West Bromwich Albion 1 - Leicester City 2

Date: Saturday 2nd December 2023 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 5.9, Furlong 5.8, Ajayi 6.1, Kipré 6.9, Townsend 6.0, Yokuslu 6.5 (Chalobah, 86 5.5), Mowatt 6.4 (Molumby, 75 5.5), Diangana 5.9 (Maja, 75 6.3), Sarmiento 5.2 (Fellows, 75 6.7), Phillips 5.8 (Swift, 45 5.5), Thomas-Asante 6.0
Unused subs: Griffiths, Pieters, Ávila Gordón, Taylor
Manager: Carlos Corberán  5.5
Scorers: Maja (89)
Referee: Tim Robinson 4.1
Attendance: 24,382   Home Fans 6.9   Away Fans 5.9
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 15

Brendan Clegg:

A tough one to take but plenty of positives there. Having worked so hard to get into a position to take a point whilst being inferior for spells, it’s understandable so many fans are disappointed but we went for it and probably 9 times out of 10 in this league there’s no way the opposition breaks and scores. I personally don’t mind a bit of Corberan misadventure as over 46 games I think we’ll gain more than we lose from it.

With injuries to Wallace and Bartley the starting 11 made sense.

I’d sum up the first half as this; Leicester easily the best team we’ve played. I thought it was really telling that they have that Premiership athleticism. They were quicker and stronger than us in pretty much every position which is so rare. Even when we did manage to put passes together they were so strong.

They were also very similar in style to us which made for a cagey half. Their patterns similar to ours with better players, trying to suck us in and break, using their keeper as an extra player.

It’s too our credit that after 20 mins we grew into it, successfully nibbling enough in the press to win it high and cause problems better than we managed when trying to build.

In those moments we probably had better chances to score but we over played or waited too long. I felt we missed the pace and relentlessness of Wallace but we did hit the post and force saves. I also thought there was a clear foul on Grady either in the box or very close which wasn’t given.

At the other end Leicester never seemed always close to a threat and hit the post, and from one roll against Ajayi probably should’ve scored.

Still we were good for our point. If I had one criticism, it would be that when Phillips pulled up I’d really have gone for Fellows because in the absence of Wallace we just needed a rapid runner to get us up the pitch, rather than Swift’s slow, ponderous and sometimes languid stop-start approach.

Second half I thought we were competing well again without really having that pace to hurt them, but for their goal we had a few mini-lapses that were enough to concede. Tracking wide, both CBs going to the near post and Furking not able to block the header. It was a pretty good goal to be fair.

As can happen when the opposition are quicker and stronger, we then had a spell of frustrating decisions against us that were a bit daft and we picked up bookings.

The introduction of Maja and Fellows gave us different options and it was the latter again whose direct and uncomplicated play gave us something different. We kept going and as Mowatt and Yok withdrew we sacrificed control for percentages.

From one of these we nicked the kind of scruffy goal that Leicester looked susceptible to after a Furlong throw and head tennis. Credit to Maja who made the touch and finish look easier than it was.

And we pressed looking more likely. Oh, for Swift to have just put everything through a back post effort instead of trying to do the Bergkamp-esque juggle and finish.

Deep into injury time and winning the throw went for it and paid a heavy price. Molumby should probably have taken a yellow and Townsend should probably have retreated as last man rather than commit as he did but Leicester are probably the only side in the league to break and score with that quality.

Overall you’d probably say that, as with Southampton, as the resources underdog we needed to be perfect to get a result and again we were very very close. With a fit Bartley and Wallace and had Phillips not been injured the margins would be even narrower but we’ve shown enough here to give us optimism. If we can keep the squad together in January and the injuries aren’t too bad, the playoffs are well within our capability.

  • Palmer - 6 Cold feet struggled with kicking
  • Furlong - 6 Some solid defending
  • Kipre - 7 Defended well and used it well
  • Ajayi - 6 Quite a few mistakes but decent overall
  • Townsend - 6 Targeted again but stayed at it.
  • Mowatt - 6 Tried to be the link but they were high quality so he couldn’t influence it as much as he has been
  • Yok - 7 I thought he was physically strong and used it well. Looked competitive.
  • Grady - 6 Slow start but grew into it
  • Sarmiento - 5 Couldn’t get hold of it and isn’t pacey
  • Phillips - 5 Started to come alive before being subbed. He’ll be a big miss.
  • BTA - 5 Was up against some good players. Battled away but lacked that killer instinct when opportunities came.
  • Swift - 5 I thought he always wanted too many touches.
  • Molumby - 5 he should probably have taken a yellow for us to get a point but I need to see it back.
  • Maja - 5 Probably his worst cameo for us so far but great that he’s up and running with a goal
  • Fellows - 6 Is just always bright. Without Wallace or Phillips he probably has to start.
  • Chalobah - Not on long enough.

Kev Buckley:

Albion - the frame of reference - stand still

As first versus fifth games go, this was hardly a great advert for the second tier and, by the end of it, a fairly lacklustre Albion had become the static frame of reference, with the sides above them moving even further away, whilst the sides below them failed to make up any ground.

The two, enforced, changes didn't really didn't really give much cause for concern, with Ajayi slotting into the back four for Bartley, and Sarmiento being asked to do Wallace's playmaker role in between right winger Phillips, on the left, and left winger Diangana, on the right. BTA also came back in, in replace the last game's false number nine with a real number nine.

The first ten minutes effectively set the scene for what would be a very cagey affair, although Albion's attempts to match Leicester's commitment to playing it out, saw them cough up the ball close to their area but were spared going behind by an offside flag.

Leicester too, and possibly even more so than the Albion, would also offer up some gifted possession close to their goal but the Albion never really seemed to have enough players pressing to make anything of the gift, and that included times when the away side's keeper was playing well out of his area, where maybe a first time, speculative, chip might have at least seen a shot on target, rather than allowing the Foxes to recover enough to block, or snuff out any potential for a shot.

For all Leicester's possession, Albion would come the closest to taking the lead with goals that would have stood, had they gone in, first when a corner reached Kipre, in the middle of the crowd of bodies at the back post, but, in coming through the crowd only gained enough contact to have the ball hit the post, and then, after another give-away gift, BTA would get off a shot from the edge of the box, which the keeper saved routinely.

Despite Albion's eleven sitting back inside their own half when Leicester had the ball, the away side were able to find men in space between the lines on a couple of occasions, both of which required an alert Furlong to block the final ball.

Similarly, with about five to go, a Leicester player receiving the ball in the middle of our half was allowed, all too easily, to spin off his marker and advance on goal, but then pulled the shot wide.

With about three to go, Phillips, out by the touchline, jumped into the air in an attempt to block the keeper, now playing at left-back, from clearing down the line, but, on landing, immediately looked to have pulled something. Even though the game stopped, non-one on the bench was asked to warm up and so, when Phillips finally left the field, we had to play with ten men for about three minutes whilst Swift got just about ready enough to come on for the one stoppage time minute.

After the restart, Sarmiento moved across to deputise for Phillips, and Swift moved into the playmaker role, not that there was all that much play being made from, or through, there.

Just after the seventieth minute passed, Leicester pushed a ball in behind our back line and one unchallenged runner pulled back a cross from the deadball line which was met by an unchallenged header, as a result of Furlong having to mark two at the back post. Not quite sure where our shape and marking had gone for that one, but given the way the game had gone up to then, it felt like like might have been the winner.

The goal prompted Corberan into a triple substitution, and whilst Fellows for Diangana, and Molumby for Mowatt were like-for-like, the Sarmiento for Maja swap meant that Swift would now be asked to do the wide left job as we went two up front. There doesn't appear to be any circumstance in which Diangana will get to play over on the left, does there.

All three subs then pretty much chased around after Leicester's ball keeping, although one drive down the right and cross, from Fellows did find its way to Swift, coming in off the left wing to the back post, but his header back into the melee' was cleared, and, with five to go, Corberan went like-for-like again, with Yokuslu being replaced by Chalobah.

Nearly everyone bar Palmer was up in the box as Furlong delivered a final minute "Hail Mary" throw, and it seemed as though as our prayers had been answered when the ball bounced around for long enough for Maja to poke home his first goal for the club and more importantly, appear to rescue a point.

Sadly though, nearly everyone bar Palmer was up in, or close to, the box again, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, as Furlong came all the way over to the left to see if miracles happen twice, only to watch as Leicester not only cleared the danger, but then transitioned at such speed that they had two players clear of our "backline", inside their own half, with just Palmer to beat inside ours: a kind of a "two on none" overlap, perhaps?

No trailing defender was able to make up any ground on those two, and Palmer was consummately by-passed as Leicester regained the lead, and gave him a chance to run up into their box, to no avail.

To lose in such a way, having got back into it so late, feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth, although, if we are being honest, the fact that we had only equalised from a "stick it in the mixer" play in the last minute suggests that we still have some way to go, to see our keep-ball, play out from the back approach, deliver the dividends, that that of sides like Leicester's, actually does, on a more regular basis.

Having said that, from the frame of reference of having now played both the top two, who look, at seven points clear, to have consigned everyone else to playing for a play-off place, we can, when we do look to create more with our possession, rather than just press against the opposition's, create more, but we really need someone who's going to score a few more and maybe Maja's first goal will see an end to the need to play false number nines.