half-heartedness with nobody willing to put a foot on the ball. It looked certain that Blackburn would equalise and a couple of times they came very close when hitting the woodwork but we rode it out - I thought Livermore really fought to get us back into the game and showed genuine leadership to get the ball and involve our attacking players.
Zohore came on and gave us a bit more presence up front and I thought we looked good from that point on - we should’ve scored a couple more.
I thought there were some really positive performances and it can’t be bad being undefeated with Hegazi still to come back into the team.
I still thought Phillips was too narrow at times and didn’t always help his fullback with his runs or look anything like fit after 70 mins.
Austin looked a worry - more legs gone as opposed to fitness but I hope I’m wrong and, whatever arguments are had on Twitter, our goalie costs us too many goals directly and via decision-making. There must have been 3 or 4 crosses today he should’ve called for that we ended up conceding corners from. Not sure our mon from Oman is the answer but I don’t think Bilic is blind to it.
Although I am really trying to convert my glass from half empty to half full, there was much encouragement from yesterday’s hard fought victory but WBA are developing a nervous tendency to always concede the first goal.
However there were glittering performances from Grady Diangana (GDG) and Matheus Pereira (Rocher). GDG’s exquisite chip over their goalkeeper was superb and Rocher supplied superb assists for the first two goals.
The jury is out on which of these 2 loaned players will be the new Harvey Barnes but (clue...) GDG has a January recall clause.
At last I was impressed by Livermore – He actually played a captain’s role and a superb strike for the second goal. I like the look of Ajayi (AJ) – When Hegazi is back, AJ might challenge the pondering Harper for a mid-field slot?
Now the bad news – Johnstone and Bartley started with a repeat of last season’s suicidal tactics at the back... I know he saved a penalty last week, but our goal-keeper is clearly a recurring liability – perhaps Bilic agrees so that would explain the sudden arrival from our man from Oman – Ali Al-Habsi (AAH). The Jury has only just retired to consider our vintage Austin (MOT needed?) but I thought Zohore showed more presence with his brief cameo.
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