I’m sure like many Albion fans I feared the worst when I saw the team that Keith Downing had selected. An untried 5-3-1-1 formation away from home at Spurs? Surely that meant another demoralising defeat for the Baggies.
Downing made seven changes to the side which drew against Hull City with Matej Vydra, Zoltan Gera, Craig Dawson, Diego Lugano, Steven Reid, Morgan Amalfitano and Claudio Yacob all recalled.
The team and formation may have seemed odd, but it was clear early on that Downing had got his tactics spot on. Albion should’ve taken the lead in the 13th minute when a clever one-two between Gera and Vydra saw Lloris parry the young striker’s effort around the corner.
From the resulting corner, Olsson headed the ball over when Lugano was shaping up for an acrobatic effort.
Vydra looked a threat playing on the ‘shoulder’ of Spurs’ defenders and had another opportunity to give Albion the lead five minutes later. The on-loan striker sprinted clear of Dawson but Lloris’ quick dash off his line allowed him to smother the ball.
The striker then had another chance to give Albion the lead. The Baggies worked the ball well down the left and Ridgewell’s cross found Vydra five yards out. However, his header flashed wide when it seemed easier to score.
Albion’s five man defence was playing well. Lugano looked far more comfortable with extra support around him and Spurs’ efforts were blocked or easily cleared. At the other end, the narrow midfield was working well together with Morrison and Yacob snappy in the tackle providing a platform for Gera and Vydra to link together.
But it was Spurs who took the lead. Morrison was adjudged to have fouled Walker on the edge of the area. Christian Eriksen stepped forward, curled the ball around the wall and into the net. Foster was helpless.
Albion struck back moments later. Eriksen held back Morrison out wide. Amalfitano swung over the cross where Jonas Olsson prodded home at the back post. It was nothing less that Albion deserved.
Morrison then missed a glorious chance in first half stoppage time. The midfielder burst through but dragged his shot wide with just Lloris to beat.
After the break
After Rose had fired over from some 25 yards, Steven Reid has Albion’s first effort of the half. From around the same position Eriksen curled home, the right back curled the ball around the wall but Lloris pushed the ball to safety.
Amalfitano then worked his way to the byline before firing over a low cross. Gera got to the ball first but couldn’t get enough on his effort to bundle the ball past Lloris. It was another effort which should’ve resulted in an Albion goal.
Spurs were coming into the game more and Foster had to be at his best to save efforts from Walker. The hosts pushed forward for a winner but Albion’s defence stood firm to earn a valuable point.
After weeks of watching turgid football it was nice to see Albion finally play with some tempo when going forward. The unfamiliar 5-3-1-1 formation and the inclusion of Zoltan Gera playing behind Vydra proved to be a master-stroke by caretaker boss Downing.
Albion looked threatening going forward and Amalfitano, Yacob and Morrison looked to be somewhere near their best. Morrison in particular provided Albion with a spark going foward. He was quick in the tackle and linked up well with Albion’s forwards.
It was also a welcome return for Zoltan Gera. The fans’ favourite showed how badly Albion have missed Gera. It’s no coincidence that while he’s been injured Albion have struggled. From what I’ve seen, there’s nobody else in our squad that links together midfield and attack and has an eye for a pass. Let’s hope he can continue injury free until the rest of the season.
Congratulations must also go to Keith Downing. I was critical of his selection and tactics against Hull. But he was bold to pick another system and we had glimpses of the side which finished eigth last season. We looked dangerous going forward and solid defensively. His job is now to devise a way of getting three points against West Ham on Saturday.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES
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