West Brom’s FA Cup race was already underway before the Premier League lost to Brighton on Saturday.
Callum Robinson gave Albion the lead at the start of the second half, but Cedric Kipre’s red card – Baggies’ sixth in 12 games – was the turning point and from there the top flight side asserted control.
Jacob Modder equalized before full time and then Neil Maupay delivered the deciding blow in the first half of extra time.
In front of just 8,208 supporters – the lowest for many years of competitive play at The Hawthorns – Albion got off to a good start. It immediately became clear that Matt Phillips would be the man to lead the line and, for a player who has been missing for weeks with an injury and who was being asked to work in a position he would not like, Scott Sharp was visible.
His hold-up play and relaying the ball was good, but he banged the bar after a good work from Darnell Furlong.
Brighton were missing one or two important players. Leandro Trossard was included as substitute from here, and Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster were injured. Yves Bisouma is away with Mali at AFCON as well, but it was a strong side that Graham Potter fielded.
He also had the inauguration. An excellent Pascal Gross ball at the top, caught by Kipre, allowed Danny Welbeck to a face-off with David Button, but the stand-in keeper stood tall and was blocked with his arm.
Neil Maupe also had opportunities. When Kipre and Kyle Bartley entangled themselves, Button held them out, and he nearly scored a brilliant goal when his header from distance went right behind the post.
There was a lot of pressure on Albion, but there were few opportunities to test giant stopper Kjell Sherpen properly. Jake Livermore and Robinson picked up a yellow shirt in midfield and Robinson scored before finding Phillips. He helped attack Livermore, whose shot hit a defender, and therefore over the bar.
Albion started the second half flawlessly; Phillips assisted a throw from Furlong on the way to Grant, who ran from inside his half to the edge of the Brighton field before putting the ball on a plate for Robinson. I have applied finishing touches.
Albion, after 20 minutes or so, was pretty comfortable – until Kipre had a few minutes to forget. His first yellow card after the fall of Neil Maupay couldn’t make any complaints about it, and although the second – to come with Leandro Trossard – was more dubious, it was still clumsy and he received his marching orders.
Once again, that put Albion on the back foot. Ismail called on Zack Ashworth and Caleb Taylor, but Brighton was broken with less than ten minutes left when substitute Modder lay on a loose ball in the box and fired past Button.
Button made a great save to keep Alexis Mack Allister out, and so we prepared for extra time. It was in the first ten minutes of the first half of extra time that Brighton’s extra quality, and his experience in the final third, counted.
The modder was involved again. He collected the ball to the right and drove a low ball into the area that Trossard had allowed to run for Maupe. Taking up too much space, he fired ahead of the button.
15 minutes after Seagal’s possession dominated, Albion’s FA Cup run at the first hurdle paid off.
From here, all roads lead to the QPR and championship run-in.
Two very good defenses in the first half to negate Welbeck and Maupe. Get out of your line immediately if needed. Kicking might be better. The sweeper keeper turned sweeper midfielder in the second half when he went on the run without any trouble. Suggestion of a lack of communication with the Brighton target, but he made a surprise save to stop Mack Allister.
Reintroduced to the starting line-up and Furlong started off well. He showed positive intent in setting up an opening for Phillips, though he struggled in the air against the giant Byrne. The final ball was well placed with Phillips.
Generally a good performance, although he still occasionally sounds the alarm. Caught under some high balls, one of which gave Welbeck a chance. Then he and Bartley had a mix that was almost costly, but his general handling of the game from behind was decent – until his clumsiness cost him two yellows in quick time.
Bar mix with a kipre that thankfully came to nothing, Bartley was very good. He lived up to the threat of lively Maupe and Welbeck. In the late 90s, it was his kind of defense – back to the wall, winning the air battle. Made a knock but fought.
Along with a bunch of yellow shirts, Button with a back pass needed to tackle the door early in the problems. Playing in the back three helped him take a break from deep and overlap the reach. Got himself into some good positions but the last ball didn’t come. Did a lot of mopping and won some important headers, but he was beaten for the goal.
Played left wing-back and showed some impressive footwork on the left hand side. He became a senior chief in the Albion half when Ismail introduced youth and moved to midfield to help weather the storm with a great energy. Albion seemed to break whenever the bus was lacking in quality.
On fault to lose possession in a dangerous area in the first half, but Livermore’s performance here was otherwise impressive. Came to the back-line for a while and was excellent, committing himself again and again, although he was booked unnecessarily.
Opportunity to play in central midfield, where he has done well in the past. The opening doors for Townsend were spectacular, and he completed a few more catchy passes in addition. There is always a feeling that Ismail wants something more than him, but there can be no complaints about his application.
Nothing stuck for him in a bad first half. Sometimes he could have done more, other times he was a little unlucky, but he was in the right place and it was the right time to apply the finishing touches.
Strong work with little reward in the first half of the left arm but he did very well to collect and carry the ball early in the second half and put it on a plate for Robinson – as he did on Sunday.
Really nice change from a player who has come back after a long layoff and is not playing his favorite role. He held the ball up and brought others into play, putting pressure on the back-line and playing a role in the goal. Valuable minutes.
Dianagana (for Philips 64) 5
Really struggled to make any serious in the streets during his appearance. Worked hard in extra time against a large and physical defense dominating the ball.
Ashworth (for Gardner-Hickman 68) 6
A run-out for the youngster, who for the most part applied himself well to the left-back.
Taylor (for Robinson 79)
Fellows (for Grants 79)
Clear (for Livermore 99)
Not used substitutes: Palmer, Hugill, Castro, Tulloch
Brighton & Hove Albion: Sherpen; Maupe, Mwepu (Mac Allister 28), Gross, Alzette (Moder 76), Welbeck (Trossard 56), March, Duffy, Veltman (Ferguson 76), Offia (Cucurela 55)
Options not used: Sanchez, Roberts, Leonard, Terns
Albion-Robinson 47; Brighton – Modder 81, Maupe 98
Referee: Robert Jones
Next Up: Queens Park Rangers Away, to begin next Saturday – January 15th, 3pm