Watford 2 West Bromwich Albion 2
Albion and Watford played out a 2-2 draw in torrential rain at Vicarage Road on Wednesday evening in what was an entertaining fixture that, like the last few Baggies games, could have easily gone either way. On this occasion, a draw was probably a fair result but both sides had to rely on their goalkeepers to make important saves.
Corberán surprisingly opted to keep the same line up that started at Ashton Gate, which suggests we are almost certain to see changes in the starting eleven for Saturday’s visit of Millwall. The high press of Val-ball was very much in evidence from the hosts, and the Baggies found it difficult to handle at times and, more often than not, Palmer reverted to use the long ball rather than playing out from the back with varying levels of success.
The hosts’ early goal was beautifully taken by Tom Ince, but the space he was allowed resulted from both Semi Ajayi and Darnell Furlong getting caught up field with their own press. The goal gave the hosts plenty of confidence and they dominated the next ten minutes until the game pivoted on its axis with an Albion equaliser. BTA had a good chance seconds earlier as Molumby forced a mistake in midfield, but the ball wouldn’t sit for the Baggies man and Bachmann was able to poke the ball away. Moments later, he was deceived by John Swift’s free kick which flew into the space he was occupying before he moved to his right expecting the ball to go over the wall.
Within minutes, the Baggies were ahead – Furlong won the ball back high and, after a one-two with Thomas-Asante, he whipped the ball across for Jed Wallace to score with a deft left foot finish as he got ahead of the defender for his first of the season. That lead itself only lasted a few minutes until some fancy footwork from Brazilian Matheus Martins created space for another wonderful finish as he curled it past Palmer from the edge of the box.
Few expected the game to finish 2-2 given that was the scoreline after 23 minutes, but there were no further goals despite good chances for both sides. Watford perhaps should have been ahead before the break after a poor cross-field pass from Kipré led to Koné being put through on goal, but Palmer reduced the angle well and the Canadian could only lift his shot over the bar. Minutes later, John Swift had another great chance on the edge of the box, but he too couldn’t keep his shot down.
After the break, both ‘keepers were forced into good saves. First, Bachmann kept out BTA’s fierce drive from just outside the box that looked to be heading into the top corner before Palmer somehow pushed Koné’s point-blank header onto the bar. Later Bachmann denied BTA after he was put through by Sarmiento and Palmer was forced into a smart save at his near post as the ball was fired through a crowd of players.
Overall, it was an entertaining game, particularly for the neutral, although defensive coaches would have been watching through their fingers. Most of the opportunities came as a result of defensive errors, albeit those errors were forced with both sides adopting an energetic press and attempting a quick transition. Furthermore, the conditions were atrocious, particularly in the second half, and I can’t help think that they had an impact on players’ ability to control the ball as there were times it looked more like a Sunday morning game as possession changed hands multiple times in short order.
I thought there were some good performances for Albion with Brandon Thomas-Asante my man-of-the-match – he never stopped running and I felt he did remarkably well in retaining possession battling against much bigger men in Porteus and Hoedt at the back. He perhaps could have done better with his chance in the second half, but the ‘keeper should also get credit. John Swift put in another strong performance, Phillips was impressive once again while I was delighted to see Wallace get on the scoresheet.
Corberán’s substitutions were probably more looking towards protecting his key players for the weekend than anything else with Swift, Phillips, Molumby and Wallace all having had good games on the night. That Okay Yokuşlu completed his first 90 minutes despite another average display suggest he will be rested at the weekend, while I feel sure that we will see Sarmiento and Mowatt in from the off on Saturday.
While mistakes at the back remain concerning, I feel that the conditions certainly played a part in that, and not many teams will press quick as energetically as Watford. From an attacking point of view, I was encouraged and, if Albion can get a win on Saturday, five points from three games will be a decent week.