West Brom hang on to beat Sheffield Utd, secure first win of season
West Brom - Sheffield United was anything but a pretty performance from the (then-)19th-place Baggies, but it will matter very little as they finally picked up their first win of the season, a 1-0 result over the (still-)20th-place Blades at The Hawthorns, on Saturday.
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Conor Gallagher scored the game’s only goal in the 13th minute and West Brom held on for dear life as Sheffield United pounded on the door for much of the final 77 minutes, only to fail to find a way inside.
The result is enough to pull West Brom out of the relegation zone, into 17th place. Sheffield United, meanwhile, remain winless with just one point from their first 10 games.
2 things we learned: West Brom - Sheffield United
1. If not for bad luck…: … Sheffield United would have no luck at all. Chris Wilder still has a ton of work to do to get the Blades back to their form of 2019-20, but the positive signs of progress were on display against West Brom. Sheffield United created a handful of chances that you could reasonably expect, on most days, to find their way over the goal line. That’s where the lack of a fortuitous bounce or two comes into play, of course. While they’re not a million miles away from picking up positive results and turning the 2020-21 season around and time is not yet running out, time will soon be running out with a terrifyingly deep hole out of which to dig themselves.
2. For West Brom, it’s Pereira and…: … not much else. Credit to Matheus Pereira for his man-of-the-match performance, but Slaven Bilic will be looking at his side and wondering where else he’s going to find chance creation and ball progression. It won’t be long before Pereira is marked out of games, given he looks like West Brom’s open reliable creator.
The game’s first scoring chance was one for West Brom, who threatened through Karlan Grant in the 12th minute, the newly signed striker breaking in behind the Blades’ defense from Pereira’s fantastic ball in behind. Grant’s first touch let him down ever so slightly and Aaron Ramsdale was quick enough off his line to snuff out the chance.
It was the ensuing corner kick which mattered most and resulted in the game’s opening goal, though. The corner kick came into the box and was hardly dealt with by Sheffield United’s near-post defenders. It fell to Chelsea loanee Gallagher on the edge of the box, and Gallagher did well to pass the ball through a sea of bodies and just inside Ramsdale’s left-hand post.
Having started the game more brightly and fallen behind early on, Sheffield United kept up the pressure immediately after the goal went in. Four minutes later, Oliver Burke forced Sam Johnstone into an acrobatic save after Kean Bryan’s menacing cross found Burke’s head eight yards out.
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Sheffield United, again, had the better of play to start the second half, but the missing piece of the puzzle was the most important one for a side as desperate as the Blades: a goal.
Another chance at an equalizer came in the 64th minute, when Oliver McBurnie picked out Burke who picked out Sam Baldock in an unmarked position just outside the six-yard box. Baldock skied the attempted finish, a painfully poor effort in increasingly desperate times.
Three minutes later, another great chance for Sheffield United, but even it felt miles away in that no one could get a touch onto a cross that was perfectly ripe for goal. John Lundstram was the one who sent it in and tried to pick out Burke, but Burke was a hair short of putting his head on the ball and the chance was gone in the blink of an eye.
With 95 minutes on the clock — barely 90 seconds left to be played — Rhian Brewster had the golden chance Sheffield United were looking for, but the 20-year-old club-record signing smashed his right-footed finish off the front side of the bar from 10 yards out. A painfully perfect encapsulation of their struggles at the moment.