West Bromwich Albion 2 - Stoke City 0
What a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon out! It’s always enjoyable to beat Stoke and it was another performance that improved on the previous game. Great signs under Corberan.
No surprises or strange decisions with the lineup or formation - BTA getting a deserved start, Mulumby getting the nod over TGH and Phillips justifiably continuing on the left.
We were bright from the off and Swift did everything right in a chance in the first minute, slotting beyond the keeper calmly on his left foot first time only for a great clearance off the line.
I thought Stoke then knocked it about decently for a bit and I think there’s some truth in Alex Neil’s view about Powell going off injured helping us - after that it was pretty much one way for the half.
There were some great performances in that 45 - BTA a really fighter and runner constantly giving us an option, Phillips and Wallace direct, Swift looking after the ball really well… others playing their part too. What stands out a mile is the coaching players are getting now - we’re seeing patterns, positioning, movement and positional rotations to give everyone options. We even saw some pressing traps and we played around them. It didn’t all come off but you could see the improvement and we passed the ball through the pitch so much better. The other thing is set plays - we’ve gone from what looked lump it into the box and hope to engineering situations to free up Bartley. He had a couple of great chances before the goal and hit the bar.. and finally made one count to score a (recently) rare Smethwick End goal.
We might’ve had more but went in at half time quite dominant and satisfied.
We began the second half on top but nothing prepared us for the brilliant invention from BTA to acrobatically finish a partial clearance with a scissor volley. As we all went bonkers I glanced just to make sure the ref wasn’t going to daftly invoke dangerous play. What a goal!
Not long after that Swift pulled up slightly when tracking back and although there were probably more goals in it for us and this was a chance for TGH or Rogic, Corberan did the boring and sensible thing and brought on Pieters to go pretty much 5-4-1 and see the game out with 30 to go.
It was mostly drab after that - almost a training exercise for us but we still created chances through our movement and overloads - Diangana on as a sub spurning the best of them. I thought all the subs showed desire and effort; we didn’t drop off.
A shame (and a disgrace) the World Cup has come when it has but Corberan has given us some cause for optimism - getting a tune out of a failing squad in such a limited time. Excited to see what he can do during this break.
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