Burnley 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
Carlos Corberán suffered his third defeat as Albion boss at Turf Moor as the Championship leaders came from behind to claim all three points. The assertion from the Clarets’ boss, Vincent Kompany, that the Baggies were “the best team in the league to this point” may offer a little crumb of comfort but the lack of options off the bench for Corberán was crucial in the end. Albion need to learn from the defeat and get back on the winning trail once again.
I thought Albion were excellent in the first half as they restricted their hosts to very few chances, with Erik Pieters’ deflection that was superbly saved by Palmer and the shot from Ashley Barnes that struck the bar being the only real scares for the visitors. They took the lead early with an excellent corner from John Swift that was headed in by Darnell Furlong. I understand that it was the 549th corner that Albion have had since the last time they scored from one! Hopefully, we won’t have to wait as long for the next!
From that point on, the Baggies struck a clever balance between solid defence and retaining a threat on the break, and it was the visitors who ended the first half with more attempts at goal despite having much less of the ball.
The second half was a different story, however. Burnley started to move the ball much more quickly and the chances started to come frequently for the hosts. Albion defended superbly but they were finding it increasingly difficult to get any sort of possession to give their defenders a break and they became impotent as an attacking threat.
The relative strengths of the two squads was apparent. Without Matt Phillips and Brandon Thomas-Asante to call on, Corberán’s options were limited. I actually think Taylor Gardner-Hickman would have been a better option than Tom Rogić as the first substitute but the energy of BTA would have been invaluable in the second half. Grady Diangana worked extremely hard but Phillips was undoubtedly a big loss and the news that he is likely to be out for at least six weeks is a massive blow.
I find it difficult to criticise any of the players, however. It was a fantastic collective effort but, as is often the case when under pressure, they started to get deeper and deeper as their efforts to press became less effective.
The Baggies can count themselves a little unfortunate for both goals. For the first, Okay was off the field having been receiving treatment and Burnley managed to get behind the Albion defence for the only time in the game. The free kick award for the second was somewhat debateable as it looked like Cullen kicked Wallace’s foot rather than the other way around, although that would have been very difficult for the referee to spot.
The late goals made the defeat all the more disappointing but there is still plenty to be positive about. Albion will not play a better side in the Championship this season and, with a bit of luck and one or two more options off the bench, they could have easily come away with all three points.
I’m not expecting too much activity in the transfer window, but last night exposed the fact that with one or two injuries and suspensions, the squad is a little thin. For me, the greatest need is for another striker, but injury to either of the full backs would be a big problem.
It’s obviously disappointing to lose, but Albion are right in the mix for the play-offs and I feel confident that they will have that winning feeling again very soon.