West Bromwich Albion provided one of the shocks in the fourth round of the FA Cup, dumping out Premier League side West Ham 1-0 thanks to Conor Townsend’s first goal for the club.
Slaven Bilic made eight changes to his side on his return to West Ham with only Ahmed Hegazi, Conor Townsend and Matt Phillips retaining their places from the 1-0 defeat to Stoke.
The Baggies were better than the Hammers all over the pitch, showing more tempo and desire than the hosts who undoubtedly were showing their lack of confidence as they fight to overcome a relegation battle in the Premier League.
Kyle Edwards was the first man to draw a chance in the game, firing low to the near post after cutting in from the left hand side, which was well parried behind by Hammers goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Soon after that though, the Baggies raced in to the lead. A neat run by Filip Krovinovic saw the ball fall in to the path of Charlie Austin, and his heavy touch collided off a combination of Issa Diop and Carlos Sanchez after their mix up and fell in to the feet of Conor Townsend, who sharply took one touch and drilled the ball in to the top corner past a despairing Randolph.
Shortly after, Albion really should have doubled their lead. Kyle Edwards did well to hold the ball on the left before going back to Townsend, who clipped a delightful ball over which was headed narrowly wide by Krovinovic.
West Ham were all over the place and should have been punished by the Baggies who weren’t ruthless enough in front of goal when needed. Declan Rice cheaply gave the ball away to Dara O’Shea in his own half, and the Irishman whipped a brilliant ball over which was headed wide by Austin from a few yards out and he really should have done better with that.
Early in the second half, Slaven Bilic’s side continued their dominance with Filip Krovinovic flashing wide with a left footed effort before Charlie Austin had a close range header held by Randolph from Kyle Edwards’s cross.
West Ham towards the end of the game were starting to get on top with Albian Ajeti heading narrowly wide from Manuel Lanzini’s delivery.
With just under 20 minutes to go, Albion made it more difficult for themselves to pick up a result with Semi Ajayi being sent off for two yellow cards after he bundled over Ajeti on the counter attack.
Declan Rice then had a shot from the edge of the box parried away by Baggies keeper Jonathan Bond, which was the only meaningful save he had to make.
In the dying moments of the game, West Ham blew their best chance of the game, Michail Antonio’s low cross was deflected off Conor Townsend which fell to Mark Noble on the edge of the box who was unmarked, but he blasted the ball over the bar to ensure that West Brom held on and booked their place in to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Here’s how we rated the WBA players in the 1-0 win:
Jonathan Bond - 7
Only save he had to make was to parry away Rice’s low strike towards the end of the game. Was composed in playing out from the back and caught some crosses well that came in to the box.
Dara O'Shea - 8
It’s a good job that Albion have tied down O’Shea to a long term contract because he is a fantastic player. Slotted in to the right back position so well again like he did at Charlton. Whipped over a couple of dangerous deliveries and was winning key headers when Bond sent balls to him from the goal kicks.
Semi Ajayi - 7
Was solid at the back dealing with the long balls that West Ham attempted in the first half. Had the freedom to burst forward at times and get Albion on the attack too. Unfortunate sending off sees him miss Tuesday night’s trip to Cardiff which is a blow.
Ahmed Hegazi - 7
Likewise, Hegazi was very solid. Was good with his feet when playing out from the back and limited the West Ham attackers to many clear cut opportunities. Will surely be starting midweek with Ajayi’s suspension.
Conor Townsend- 8
What a way to open your account for the Baggies! A thunderous strike from the left back was the winning goal and sent the Albion fans wild in the opening 10 minutes. Was solid in his defensive duties as well to help the Baggies keep a clean sheet.
Gareth Barry - 8
Dominated the midfield so well. Sprayed lovely passes all game and won some key duals in the midfield to make sure Albion got on the attack as they looked for a second goal.
Chris Brunt - 7
Brunt linked up well with Barry in the midfield but was a little bit more passive. Was very good at his passing today and sent a shot over the bar in the second half. A couple of corner deliveries didn’t trouble the Hammers defence though.
Kyle Edwards - 7
Edwards was lively all game and used his pace to beat Zabaleta numerous times down the left flank. Tested Randolph early on with a low hit before striking over in the second half as the Baggies looked to double their lead.
Matt Phillips - 6
Phillips was one of the more quieter performers. Should have really pulled the trigger baring down on goal in the opening five minutes. Crossing was poor all game and he never really effected the game in the way he would have liked.
Filip Krovinovic - 8
By far the Croatians best performance in an Albion shirt. Made the first goal with his long, mazy run and then sent a header narrowly wide just after that from Townsend’s cross. Curled past the far post with an effort in the first attempt of the second half too. Linked up nicely with his team mates with some short passes to keep the ball.
Charlie Austin - 6
Austin struggled to get involved with his team mates excellent play at times but missed a couple of great chances when they were presented to him. Should have really done better with his close range header from O’Shea’s cross before having a header well saved by Randolph early in the second half.
Rayhaan Tulloch - 7 (subbed on 62')
The youngster got some much needed minutes and showed why he is a promising player from the Albion academy. Got on the ball and laid off some accurate short passes before nut megging a West Ham defender at the end of the game as Albion looked to run down the clock.
Kenneth Zohore - 7 (subbed on 70')
Came on for the final 20 minutes and added the outlet that Albion needed to see the result out. Held up the ball well towards the end to waste some time which ultimately helped the Baggies win the game.
Kyle Bartley - 7 (subbed on 74')
Was called in to action to cover Ajayi’s position after the sending off. Held the defensive line well to ensure Albion saw out the result to get to the fifth round.