West Brom 0 City 3
Report by Graham Tracey
After a low key first half, a debut goal by Timothy Castagne opened the floodgates for a very comfortable victory to keep up our great record at The Hawthorns. With so many reasons to expect a hangover – last season’s collapse, the lack of transfer activity, our makeshift defence – drawing a line under the post-lockdown mini-league was crucial and we did it in emphatic style.
The only caveat is that WBA look sure bets for relegation so anything less than a win would have been points dropped – I don’t subscribe to the theory that it is all about performances at the start of the season and all about results at the end of the season.
Looking good in maroon (unlike the tacky shirts sported by Rodgers and subs), our line-up was largely as anticipated given our available resources, with Ndidi moving to central defence. Much as I enjoy players moving position as a throwback to Walshy, Elliot and Marshall in the carefree 90s, this must have felt like a kick in the teeth for our younger players like Johnson, Knight and Hughes who must think they will never be trusted with a chance.
Mendy took over shielding duties, with Justin moving to left back so that Castagne could play right back. For me, the surprise was to prefer Perez over Albrighton or Gray, but presumably he had impressed in pre-season.
The first quarter (thankfully no longer marked by a drinks break) was worrying, with familiar failings. Vardy was left isolated, Perez struggled to get involved, and our initially cumbersome midfield were being out-muscled by Livermore. Luckily, WBA looked fairly toothless, with only Diangana (controversially sold by West Ham) looking dangerous. Ndidi was not put under much pressure in his temporary role and was pleasingly quick to hoof clear when required. The two moments of danger came fairly early when Justin had to take a yellow for scything down an opponent breaking through just outside the box, and Schmeichel’s only save, with his legs shortly before the break.
We started to flow towards the half hour, with Mendy shuttling the ball quickly and Praet and Tielemans pressing further forward. Three chances came in quick succession to Barnes, with the keeper parrying the two on target comfortably. Whether Harvey can improve his finishing is for me one of the key metrics that will determine how well we do this season.
Despite this improvement, it was a game I felt we could struggle to come back in if we fell behind, so it was a huge relief when we went ahead on 54 minutes. Praet was played in on the left goal-line, and when his chipped cross was powerfully headed home it was a terrific surprise to realise it was our new right back who had committed to getting forward so aggressively.
The Baggies’ heads seemed to go down in the heat after that, and we were not flattered by two penalties that were put to bed. Barnes broke through on the left, and though his shot was saved, the ref had spotted that Vardy was pulled down lest he tap in a cross. He got up to find the bottom left corner, and then after Justin was fouled clumsily, Jamie went to the same side to give us confidence that this could be another 20 goal season.
In further good news, Madders came off the bench and looked in full fitness. Gutting though it is not to be able to be there, our fans could choose to toast the Belgian combination with chips and mayo, waffles and maybe some Leffe in their gardens for tea.
With our fairly kind opening run of fixtures, hopefully this will be the spark to set us on a good run to put June and July behind us, and set us in good stead ahead of some new faces and the Europa League fixtures.
FOXES: Schmeichel 6, Castagne 8, Justin 6, Ndidi 7, Soyuncu 6, Mendy 7, Barnes 7, Praet 7 (Maddison 7), Tielemans 6, Perez 5 (Albrighton 6), Vardy 8
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation