Defensive masterclass secures victory at Coventry

Coventry City 0 West Bromwich Albion 2

Albion returned to the top six following an excellent victory at the CBS Arena dispatching a team previously unbeaten at home for the second time this season. It was a win built on an outstanding defensive performance from Carlos Corberán’s well-drilled team, coupled with two clinical finishes from Grady Diangana and Brandon Thomas-Asante. The Baggies may have had one or two moments of good fortune, but it was victory that was thoroughly deserved with every player doing the job that was asked of them.

It was no surprise that Corberán tweaked his starting line-up, but few will have predicted the changes he did make. Pipa was handed his first start at right wing back in place of Furlong, while Alex Mowatt came in for Thomas-Asante with the Baggies lining up with a central midfield three behind Wallace and Diangana.

The visitors started the brighter with City struggling to get out of their half for the first ten minutes. After a brief foray near the Albion goal, the hosts were soon on the back foot again and fell behind when Diangana capitalised on a goalkeeping error. Nathaniel Chalobah’s shot was parried loosely by City ‘keeper, Ben Wilson, and Grady was alive to the chance and calmly evaded the wild challenge and slotted it into the corner.

From then on, the hosts dominated possession but had very few clear cut chances. The best of them was inadvertently created by Alex Mowatt as his sliding interception fell kindly for City’s American forward, Haji Wright – he was clean through with only Palmer to beat but could only slide the ball wide.

Kipré was perhaps fortunate to get away with a first half penalty shout as he leant into the ball with his arm, but it would have been harsh on the Frenchman who surprisingly kept his place having recovered from the knee injury that forced him off in the match against QPR last week.

One other moment that went Albion’s way was their second goal. It was a fabulous turn and pass from Phillips and Thomas-Asante, who had come off the bench, was close to being offside as he ran through; but what a finish, thundered into the top corner. He probably should have added a third for the Baggies, or at least set up Diangana who was in a better position but, overall, the former Salford City man put in another impressive display from the bench.

While the two goalscorers may grab the headlines, it is the back three who should really get the praise for this victory. Kyle Bartley marshalled them superbly and both Kipré and Pieters were excellent alongside him. In front of them, Okay, Chalobah and Mowatt worked incredibly hard to restrict the space for the opposition, while using the ball intelligently when in possession.

Pipa put in a decent display in his first start and certainly looks to be an able deputy for Furlong, while Phillips was excellent once again on the opposite flank, the assist for BTA his personal highlight.

It was not quite the complete performance that we saw at Deepdale earlier in the month, but it was excellent nonetheless. The management of the game in the closing stages was masterful, albeit referee, Peter Banks, got a little loose with his cards for even the slightest hint of timewasting handing five cautions out to Albion players, all for some form of dissent.

This was a better result than Coventry’s position in the table might suggest – I expect them to be challenging for the top six come the end of the season – and it keeps the Baggies firmly in the play-off picture in spite of their injury problems. Corberán is doing a fantastic job in managing his limited squad through this period picking up seven points from nine since the injury to John Swift, and losing just once since Josh Maja was injured in mid-September.

There are a further two games until the next international break, after which both are expected to return, although Sarmiento may be fit sooner. The opponents will both be stern tests with seventh placed Hull City at the Hawthorns on Saturday before the trip to Southampton, who currently sit one place above Albion in fourth. This result means that Albion will approach those games full of confidence.

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