West Bromwich Albion 0
Leeds United 5 (Sawyers og 9, Alioski 31, Harrison 36, Rodrigo 40, Raphiha 72)
Goodness me. Of all the seasons we have been kept away from the grounds, it had to be this one didn’t it. Imagine the scenes had we been there at the Hawthorns tonight! Another astonishing game that I don’t think any of us thought would go like that! It helps when a team struggling at the wrong end of the table gives you an embarrassing own goal inside ten minutes to undo all the preparatory work Big Sam had no doubt been going through since his arrival! But the sheer overpowering pressing and domination of the game then saw Leeds through comfortably.
That own goal is perhaps the best I’ve seen since a similar one that took place in a Birmingham derby some 18 years ago! That time Peter Enckleman, the Villa keeper, allowed a defensive throw-in to scoot under his boot and roll into the Villa net! On reflection this one from Romaine Sawyers was even more unbelievable; turning and passing to where he thought his keeper was or should be! Big Sam is wise enough to know this is exactly the sort of thing that happens when a team is struggling and it doesn’t auger well for his chances of another million pound bonus!
That must have been shattering for the Albion but Leeds took full advantage with a half of football that was absolutely right for the circumstances. The second came from the Leeds right when a right wing cross was headed clear but, once again as they tend to do when your luck is out, it went straight onto Gianni Alioski’s left boot and we all knew where that was ending! Then we had a delightful one two between Bamford and Harrison and, with a little bit of skilful footwork and a well-placed shot , Leeds were almost out of sight. There was a touch of good fortune about the fourth too but they do say the harder you work the luckier you get and we can’t work any harder than we do! This time a speculative left-footer from Rodrigo took a wicked deflection and, with Johnston on his way to his left, the ball sailed past him on his right! 4 - 0 at half time made us very comfortable.
For some reason we were slow out of the blocks for the second half and the regular loose pass from Meslier, on another day against better quality opposition, would have at least got the opposition a goal. Today, Albion could have played all night and nothing was going to go right for them! Kane and Son will not be so profligate on Saturday.
Eventually we got the cobwebs off again and played out the rest of the game as we did the first half. The fifth goal was another thing of beauty’ Dallas, Raphinha and Shackleton exchanging first time passes until Raphinha was allowed to cut inside onto his left foot and he curled a sumptuous shot into the top left corner. Big Sam won’t like the way Raphinha was shown onto his favoured foot!
It’s almost churlish to point out any defects in such a near perfect result but I will anyway as I’m sure Marcelo will when he gets the players back to Thorp Arch. First the good; I thought that at last Rodrigo was starting to show for the ball more than he has generally done – maybe he’s learning from Pablo. He’s not yet finding space as often as Pablo does but today was much better. Then the bad: I thought Matty Klich was poor today and he’s not really been on it for some time. His passing was generally weak and seldom helped his team-mates, more often than not being cut out. Quite what is wrong with him, not being able to flourish even when we are in such control of the game, is a concern. Another to not particularly shine was young Meslier. I’ve mentioned his regular faux-pas, he seems to have to have one every game, but at other times today he did look nervous. Apart from that though, everyone else was totally on it and it was hard to pick out a Man of the Match. Raphinha is starting to look every bit of his transfer fee, Rodrigo as I mentioned is growing into his role, Pascal again looked assured but Gianni Alioski got my vote for MOTM as he did on the TV coverage.
Let’s not get carried away though; it is fabulous to have soundly beaten what looks to be one of the relegation candidates this season so easily but we did have all the breaks go for us today which maybe makes the score look slightly better than the performance deserved, a bit like the Manchester United result did the other way round. So far though it all looks good for us, we are beating the poor teams, generally making a game of it against the better ones and, perhaps just as pleasing, we are doing it all with a smile on our faces! Happy New Year everyone!
West Brom Leeds United
Possession 25% 75%
Shots 4 14
On Target 1 6
Corners 3 10
Fouls Committed 6 10