A Sweet Double for the Baggies.
For young and old West Bromwich Albion fans, Sunday 11th February 2012 will be remembered for many years to come. Winning 5-1 against your fiercest rivals: it doesn’t get any better than that.
To do the double over Wolves is always sweet. But to give your rivals a hammering in their own backyard is even sweeter.
The Black Country derby certainly lived up to its billing from start to finish with many talking points. There have been a lot of comments about how poor Wolves were on the day and about the sacking of Mick McCarthy. But give credit where it is due.
From the back line to the front line, The Baggies were solid in every department and overall it was a superb team effort. It was by far the best all round performance from Albion this season and what a place to do it.
Praise and Dominance
Albion may have the joint worst-home record in the Premier League. However away from The Hawthorns, West Brom have been terrific recording six wins on the road.
I believe The Baggies have the third best away record in the division behind both Manchester clubs. That is pretty impressive although Albion are yet to go to Anfield, The Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford.
It makes me think if they can play so well away, why can’t they replicate that at home? And although Roy Hodgson does like to play 4-4-2, is 4-5-1 the formation that makes Albion tick? It will be interesting to see whether Hodgson sticks with the same team and formation against Sunderland.
Based on what we saw throughout the 90 minutes on Sunday, Albion without question deserved the win and to be quite frank it could have been more. Wayne Hennessey pulled off a number of fine saves in the first half to deny Albion going into half-time with a comfortable lead. The Welsh goalkeeper has probably been one of the positives of the season for Wolves so far.
West Brom could have taken the lead as early as the first minute with Hennessey making a fine save from Jerome Thomas’s close range effort.
Peter Odemwingie gave Albion the lead with a deflected shot and it was no more than The Baggies deserved. Roy Hodgson’s side were creating numerous chances and when Steven Fletcher equalised out of nowhere for Wolves, you might have been thinking those missed chances in the first-half could come back to haunt Albion.
Wolves had started the second-half brightly and Fletcher’s early deflected shot just missed the left post by inches.
However once Albion took the lead through Jonas Olsson, the result was never in doubt. Wolves failed to deal with a corner and the Swedish defender was able to strike the ball home on the half-volley although Hennessey could and should have done better.
Ben Foster did not really have anything to do in the game although he was forced to pull off a great save to deny Fletcher. The resulting corner saw Roger Johnson’s header headed onto the underside of his own bar by Youssouf Mulumbu. Had that gone in, it could so easily have been a different game.
From that point onwards it was all Albion and once The Baggies scored their third goal it was game set and match. Liam Ridgewell had a solid debut for Albion and he was able to head the ball across the box, Olsson back heeled the ball towards goal and Odemwingie was able to apply the killer touch for Albion’s third goal.
To rub salt into the wounds for the home side, former Wolves player Keith Andrews made it 4-1 with a deflected effort from 20 yards out. No doubt the Albion fans will love him after that.
Peter Odemwingie completed his hat-trick and finished from close-range to make it 5-1 in the latter stages of the game. It was Odemwingie’s first hat-trick in the Premier League and to do it against Wolves is something he will fondly remember.
The Odemwingie we saw against Wolves at Molineux is the Odemwingie we saw last season and hopefully his hat-trick will rejuvenate him and his season.
We all slated him for missing a sitter against Swansea but scoring a hat-trick in the next game was the perfect way to silence his critics. Peter was simply brilliant on Sunday. However he was not the only one who had a fine game.
Ben Foster was assured and did what he had to without any problems. Once again Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson were commanding at the back along with Steven Reid and Liam Ridgewell. McAuley has been one of the unsung heroes for Albion this season.
The Albion midfield were able to dominate the Wolves midfield. Jerome Thomas’s pace caused the Wolves defence problems and it was great to see him taking on players and running at defenders.
Youssouf Mulumbu, Paul Scharner and James Morrison more than played their part in Albion’s thumping win. But the one player who stood out for me was Marc Antoine-Fortune.
He might not have scored on the day, but his hold up play was superb and his link up play was decent as well. Fortune did exactly what a lone-striker should do and I have been very impressed with the way he has performed ever since he has come back into the first-team. Perhaps his loan spell at Doncaster did him the world of good.
And if Fortune continues to play as well as he has done, maybe Shane Long does have a fight on his hands to regain his first-team starting place.
With the away form absolutely fine, it is now time for West Brom to improve their form at home. The Baggies fans have not had much to cheer about at home and Albion have only achieved two league wins this season at The Hawthorns.
Next up at home for Albion are Sunderland. Martin O’Neill has already adapted to life at Sunderland very well and his side are not doing too badly either. The Black Cats are one of the form teams in the division and there is no denying Sunderland will be a tough game.
Stephane Sessegnon has come on leaps and bounds and for me he has been one of standout players of the season. Olsson and Co will need to be wary of Sessegnon for sure.
James McClean will also need to be stopped if Albion are to get anything from the game. The first time I saw McClean in action was against Peterborough in the FA Cup. I was thoroughly impressed with McClean’s all-round game and the Irishman can be a real threat going forward.
If the result against Wolves does not give Albion confidence going into the Sunderland game, I don’t know what will. It is vital now that West Brom build on their excellent win at Molineux and start delivering results for The Hawthorns faithful at home.
Time for Albion to start looking up the Premier League table rather than down the bottom. They are capable of finishing mid-table: the question is can they finish in the Top-10? The higher you finish up the table, the more money the club get. No pressure then.