Bristol City 0 - West Bromwich Albion 3
Another stonking win for the brilliant boys in yellow and green.
Bilic made the call to swap Bartley for Hegazi which I think was justified and I maintain that with a run of games Hegazi is the better overall centre back in the division, but Bartley has done himself proud in a season of redemption.
And typically Hegazi started rustily with some wayward passing before settling down to a decent display.
After a bit of an open start we got into our groove and dominated most of the match.
Livermore was everywhere with two big early tackles but he kept it up all game - one minute winning the ball high to set up our goal and minutes later shepherding the ball out covering Townsend at left back. Simply immense, playing his best football for us by miles and with no exaggeration about 3 times the player that was getting into England squads.
We played some great football forcing Bristol to chase shadows and we were physically string when necessary. I’d say we were fortunate to keep a clean sheet as they missed a couple of great chances but we also could’ve score more.
The sending off looked harsh to me but it looks like we’ll have to cope without Sawyers for a few games now - a pity as I felt he was playing his way back into form.
Great to see the celebrations after the third goal - they all knew how important it was. On we go to Tuesday, it’ll be interesting to see what Bilic does.
The subs all did great.
BAGGIES MARCH ON WITH SUPERB DISPLAY
Albion dominated the game at Ashton Gate, as we stretched the gap to third place to nine points. We hit play-off hopefuls Bristol City with two goals in five minutes just past the half-hour mark and were cruising to a comfortable victory until Sawyers was sent-off in the 77th minute. Within two minutes, we scored a third to kill off City’s hope of a comeback and ignite the travelling fans into a frenzy of celebration.
Slaven Bilic made one change, restoring Ahmed Hegazi to the side in place of Bartley.
The contest was fairly even for the opening twenty minutes, before Albion pressure began to tell. In the 32nd minute, Livermore dispossessed a hesitant defender and moved the ball quickly on to Robson-Kanu and his sharp pass found Callum Robinson on the left, just outside the penalty area. A right-footed shot was blocked by the onrushing keeper but the ball rebounded straight back to the Albion striker and a tad fortunately bounced off his head into the net. A feature of Albion’s play was how quickly they were closing down the opposition and it paid off again in the 36th minute. This time it was Krovinovic who won the ball, which ran on to Sawyers, who fed Pereira wide right. He laid it back to Livermore who hit a powerful drive from 20 yards, which the keeper spilled for Hal Robson-Kanu to tap home.
The game opened up somewhat after the break and there was a chance at both ends. First, Livermore having fought for the ball, sent Robson-Kanu through the middle but challenged by a defender his shot flashed wide. Then, a curling cross from the left reached Wells, who volleyed wide when he should have hit the target. In the 77th minute came what could have been a game-changing moment. On the halfway line, Paterson kicks Sawyers twice from behind then pushes him in the back. Obviously, the Albion man shouldn’t have reacted, but he restrains him by placing his hand on his throat and after some delay the referee shows him a red card. The top moment of the game came just after, in the 79th minute. Ajayi launched a huge kick downfield which bounced over the covering defender Williams. His weak attempted back-header fell well short of the keeper. Typifying his never give up attitude, Hal Robson-Kanu was on the spot to anticipate the error and thump an unstoppable shot from an acute angle past the stranded keeper. Cue pandemonium among the Baggies fans behind the goal. The game was safe, as Albion saw time out, even though in the final minute the Robins had their first and only shot on goal, a fierce rising shot, which Johnstone acrobatically tipped over the bar. After the final whistle, the entire Albion team celebrated in front of the travelling supporters, with Matheus Pereira conducting proceedings.
This was undoubtedly our best performance of the season, particularly as Bristol City are one of our top challengers. Jake Livermore stood out as he drove the side forward from his advanced midfield role. However, two goals and an assist from Hal Robson-Kanu, including the most memorable goal so far, earns him my man-of-the-match.
Credit should also go to Slaven Bilic. Since our drop in form last month, we are pressing further up the field, getting more players in the opposition box and defending much better from corners and free kicks. Work on the training field perhaps, leading to an unbeaten February so far?
One sour note was the sending-off. The incident occurred in front of the home bench. The referee gave Albion a free kick and was quite happy to continue. Then the Bristol City Manager, Lee Johnson, berated the fourth official and fully one maybe two minutes after the clash, the linesman marched onto the pitch, having not even flagged originally, causing the referee to change his mind. Still all’s well that ends well.
In 1901 Bristol City were elected to Football League Division Two. Their arrival coincided with Albion’s first ever season in the second tier, after thirteen consecutive top flight campaigns. The Baggies visited City’s original ground, St John’s Lane, on Saturday 15th February 1902, winning 2-1 in front of 14,175 fans and went on to finish as Champions; with a record number of wins, goals scored and points gained. Our next visit came in 1904/05, the season that Bristol City moved into their current stadium, we lost 1-2. In 1975/76, the Baggies and the Robins were both promoted to Division One, we won a vital clash in Bristol 2-0, goals from Ally and Tony Brown. The following season, we were again successful, by 2-1, in the clubs’ first meeting in the top flight. In all, we’ve met in twenty-two seasons of league competition, and extraordinarily, our two victories this season, by 4-1 at home and 3-0 away, are the biggest such wins by either side and 2019/20 is the only time either club has completed the double!
ALBION FORMRATE: OUTSTANDING
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: HAL ROBSON-KANU
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated