West Brom responded to pressure, yet again, to go to the top of the Championship with a 2-0 win over Derby County at The Hawthorns.
Goals from Grady Diangana and Dara O’Shea were enough to get the Baggies over the line and maintain their five-point lead over Brentford in third place.
Slaven Bilic made four changes to the side that defeated Hull City 4-2 at the weekend which saw Diangana, Jake Livermore, Semi Ajayi and Conor Townsend come in for Filip Krovinovic, Rekeem Harper, Ahmed Hegazi and Kieran Gibbs.
The game started with another early goal for Albion, who broke the deadlock in the 11th minute with Kamil Grosicki’s slick pass being latched onto by Diangana, who rounded the Derby goalkeeper Ben Hamer and tucked the ball in from a very tight angle.
Derby dominated the ball for large periods but with no success as they failed to register a single shot on target for the whole 90 minutes.
On the contrary, the Baggies were hitting the Rams on the counter-attack and looked dangerous every-time they went forward, with Hamer denying Charlie Austin towards the end of the first half and then keeping out two efforts from Matheus Pereira in the second half.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Bilic’s men got a much needed second goal with O’Shea heading home at the near post from a Pereira corner.
It went from bad to worse for Derby as in injury time, Louie Sibley was sent off for allegedly kicking out at O’Shea when their legs got tangled.
Here’s how we rated the WBA players in the 2-0 win:
Sam Johnstone - 6
Didn’t have to make a single save with Derby not having a shot on target. Made a couple of decent kicks to get Albion on their way in attack and did well to clear a heavy back-pass in stoppage time towards the end of the game.
Dara O'Shea - 9
O’Shea keeps growing game after game and he put in another fantastic performance. Stood his ground very well to keep out Holmes and Whittaker and topped it off by grabbing the second goal which eased the pressure towards the ending stages.
Semi Ajayi - 7
Ajayi was restored into the line up for the suspended Hegazi and was comfortable. Made a few stray passes out from the back but nullified Martin up front, who wasn’t a danger all game.
Kyle Bartley - 7
Like Ajayi, Bartley managed to isolate Martin well to make sure he didn’t give them problems. Made a couple of heavy back-passes with one nearly being an own goal if it wasn’t for the heroics of Johnstone.
Conor Townsend - 7
Townsend carried on his good form coming in for the injured Gibbs. Supported Grosicki on the left side and was very good in his defensive duties. Whipped a few crosses into the box that didn’t test the Derby defence.
Jake Livermore - 7.5
Was excellent throughout and added the much-needed physicality in midfield which was missing against Hull. Made a robust challenge to give Albion a great chance of doubling their lead in the first half but Pereira curled it narrowly wide. Was ever-present with his attacking presence which helped Albion hurt Derby on numerous counter-attacks.
Romaine Sawyers - 8
Sawyers was back to his best again and kept Wayne Rooney quiet for large parts of the game with him playing in a more advanced role. Made a number of spraying passes to get Albion up the pitch and was instrumental in his defensive duties with him mopping up loose balls in key areas.
Matheus Pereira - 9
Pereira again was the pick of the bunch. Won the midfield battle in the first half getting on the end of multiple balls to set Albion on their way in attack from tight areas. Curled a shot narrowly wide in the first half, before testing Hamer twice in the second with two low strikes. Claimed another assist with his corner into O’Shea.
Kamil Grosicki - 8
Grosicki was a danger all evening on the left side and linked up beautifully with Pereira. Saw a couple of efforts blaze over but claimed another assist with an acute ball into Diangana, who slotted home.
Grady Diangana - 8
Diangana carried on his goalscoring form with a smart finish from a narrow angle. Was a real threat on the right-side with a lot of the counter attacks being carried by the winger. Picked up a hamstring injury early on in the second half which Albion will hope is not too serious.
Charlie Austin - 7
You can’t fault Austin’s work rate, as he chased after every ball but unfortunately, his luck in front of goal wasn’t there. Had a volley from the edge of the box that was denied by an impressive stop from Hamer but that was the only chance he got.
Callum Robinson - 6 (subbed on 51')
Robinson came on for the injured Diangana but didn’t get too involved in Albion’s attacking front as they looked to see the game out. Had one rasping effort which was straight at Hamer.
Hal Robson-Kanu - 6 (subbed on 59')
Robson-Kanu carried on from where Austin left off and added energy up front. Didn’t get too much of the ball though.
Filip Krovinovic - 6 (subbed on 83')
Came on for the final few minutes to help the Baggies get three points.
Matt Phillips - 6 (subbed on 84')
Made a couple of nice runs with one dangerous cross into the box that wasn’t met by his teammates. Was another player that came on to add energy to the team for the final few minutes.