West Bromwich Albion 5 - Swansea City 1
It may be nearing Christmas, but Albion showed Swansea little good will as they carved them apart at the Hawthorns and demolished their unbeaten away record - though the visitors had only themselves to blame for a couple of the goals. In fact, it had been pretty even until Kyle Bartley fed Semi Ajayi from a corner to give Albion the lead on 25 minutes.
Matheus Pereira, the architect of most of what Albion did well, doubled the lead with a cool finish before Swansea pulled one back through Sam Surridge, the striker finishing while lying on the floor after his shot had been blocked by Kyle Bartley - but Hal Robson-Kanu fired clinically past Freddy Woodman to make it 3-1 at half time and Albion never really looked back.
Matt Phillips got Albion's fourth with a sublime header from Pereira and Kyle Edwards made it five within minutes of coming on to replace Grady Diangana with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.
The win took Albion back to the top, still two points ahead of Leeds but with one better goal difference thanks to today's rout - and now ten ahead of third placed Fulham.
Singing in the rain! To put that thrashing in perspective Swansea were undefeated on the road, conceding only 7 goals. It wasn't easy in the first half and even at 3-1 you felt Swansea might get back into it. But the way we played the ball around at the start second half wore them down and then Pereira cut them to pieces with his brilliance. The little dinked pass for Phillips to head home was outrageous.
There were so many great performances all over the pitch, but Pereira's goal and 4 assists obviously set him apart. If you want to be critical you could argue he should shoot more often. He spurned a great chance when he chose to turn back instead hitting it with his right foot. The goal we conceded was weak, with Johnstone rooted to his line for the corner. Gibbs's hamstring injury is a worry, but it's not like we don't have great options.
I watched Leeds against Huddersfield and they should have been 2 or 3 down at half time. Not impressed. And I don't see anyone else giving us trouble as long as we steer clear of injuries. Great time to be a Baggie - the best entertainment in town!!
An absolutely glorious performance to watch - this team is consistently hitting performance levels that are up there with the best in my living memory.
Bilic went with the same lineup and we started really brightly - pressing from the off and not allowing Swansea a chance to start playing.
What became obvious from Swansea's setup in the first few minutes was that they weren't going to park the bus with a low block and that they didn't have anyone tracking in hole Pereira was playing in. I found it really strange that he was being allowed so much room but it didn't really change through the whole match.
He began pulling the strings and, although there was a bit of an end to end period before our opener, with better decision making we might have gone ahead sooner - Diagana was freed up a lit but seemed reluctant to beat his man and cross it; he either tried a man too far or went down too weakly.
But from the moment Semi nodded home from corner after a good header back across goal from Bartley, atoning for an earlier sitter he'd headed straight at the keeper, we were streets ahead.
Our second was a terrific team goal with Diagana, Gibbs and Pereira combing to make something so beautiful look so easy.
Swansea got a really soft goal after a flap from SJ (should he have worn a cap?) and Bartley's cumbersome feet but we responded almost immediately with our Brazilian maestro battling for the ball and then playing HRK in with a reverse pass that was inch perfect for our revitalised forward to take an age cutting his run across the defender before calmly slotting home.
We might have had more in the first half but for slight over playing and the team left the field to applause and roars of appreciation.
The 2nd half was much of the same but there were some outrageous moments of skill from Diangana, Sawyers and Pereira. There was no panic when Gibbs or Bartley made way due to injury - Ferguson slotted in at left back like a natural, Furlong is as good as any other right back in the league and Hegazi still probably the centre back with a run of games. We should've scored more but at times tried to walk it in. Our 4th goal was another unbelievable ball from Pereira and Phillips scored what's likely to be the only diving header of his career, such was the quality of the clipped ball.
It was also great to see Edwards get on the score sheet and I think the way his teammates mobbed him showed how popular he is.
It was dreamland stuff really. What a team! I can't wait until the next game and, rather than signing a striker in January, I'd be trying to move heaven and earth to sign Diagana because his value is only going to go one way.
First "live" game I have seen for a while but what a re-introduction to the way the team are playing.
The level of confidence shown by this Albion team was staggering, perhaps even at times bordering on the reckless, and, in one case, displaying the kind of showboating that's seen the player in question "taken out" for their troubles but to put five past a Swansea side, who had not only not lost away from home but also not let in more than three, and to do so having seen two of the starting XI taken off injured suggests that Bilic has sprinkled a large amount of magic across the squad as a whole, even allowing for the recent dip in form by the Swans.
That Swansea had clearly not come merely to eke out a point certainly helped the game and so after Albion conceded a incredibly poor goal, in terms of how far the ball travelled across the box before it was bundled in at the far post, they quickly restored a two goal cushion.
As the game was drawing to a close came the moment that summed up the confidence for me as an Albion player, in the middle of a group contesting for the ball out in the left full-back area, passed the ball back to Johnstone, near the middle of his goal, through a crowd of players, so that the keeper could then swap the play to the other, less congested side. For someone brought up on a "never pass the ball across your own area, even if there are no opposition players near the area" football diet, this was incredible, albeit, as I noted above, a bit reckless.
I guess the only worry has to be the potential recall of one, or more, of the loan players that Bilic has been able to get to play in such a slick way: that and the knocks to Gibbs and Bartley, not that Hegazi and Furlong coming off the bench was ever going to weaken the side.
Have to say too that Phillips's diving, cushioned header back across the keeper was just a joy to behold - who knew? - especially at around nine-thirty in the evening on a warm Perth night, sitting outside the pub with a beer in the hand, chatting to Chloe, who'd just finished her shift. Could have just done with the sound being on, so as to hear "The Lord's My Shepherd" ringing out.
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