West Bromwich Albion 4 - Cardiff City 2
Albion reclaimed top spot in the Championship as they bounced back from the mid-week defeat at Leeds, who dropped into fifth place thanks to defeat at Millwall. But their visitors, Cardiff City, managed by bete noire Neil Warnock, gave them a scare with two goals in reply to make parts of the second half more uncomfortable than they should have been.
Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana capped a dominant first half performance with good finishes from long range and Charlie Austin finally got his first League goal with twenty minutes of the game left after missing out on a couple of good chances earlier.
Albion appeared to ease off a little and Cardiff took their chance to fight back with two strikes from Danny Ward before Romaine Sawyers made it a four-two victory for the second home game in a row.
An entertaining game but one that ended far closer than it should’ve.
Austin came on for HRK which was understandable but we were otherwise unchanged.
I thought Cardiff played to stifle us in the opening 15 - over us like a rash when we had the ball, disrupting the tempo whenever they could and in fairness they put us under a bit of pressure.
Gradually we got hold of the game and started to control it and it was fitting that Pereira opened the scoring with a wonderful bended pass into the corner of the goal after some one touch play with Diagana.
The goal forced Cardiff to try and play a bit and it helped us. We began creating wave after wave of chances with Diagana adding a controlled beauty across the ground from 25 yards with it all to do.
Austin was in the thick of it and he might have had a first half hat trick - he was unlucky with a reaction strike after gambling well with his first chance, should really have scored a sitter from a few yards out but didn’t get enough power on it and didn’t anticipate a cross well enough for the third. It was a positive that he was getting the chances but at times our breaks and movement were too quick for him.
Cruising at half time and we should’ve been out of sight.
Second half Cardiff pushed on and we played most of the early football in our own half, inviting the press to try and break out but not really getting anywhere and taking one or two risks, or over-playing when we did get out and although it was sensible to take Diangana off when he got a knock it disrupted our rhythm a bit.
Austin’s goal came a bit against the run of play but he showed pure desire to drive towards the box and slot it home. You couldn’t fault his commitment but we were under such pressure and a succession of corners that taking him off might’ve been the right call.
We conceded a sloppy goal - midfield bypassed to easily and defence overcommitted allowing Ward to slot home but Zohore and Krovinovic seemed to give us a foothold back in the game to see it out.
A sloppy late goal conceded from a corner put us under pressure for what would’ve been a criminal throw away of 2 points but Sawyers scored a deserved goal to put us top of the league.
Despite, in my view, us lacking a decent centre forward we look like quite a formidable side - we could’ve scored 6 or 7 goals today without it flattering us. We don’t really want the international break to come!
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