West Bromwich Albion 1 - Sunderland 2

Date: Sunday 23rd April 2023 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 6.9, Furlong 5.3, Ajayi 6.7, Pieters 5.3 (Bartley, 90 4.3), Townsend 7.1, Molumby 6.4 (Rogic, 90 3.8), Yokuslu 5.1 (Gardner-Hickman, 85 6.3), Wallace 4.6, Swift 5.1 (Faal, 90 4.6), Grant 5.5 (Albrighton, 83 2.9), Thomas-Asante 5.3
Unused subs: Griffiths, Livermore
Manager: Carlos Corberán  4.8
Scorers: Swift (45 pen)
Referee: John Busby 3.5
Attendance: 24,764   Home Fans 6.4   Away Fans 6.7
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 16

Brendan Clegg:

Sometimes the other team are just better than you and probably deserve to win.

Today was one of those days and it’s a bit of a wake up moment. Arguably CC picked his best team available and I think it would be very harsh today we bottled it or didn’t give it everything. Perhaps CC should’ve changed it earlier but you can see why he didn’t. This was just a good, entertaining, seesaw football match in which our opponents showed a bit more creative variety and finished their chances.

To give this one a bit of personal context… I had to watch it on my phone whilst standing on the sideline at Dudley Wood rec, the nostalgic ghosts of Cradley Heathens speedway ringing in my ears, watching my son’s under 12s Stourbridge Youth League team finish their season. As the first Albion match of some significance I’ve missed in about 35 years I’ve been through all the emotions and at one point this week felt distraught. An appalling decision by Sky TV to do this to me and many other parents, or Sunday league pub footballers, at the business end of the season for them where titles, cups and promotion/relegation battles are real for everyone who has done the hard yards through the winter. And those poor Sunderland fans who also had to leave home at 5am this morning. I’ve no doubt the empty seats I saw were season ticket holders in the same or similar boat. 12 noon on a Sunday is an awful and inexcusable time for professional football.

Onto the match and we started brightly with good energy and the only thing missing in the opening 15 was a goal as we penned them in and put them under pressure.

But we couldn’t make it count and from there to their credit they got on the ball, taking the pressure off and asking us questions.

I thought the next 25 minutes were largely them and Okay looked gassed… struggling to do the basics and clearly rusty. Palmer made some great stops but we also still looked a threat and then won a penalty before half time, softer than an earlier one that should’ve been given but their defender nowhere near the ball. Swift put it away reliably and we saw it out.

Before the goal I’d 100% have got TGH on at HT but, understandably, CC left it as it was and we came out on fire… that opening 10 mins we had to find a 2nd but, despite some big moments, we couldn’t find it.

Against the run of play Sunderland levelled with a goal that was right on the margins of possibility… I thought CT and KG did enough but a cross squeezed between them doubling up, shaved Molumby’s head and was planted from quite far out into the top corner. A super goal that benefitted from millimetres a couple of times. From there Sunderland got on top but it was an open game and entertaining. We had big moments but made poor choices… BTA and Molumby are two I can recall doing brilliantly in situations but then getting the final decision all wrong. With both our midfielders now on bookings I thought TGH should probably have been brought on but CC remained cautious.

There were opportunities for both sides as the game progressed to the final rounds and the CC made a change, bringing on Albrighton for Grant who, it has to be said, our head coach had managed to extract a performance out of again in terms of running, battling and trying to play to his own strengths. He’d done well, given us an outlet and I think it’s fair to say a questionable decision - not something I’d thought I’d be saying even 2 weeks ago.

Disaster then as we conceded a soft goal in the last 5 minutes… we didn’t track runners and Sunderland strolled through to score a simple goal.

We rallied and kept going. The changes came and I thought TGH showed the energy we’d been missing a couple of times by going close with a 5 minute or so cameo.

It wasn’t enough. I thought the post match interviews by Corberan, Townsend and Mowbray were all sober and fair. It’s a blow but we’re still in it and we’re capable of winning 3 in a row… it’s just a bloody big ask. With hindsight CC asked too much too soon of Okay and so Wednesday night has some similar calls to make on him and Bartley for Pieters… as much for the goal threat as for the defensive strength.

  • Palmer - 7 Some great saves and footwork. We’ve got a decent keeper here.
  • Furlong - 6 Defended well mostly… occasionally needed a bit more going forward
  • Ajayi - 7 Definitely played himself into form. Strong, quick and more confident on the ball.
  • Pieters - 6 Mostly solid… has been great for us.
  • Townsend- 7 Relentless running and had a tough battle. Knows he should’ve scored.
  • Okay - 5 Presence was a boost but looked rusty. No lack of effort or desire.
  • Molumby - 7 Maybe fell short on quality but what effort and what a leader.
  • Wallace - 5 in and out but kept running. Couldn’t pick the right pass.
  • Swift - 5 Good pen and found great positions but not enough but-gusting off the ball.
  • Grant - 6.5 Got through a lot of work and came close a couple of times. Much better.
  • BTA - 5 Got suckered in to silly fouls and, when he did well to make space, made poor decisions. Ran his legs off though.
  • Subs - I thought Albrighton didn’t do enough for their 2nd goal, TGH really had a go and the others had little opportunity to make a mark.

Kev Buckley:

Mowbray-ball still looking good

The scene setting for this one contains a large number of similarities, not least that both managers had been initially brought in to do a job ensuring their clubs were still in the division come May, and yet here, despite finding themselves with similarly depleted squads - Sunderland having three centre-backs missing and nine of their starting eleven at the age of 22 or under - both started the game knowing that a win would see either of their sides ending the weekend in the top six.

Corberan made the one change, Yokuslu returning for Chalobah, and, for the first quarter of an hour or so, it looked as though the experience of "the men" in this "men vs boys" clash was going to win out, and although we didn't actually ask the Sunderland keeper to make a save during that period, the way we worked the ball down the right within the first minute, only see the result of the pull back fluffed without a shot being got off, promised a lot.

Similarly, shouts for a penalty in the 4th minute, for which the ref didn't even see enough to award a foul, let a lone a spot kick, also suggested that we were taking the game to the away side.

Sunderland, looking to play a style of football, under Tony Mowbray, that still divides opinion when discussed amongst Albion fans, finally got into the game enough to get their first corner, which resulted in Molumby blocking the games's first shot on target, as thirteen minutes passed, however, they then remained in the game to such a degree that by the half-hour mark, they'd registered 63% possession, and required, at around twenty, Palmer to come out to smother an incursion down into the left side of our box, sparked by ManU loanee Diallo.

With 35 gone, Grant, occupying the left-side of the attacking midfield three, would do what he's best known for, in cutting in from the left and getting off a shot with his stronger, right, foot. Sadly, that shot went well wide of the far post, and this effort is probably only worthy of mention because within a couple of minutes of it, the Sunderland player performing exactly the same action, got his shot on target to the extent that Palmer had to dive away to his left and pull off a superb save.

Shortly after that, Palmer's dive would have got nowhere near the shot that resulted from Yokulsu, having taken the ball off the keeper on the edge of out box, coughing up the ball direct to an attacker just twenty yards out, but the shot just curled wide. Albion gave up on the "play it out from the back" attempted and knocked the resulting goal-kick long.

Sunderland then tried to knock it long themselves but only managed to floor one of their own as the ball was smashed into his abdomen, and from the resulting drop-ball on halfway, Albion, pressing high through Wallace, saw Swift enter the right corner box to control a loose ball and despite going away from goal, drew a really soft foul from one of the youthful defenders. Swift dispatched the penalty straight down the middle.

Albion started the second half brightly with a period of pin-ball in the away box that many shots and blocks but no addition to the score, including one from Grant, from a central position that did pull a save out of the Sunderland keeper.

Within a minute of that chance, Sunderland were back in it, after a passage of play that started down our right, switched to the left and saw a player work enough space for a chipped delivery despite the attention of two of our defenders. Although there was little pace on the delivery, one of Sunderland's "midgets", indeed the one playing at left-centre-back, managed to jump, at our left post, in between Molumby and Ajayi and power the ball into the top corner.

With the draw not really benefitting either side, the game became a bit more of an end-to-end affair and, after BTA had done really well to get off a cross under pressure from right on the left by-line, Townsend, arriving at the far right post on the end of Swift's corner would require their keeper to concede another corner with a powerful header.

With 15 minutes left, Yokulsu would try and stride out from the back, only to cough it up again, and really struggle to make up ground as Sunderland broke with a 5-on-2 that saw Palmer first make a save from a goalbound shot from central, and then watch, helplessly, as the shot from the rebound curled just wide of the post.

Albrighton would come on for Grant on 82, although he'd go over to the right and Wallace would move to the left, not that Albrighton could be blamed for not stopping the slick passing move that saw the ball moved from side-to-side across the front of our defence, before what may well have been the twentieth pass of the move freed up their left-back to poke home from the right corner of our six-yard box: a simply brilliant goal that had Mowbray written all over it.

TGH, on for Yokuslu after what well have been a case of a game too soon for the Turk, who had looked a bit off the pace and lacking in concentration throughout, would drive forwards through the middle and unleash one that just went wide.

Coberan's second response was to bring on the three tallest players left his the bench, Rogic, Bartley and Faal, in order of height, and go for a bit of "stick it in the mixer" as the ninety passed, although when a great ball was knocked in and found Faal free at the left post, he couldn't get enough on it to trouble the keeper.

TGH would have one more shot that went a yard wide before the referee blew for the end of the game and probably left a lot of people feeling that this was the chance we missed, although we still have the game in hand against a SheffU side that have something to play for, in securing their top two spot, to put things squarely into our own hands.

I think I'd start TGH alongside for Molumby in the next one, and maybe even ask the latter to be the "number six", as CC would characterise the more defensive of those two roles.