West Brom 1 (Diangana 37)
Leeds United 0
29th December, 2023, EFL Championship.
Well, after the exhilaration of the Ipswich win, these last two games have really brought us down to earth with a huge dose of reality that has well and truly taken the edge of our Christmas. Once again tonight, Leeds weren’t that bad, just as good (or bad) as the Albion in fact, but the real disappointment is that we know this squad of ours is far better than they showed us, tonight and at Preston. The urgency, pace, movement, quality of passing and ball retention were all substandard by the standards we’ve set ourselves this season. One loss of concentration and a bit of luck turned the game.
It was another game of very few chances between two equal sides but you have to question again how we only managed to hit the target once all night from 15 attempts. Albion were a tad better with 3 from 13 but neither goalkeeper had much to do and so it was always going to be bit of luck or a magic moment that won the game if indeed anyone was going to win it. Leeds had plenty of ball all night but the magic we have come to expect from the running of Crysencio and the dancing feet of Georginio was just, well, missing.
The key moment came in the 37th minute when Albion slid the ball through their inside right channel into the path of Jed Wallace, bisecting Cree Summerville and Sam Byram in the process. Wallace expertly pulled the ball back across the box and Diangana, denied first by a Leeds defender on the line, then got that lucky break when the ball came straight back to him and he finished it properly with his second attempt. In a tight game with few chances you felt that might be it, and it was.
Leeds didn’t come to life until well into the second half when Daniel Farke switched to three at the back in a bid to prise open a determined Baggies defence but, despite a late siege we could find no way through. It was too little too late by Leeds who, until that last half hour had seemed not to be in any particular hurry and were hopelessly short of any creative ideas as to how to break the Baggies resistance. The arrival of Dan James on the pitch seemed to be the spark that did inject some urgency into our play, he replaced Djed Spence while Jaidon Anthony replaced Sam Byram and hence that three at the back formation. We huffed and we puffed but just couldn’t blow down the Albion’s fortress.
We can consider ourselves unlucky not to have been given a penalty in the first half when a clever ball from Ethan Ampadu over the top of the Baggies’ back line was raced onto by Willy Gnonto who brilliantly brought it down but was then pulled around and off the ball by Kipre; Graham Scott seemed unimpressed for some reason. Maybe the luck did even itself out though as Leeds were lucky to survive a scare for a left wing corner that Karl Darlow flapped at; Kipre reacted quickest to stab the ball towards the open goal but Djed Spence was there to hook the ball to safety off the line. Other than that we saw Joe Rodon beat the keeper to the ball and head over while Darlow made an easy save from an Adam Reach lob late in the game. To be honest that was about all the excitement.
Farke must now have a dilemma as to who he now selects for the Birmingham game on Monday; he changed things around for this game which seems odd as this always looked like the toughest game. Whoever turns out for us though, the one thing we need is the spark we saw against Ipswich that has been missing ever since. We have but one chance now to salvage something from the wreckage of this week; we simply have to beat Rooney’s Brum.
Possession 37% 63%
Shots 13 15
On Target 3 1
Corners 11 8
Fouls 8 10