West Bromwich Albion 1 - Leeds United 1
From the starting lineup I thought Bilic would have Pereira out wide and Krovi beefing up the centre but instead it was Krovi out wide.
We scored from our first attack after about 2 minutes following (at last) a corner that was just put in the mixer and we pressed well for the opening 10 mins or so.
But after the the first half was cagey. Sawyers was heavily marked and we played more like an away team, allowing Leeds to have it in front of us. It wasn’t pleasing on the eye as we were sloppy when we did get the ball, often failing to get out of the early Bielsa press and when we did break the trap we lacked pace and guile - Krovinovic especially getting bullied too easily when carrying the ball.
However, right on half time a rapid break should’ve resulted in a Phillips goal when he was clean through only for him to finish poorly with Pereira’s well saved free kick our only real other notable action of the half. From my Smethwick End vantage point, it did look like Sawyers was pulled down for what should’ve been a penalty when receiving a throw and the ref certainly gave many free kicks for much less.
In fairness, losing Gibbs after 20 minutes probably disrupted our game plan as you’d imagine him bombing on outside of Krovinovic to give us an out ball. Leeds looked dangerous but we’d done quite well to limit them to shots from distance.
Second half Leeds were much the better team, creating dangerous openings and switching the play well to open us up, but the goal we conceded was really poor - no challenge for the high ball, no challenge on the cross and Livermore/Semi seemed to leave it to each other and it went in via a big deflection. Bilic made the right call by bringing on Edwards for Krov and it was a more even contest from then on - both sides looked capable of winning it, with us finishing more a 4-4-2 as we looked for a winner.
I thought Leeds were really good and tactically caused us a lot of problems. Given we were without Diangana and lost Gibbs for most of the game, it was a decent point.
It’s now time to back Bilic and see if we can find either another attacking gem or really make a statement signing with Gayle or someone of that quality. If we do that we’ll have enough to get us over the line. I’d take one attacking player who can really impact the starting 11 over multiple signings on this window and it might be an idea to ship a couple out.
A strange game to assess. Leeds looked the better team but, when you consider solid chances created, we probably should have won. We looked decent in patches, then ropey in others. Overall, our game has become very sloppy compared to earlier in the season. You could put it down to fatigue, but our opponents have been through the same grind.
Furthermore, much was written about the depth of our squad. I think we can say now that, beyond our 'preferred starting line up', there are only 2 or 3 we can bring on to make an impact. Our midfield, besides Livermore, is lightweight and we have got away without a genuine goalscorer, but both positions need to be strengthened in January, or it could end in tears again.
Happy New Year from Canada!
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