Manchester City 1 West Brom 1
Albion earned their first point against Manchester City since Boxing Day 2011 after a fantastic disciplined display at the Etihad that left Pep Guardiola and his team intensely frustrated.
To a man, Bilić’s team were superb, but special mentions must go to the centre back pairing of Semi Ajayi and Dara O’Shea who were practically faultless and to Sam Johnstone who had a quiet night until the closing stages when he pulled off a number of superb saves.
Unsurprisingly, the hosts dominated the game registering 77% possession and 26 attempts to Albion’s 9, but clear cut chances were few and far between until the frantic final stages. Comfortable is perhaps not quite the right word, but such was the level of performance that the new-look four man defence produced that the Baggies rarely looked like conceding.
Karlan Grant had the best chance early on when the ball ricoched off Cancelo’s heel to set him up, but his effort was saved by Edison when he really should have scored. Gündoğan’s opener, the only real chance City had in the first half, was cancelled out when Semi Ajayi’s effort was deflected past Edison by Rúben Dias – a stroke of luck, perhaps, but it was deserved and it’s something that has been lacking for the Baggies so far this campaign.
Albion threatened rarely in the second half, but it was only in the closing stages that City looked like they might grab a winner. It would have been difficult to complain too much given the hosts’ dominance, but the fact that the Baggies did hold out could prove to be hugely significant.
Shortly after the match, Talksport reported that sources were suggesting that Bilić would be sacked in the coming days despite this result – I really hope that is not the case, but nothing would surprise me with this ownership team.
For me, this result and performance proved that the players are on side with Bilić – it seems unlikely that it will be enough to secure safety without significant improvements in the January window but, for me, the blame does not lie at the Croatian’s door.
But let’s put such speculation to one side and enjoy this result. In 2004/05, an own goal at the Etihad kick-started the Great Escape – could history repeat itself?