West Brom ratings as Bartley & Phillips impress but Albion bow out
West Brom’s FA Cup race has been run before it really got going after they suffered a reverse to Premier League Brighton on Saturday.
Callum Robinson had given Albion the lead at the beginning of the second half, but Cedric Kipre’s red card - the Baggies’ sixth in 12 matches - was the turning point and from there the top flight side asserted control.
Jakub Moder equalised before full time and then Neal Maupay delivered the decisive blow in the first half of extra time.
In front of just 8,208 supporters - the lowest for a competitive game for a number of years at The Hawthorns - Albion began well. It became immediately apparent that Matt Phillips would be the man to lead the line and, for a player who has been missing for weeks with injury and who was being asked to operate in a position he wouldn’t prefer, the Scot looked sharp.
His hold up play and relaying of the ball was good, but he blazed over the bar after good work from Darnell Furlong.
Brighton were missing one or two important players. Leandro Trossard was among the substitutes from the off here, and Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster were injured. Yves Bissouma is away with Mali at AFCON too, but it was a strong side still that Graham Potter fielded.
They had openings, too. One excellent Pascal Gross ball over the top, which Kipre got caught under, allowed Danny Welbeck a one-on-one with David Button, but the stand-in keeper stood tall and blocked with his arm.
Neal Maupay had chances, too. Button kept him out when Kipre and Kyle Bartley got themselves in a muddle, and he almost scored a spectacular goal when his header from distance sailed just past the post.
Albion had plenty of pressure, but few opportunities to properly test giant stopper Kjell Scherpen. Jake Livermore and Robinson pick pocketed a yellow shirt in midfield and Robinson drove at goal before finding Phillips. He helped it onto the onrushing Livermore, whose shot ricocheted off of a defender, and so just over the bar.
Albion began the second half in the perfect fashion; Phillips helped a throw from Furlong into the path of Grant, who raced from inside his own half to the edge of the Brighton area before laying the ball on a plate for Robinson. He applied the finishing touch.
Albion, for the 20 minutes or so that followed, were pretty comfortable - until Kipre had a couple of minutes to forget. His first yellow card he could have no complaints about after he felled Neal Maupay, and though the second - for a coming together with Leandro Trossard - was more questionable, it was still clumsy and he received his marching orders.
Once again, that put Albion on the back foot. Ismael summoned Zac Ashworth and Caleb Taylor, among others, but Brighton broke through with less than ten minutes to go when substitute Moder latched onto a loose ball in the box and fired past Button.
Button did pull off a magnificent save to keep out Alexis Mac Allister, and so we prepared for extra time. It was in the first ten minutes of the first half of extra time that Brighton’s extra quality, and their experience in the final third, counted.
Moder again was involved. He collected the ball on the right and delivered a low ball into the area, which Trossard allowed to run through for Maupay. He fired beyond Button, when afforded far too much space.
That put paid to Albion’s FA Cup run at the very first hurdle, after 15 more minutes of possession domination from the Seagulls.
From here, all roads lead to QPR and the Championship run-in.
Two very good saves in the first half to deny Welbeck and Maupay. Quickly off his line when required. Kicking can get better. Sweeper kepeer became sweeper midfielder in the second half when he went on a nerveless run. Suggestion of lack of communication with the Brighton goal, but he pulled off a stunning save to stop Mac Allister.
Reintroduced to the starting line-up and Furlong started pretty well from the off. He showed positive intent in setting up an opening for Phillips, though he struggled in the air against the towering Burn. Final ball with Phillips well placed was lacking.
Generally a decent showing, though he still does cause alarm occasionally. Got caught under a couple of high balls, one of which led to the Welbeck chance. Then he and Bartley had a mix up which was almost costly, but his general management of the game from the back was decent - until his clumsiness cost him two yellows in quick time.
Bar one mix up with Kipre that thankfully didn’t come to anything, Bartley was very good. He was alive to the threat of the lively Maupay and Welbeck. Towards the end of the 90, it was his kind of defending - backs to the wall, winning aerial battles. Picked up a knock but battled on.
Almost got Button into problems early doors with a back pass which needed dealing with, with yellow shirts swarming. Playing in the back three enabled him to break from deep and overlap Reach. Got himself into some good positions but final ball didn’t come. Did lots of mopping up and won a couple of crucial headers, but he was beaten for the goal.
Played at left wing-back and showed off some impressive footwork on the left hand side. Became a senior head in the Albion half when Ismael introduced the youngsters and moved into midfield to help weather the storm with a great energy. Just lacking in quality whenever Albion looked to break.
At fault for losing possession in the first half in a dangerous area, but Livermore’s display here was otherwise impressive. Slotted into the back-line for a while and was excellent, committing himself time and again, though he was rather needlessly booked.
Opportunity to play in central midfield, where he’s thrived previously. One through ball for Townsend early doors was excellent, and he completed a few more eye-catching passes besides. Always the feeling that Ismael wants a little more from him, but there can be no complaints about his application.
Nothing stuck for him in a poor first half. Sometimes he could’ve done more, on other occasions he was just a little unfortunate, but he was in the right place and the right time to apply the finishing touch.
Sturdy work in the first half on the left hand side with little reward but he did ever so well to collect and carry the ball at the beginning of the second half and lay it on a plate for Robinson - as he had done on Sunday.
A really decent shift from a player who has come back after a long layoff and not playing in his favoured role. He held the ball up and brought others into play, applied pressure on the back-line and played a part in the goal. Valuable minutes.
Really struggled to make any serious in roads over the course of his appearance. Toiled in extra time against a large and physical defence who dominated the ball.
A run-out for the youngster, who applied himself well at left wing-back for the most part.
Up next: Queens Park Rangers away, next Saturday - 15th January, for a 3pm kick off