West Bromwich Albion 1 - Leeds United 0

Date: Friday 29th December 2023 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Palmer 6.9, Furlong 6.6, Ajayi 7.6, Kipré 7.9, Townsend 7.1, Yokuslu 7.6, Mowatt 6.7 (Chalobah, 76 6.1), Wallace 8.3 (Reach, 70 6.2), Molumby 6.8 (Bartley, 69 6.5), Diangana 6.8 (Swift, 69 6.4), Thomas-Asante 6.8 (Sarmiento, 86 5.4)
Unused subs: Griffiths, Pieters, Ávila Gordón, Fellows
Manager: Carlos Corberán  7.5
(4-2-3-1) Darlow, Spence (Anthony, 60), Rodon, Cooper, Byram (James, 60), Ampadu (Firpo, 90), Gruev, Gnoto (Bamford, 60), Piroe, Summerville (Joseph, 90), Rutter
Unused subs: Klaesson, Cresswell, Kamara, Gray
Scorers: Diangana (37)
Referee: Graham Scott 6.4
Attendance: 25,409   Home Fans 8.4   Away Fans 5.8
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 16

Brendan Clegg:

Big statement victory against a squad much stronger than ours. Hats off to Carlos and his coaches for finding a way to win that one, and the players for executing the plan superbly.

The two changes to the 11 were understandable whether they were fatigue related or tactical (or a bit of both).

I thought opening 15 we were slow to get going and sloppy on the ball which gave Leeds opportunities to cause us problems - with Ajayi and Kipre recovering well individually but needing time to play as a pair better - but we got hold of it and began looking more incisive than Leeds.

The pick of our play was an almost identical move to the Swift airshot in Boxing Day with Wallace cutting back for Molumby to make good contact before his effort was blocked.

Not too long later a great pass from Okay put Wallace in again and the same cutback saw Grady score at the second attempt after a great block.

Crucially, we’d managed to score during our best spell of the game and I thought we stayed in control for the half, defensively assured but threatening when we got on the ball.

At the start of the second half we remained on top and managed to break out smartly a few times as Leeds began to press us much higher up the pitch.

The strength of their bench was noticeable by those not starting, and Farke went for broke early by bringing on 3 subs including Bamford and the rapid James.

Their increased threat and football intelligence was obvious with Bamford’s movement giving us much more to think about and we did really well to block the supply to James or double up on him early, although Leeds now had the lion’s share of the ball.

Corberan decided to go ultra defensive with a long time to go - maybe 25 mins with stoppages, effectively going 5-4-1 and bringing Bartley on.

You’d have to say it was a defensive masterclass. Every player held the position and worked as unit including other subs who came on and fitted in seamlessly. I can’t recall Palmer needing to make a save and as we went 5-5-0 for the final moments it was Reach who had the best chance… probably one he’d have at least gone a lot closer with had he got a bit more post injury game time as Swift flicked him in and it sat up for a lob with their keeper in no man’s land.

A massive win and a King Carlos special. With AFCON coming and a transfer window in which we’ll doubtless be very vulnerable I don’t want to be pessimistic but we’ve got to enjoy nights like this and go all out for another win at Swansea as January could be very tough for us. Hopefully the result, the sell out and the atmosphere helped nudge a takeover along.

  • Palmer - 7 Not much to do but commanding when needed
  • Furlong - 7 Solid all game
  • Ajayi - 8 Pace vital and he is more comfortable on the ball than Bartley going forward
  • Kipre - 8 Another solid showing and some great passes
  • Townsend - 7 Only recall him getting beaten once. Stood up well.
  • Okay - 8 Great screen but also passed it well including for the goal
  • Mowatt - 6 Not as influential in games when we don’t dominate the ball but still battled away.
  • Molumby - 7 As you’d expect. Ran his nuts off and fought for everything.
  • Wallace - 8 Another clever and full energy display
  • Grady - 7 Played inside left more than on the wing but found pockets to hurt them and defensively superb
  • BTA - 7 Looked after it for us and put in another massive shift. He may not always but the best but just look at the minutes and number of consecutive games he plays - he’s been immense for us.
  • Subs all deserve a 7 for the concentration, running and game plan execution.

A game where we needed to be near perfect to get the result and we got the result!

Kev Buckley:

Squeaky Bum time? Crinkley Bottom, more like: Albion survive Mr Blobby onslaught!

Albion survived a massive onslaught from a Leeds side who, having presumably lost their away kit on the way down from Elland Road, had to make do with running out in some pink and yellow Mr Blobby suits that had been going cheap after Xmas (from the Wednesbury market, next to where JohnnyT has his stall?), and eventually "blobbed" in the goals-for column.

Corberan made two changes from the Norwich game: Molumby for Swift it was suggested, a swap to give Swift more time to recover, whilst the reasons for Ajayi for Bartley were less clear, although some have suggested it might have been to counter the pace of Leeds.

Straight from the kick-off, the away side's desire to press was apparent, with Albion working the ball all the way back to Palmer, who was forced to "kick for touch", a clearing kick which found the touchline.

Kipre put in the first of a good few blocks as five minutes passed, and two minutes later, after BTA had failed to hold up another out ball, Ajayi had to recover in coming from behind the attacker played in by a ball over the top of our back-line.

Two minutes later and Molumby had to get back to snuff out another Leeds break, this one after he, himself, had coughed up the ball inside their half, and for "snuff out" there, read commit a foul on the edge of our box.

After being right under the cosh for fifteen or so, Albion found a way to get back into the game, mainly by looking after the ball a bit better, with Wallace getting in down the right as twenty approached and pulling it back, only to watch two shots blocked, and whilst Kipre's attempt to make something of a horrid flap by the keeper at our second corner in row was also blocked, the ball fell to Yokuslu, but although he had time to sidefoot it, he didn't even get it on target.

As the half-hour arrived, Leeds played another ball over the top of Albion's high line and this time it would be Kipre making up ground from behind the in-on-goal attacker, and though he certainly put an arm around the waist just before the shot would have been made, the referee didn't seem to think that that was the reason why the shot hadn't been made and just waved away the aways side's shouts for a penalty: they've been given for less.

Five minutes after that let-off, Palmer had to be alert to push away a curling shot from just outside the box as an attacker cut in from our right.

Two minutes later though and Yokuslu, often more of an attacking threat than Molumby in Swift's role, slid a sublime ball inside the left full-back that Wallace ran onto and the pull back found Diangana arriving on the penalty-spot, from where his left-footed effort was blocked but, as his momentum took him forwards, he was able to adjust his right foot to steer the rebound into the net.

Ten minutes after the restart, Palmer would emulate the come for a cross and flap that saw Yokuslu get to shoot over from, and Leeds duly spurned their chance in a similar fashion.

As seventy approached, you could even see Yokuslu motioning to the bench that the coaching staff needed to do something to stem the tide of pink and yellow waves, and although Bartley for Diangana felt like a necessary Plan B sacrifice, Swift for Molumby didn't, at least initially, feel like as much of a shut-up-shop change, however, with Wallace not getting up from a knock, the third change of what then became a triple substitution, the left-footed Reach for the right winger, soon saw what might well have been a Plan C, as the right-footed Swift moved out to the left of a 541.

Chalobah for Mowatt five minutes later seemed to continue with that plan, although 10 after that, the wrong-footed wingers would combine as Swift, cutting in from the left, gave Reach, cutting in from the right, a chance to run free behind the Leeds backline but, as he failed to get far enough away to unload one-on-one, his chip over the keeper from distance didn't go over the keeper enough to ease the worries that Leeds' pressure might see them equalise.

Sarmiento for BTA, once again not quite showing the hold-it-up qualities of a true line-leader, albeit not really having all that many chances to show his qualities as a goal-scorer on the night either, actually saw Swift becoming the false number nine as Albion saw out the last five minutes, plus six minutes of "extra time", as Leeds threw on attacking substitution after attacking substitution to no avail, despite those subs having recent top-flight experience.

Given that we might lose BTA and Diangana when/if they represent their countries in the African Cup of Nations, then maybe such a backs-to-wall performance like this might just be what a squad almost devoid of attackers needs, to see out the next few games, although with Kipre and Ajayi off too, are we going to have enough fit defenders to go five at the back?

Talking of AFCON, the national team colours are often a little "out there", see:


but even they are going to have to go some to beat Leeds' Mr Blobby homage shirts.