West Brom 2 Brentford 2 (pens 4-5)
Albion crashed out of the Carabao Cup on penalties despite leading twice at home to Brentford in what was a disappointing evening for Slaven Bilić’s team.
Grady Diangana, who was brought off the bench in attempt to win the game with 20 minutes left, missed the decisive fifth Albion kick to allow Nørgaard to put the Bees into the fourth round.
It was a decent cup tie which exploded into life after the break after a tight first half. The Baggies took the lead on the 56th minute when Robson-Kanu converted a spot kick after he had been brought down by Dominic Thompson. The visitors were level just two minutes later when Brentford’s best player, Emiliano Marcondes, scored an acrobatic free-kick from about eight yards.
The hosts were soon back in front when Kyle Edwards was felled in the box after some neat work from Baggies debutant, Conor Gallagher, with Robson-Kanu once again converting.
The Baggies could not hold on for the second time, however, as the game’s third penalty was awarded for a foul by Cédric Kipré on former Albion academy player, Marcus Forss. The Finn converted the spot kick himself to level the tie again.
While the game was end to end throughout, there weren’t that many other good chances. Marcondes struck the post in the first half while Gallagher brought a fine save from Raya in the second, but also fired another good chance over the bar. Meanwhile, Matt Phillips should really have done better when presented the ball by some poor Bees defending but could only shoot tamely at the ‘keeper.
Austin, Gallagher (with a Panenka), Edwards and Townsend all converted well before Diangana’s miss, while Button got close to just one of Brentford’s spot kicks.
It was obviously disappointing to go out to lower league opposition, even though the two clubs were pretty much on a par two months ago, and it also means the Bilić has lost the opportunity to keep fringe players fit in a second competition. But what has the Croat learned?
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Matt Phillips was once again disappointing and is nowhere near threatening a starting place in the league. Rekeem Harper always looks good on the ball but gets lost too easily when not in possession and this game did nothing to dispel that opinion. Kipré once again look OK but it’s difficult to say that he would be an upgrade on either Bartley or Ajayi – perhaps he would be worth a try. Ivanović also made his debut and looked solid, but again he didn’t necessarily show enough to say that he will be the answer to Albion’s defensive frailties and, given that he was withdrawn on the hour, he’s probably short of match fitness. One thing that is obvious is that he has a huge backside.
On the plus side, I thought Sam Field had a decent game and may be worth a start on Saturday while Albion’s best player on the night was Conor Gallagher. While he obviously cannot play against Chelsea, I think he will make a big difference once he comes into the Premier League team.
One interesting thing to note was that Bilić switched back to a 4-3-3 and I do wonder whether we will see the same against Chelsea. I much prefer it with three men in midfield and, in the absence of Gallagher, I’d be happy to see Field supplement Sawyers and Livermore on Saturday as I believe he can do that shielding role in front of a back four.
Without Gibbs, we will probably see O’Shea at left back, although I thought Townsend had a decent game tonight. However, I think either option will find it tough against Chelsea’s attacking talent.
Having speculated about Charlie Austin’s future given his recent absences, Kamil Grosicki was the standout name missing from tonight’s squad – if fit, surely he would have been involved?
And so another chance of a cup run goes begging and we move onto Saturday’s game with Chelsea in hope rather than expectation.