West Bromwich Albion came back from a goal down to beat their Midlands rivals Birmingham City 3-1 in an entertaining Midlands derby.
I certainly did not predict Albion to beat the Blues 3-1 before kick-off. But that’s football and anything can happen in derbies.
Birmingham went into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw against Liverpool. Based on what I have seen of the Blues so far this season, I honestly thought the Baggies were going to be in for a difficult afternoon.
Scott Dann and Roger Johnson have been terrific since signing for the St. Andrews outfit and City have become a hard nut to crack as we saw last season as well as this season.
So for West Brom to beat Birmingham by three goals to one was surprising to say the least. I was expecting a tight game with not many goals.
Many Baggies fans may have feared the worse after Cameron Jerome put the Blues ahead in the Midlands derby.
However the one thing Albion have is resilience and even though Birmingham did dominate the first half, Roberto Di Matteo’s side could have gone in level at half-time.
Just before the Blues went in front, Peter Odemwingie’s weak shot went straight into the arms of Ben Foster. Had the Nigerian’s effort gone either side of Foster, then the Baggies might have taken the lead.
Paul Scharner had an opportunity to equalise when he found himself free at the back post. Chris Brunt’s cross found the Austrian unmarked but Scharner’s effort was saved by Foster.
Birmingham deserved to go into the half-time interval 1-0 up but West Brom were not out of it. Di Matteo brought on Graham Dorrans in place of Marc-Antoine Fortune and Odemwingie went up front as the lone striker. This made a huge difference.
Albion looked a different side in the second half and Jerome Thomas gave Stephen Carr the run around.
Thomas got past the former Spurs defender and delivered a low cross which Scott Dann deflected into his own net although Odemwingie did claim the goal was his.
The Baggies after equalising were well on top and Birmingham had no answer. Although Cameron Jerome did have a long range effort that was not far off, Alex McLeish’s side did not create any clear cut chances in the second half.
A mistake from Lee Bowyer allowed Odemwingie in and the Nigerian slotted the ball home from an acute angle after rounding Ben Foster. Have Albion found a cult hero in Peter Odemwingie?
Roberto Di Matteo’s afternoon got better when Jonas Olsson headed in a Chris Brunt corner to put the Baggies 3-1 up.
After making a mistake for the second goal, you could understand Bowyer wanting to make up for it but going in recklessly on Gabriel Tamas will have done him no favours.
McLeish was spot on in substituting the ex-West Ham midfielder. Had Bowyer remained on the pitch then he may have seen the red card.
It’s just amazing what a goal can do for your confidence and when the Baggies equalised, the home side had the momentum and were totally dominant in the second half.
The game followed a similar pattern as to what happened against Spurs in Albion’s last home fixture. Tottenham were all over The Baggies in the first half but after Albion equalised, Di Matteo’s team had their fair share of the possession and could have gone on to win the game.
This time round Albion made their second half dominance count and it was three well earned points for West Brom.
One bright spark for Birmingham City was the performance of Alexander Hleb. The Belarus international was impressive in the first half and some of his play was second to none. He was kept quiet in the second half but I believe Hleb will do a great job for Birmingham this season.
West Brom can go to Arsenal next weekend with no pressure whatsoever. Albion will not be expected to get anything from the Emirates so all the pressure will be on Arsene Wenger’s side.
Before that, West Brom face Manchester City in the next round of the Carling Cup and I would not be surprised if there are some players who are rested.
Surviving in the Premier League is the top priority for West Bromwich Albion this season but it would be nice to have a cup run in either the Carling Cup or FA Cup.
Things are not looking bad for the Albion but there is still a long way to go!