West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Reading Player Ratings: Krovinovic creates

Kenneth Zahore – https://www.wba.co.uk/

In a tale of non-penalties and one penalty, a largely dominant second half performance from West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday night was not enough to secure victory; they were held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited Reading side, as Ovie Ejaria’s shock opener was cancelled out by Kenneth Zahore’s spot-kick. Here’s our Six Things from the contest.

West Bromwich Albion

Sam Johnstone – the goalkeeper came under criticism for his performance on Saturday, but he redeemed himself here with a decent display, making one good save at his near-post in the first half and stopping Swift’s free-kick – there was little he could have done about the goal, too. 6

Darnell Furlong – in the first half, Furlong looked hesitant – to the extent that his lack of match practice might have hindered him – although he could have won a penalty off Omar Richards in the opening exchanges. The QPR recruit got forward more readily after the interval and set up Austin’s big chance, but there is more to come from him in terms of quality of crossing. 5
Semi Ajayi – there was a feeling at Rotherham that Ajayi, so athletic and impulsive, is best suited to playing in front of a defence rather than in it but that theory was challenged by his performance as a centre-back here. The Nigerian timed his headers very well, so one wonders whether playing under a more nuanced tactician in Slaven Bilic has helped his development in that position, which the manager believes is his best. 8
Kyle Bartley – the experienced centre-back defended his penalty area well and did not spend much time on the ball, which was most likely a good thing – it shows Bilic is pragmatic and realistic about the skillsets of the players available and knows how to devise a system that will maximize their strengths. 7
Kieran Gibbs – the former Arsenal left-back did not bring quite as much attacking intent here as we are used to seeing, and although Gibbs strode forward more readily in the second half, he did not show as much quality in possession as we perhaps might have expected from a player of his pedigree. 4

Romain Sawyers – having been converted into a deep-lying playmaker at Brentford in 2018-19, Sawyers produced arguably the best season of his career and tonight’s evidence suggests he has carried that form into this campaign with West Brom. Played several delightful through balls, including one that freed up Zahore late on – Albion didn’t always have a striker on the pitch who was making those kind of runs, nor did they have full-backs stretching the play, so the St Kitts & Nevis international did well to show the level of creativity that he did and that was key to the team’s territorial second half control. 9
Jake Livermore – considering that Albion added nine new players this summer, it seemed surprising that Livermore, having come under a lot of criticism over the previous two campaigns, retains his place in the starting XI. In fairness to the former Hull man, though, he did the dirty work well and showed his authority at times, leaving the more technical side of things to his midfield partner. 6

Matt Phillips – there is little doubt that, when fit, Phillips is one of the best players in the Championship – having looked somewhat off-the-pace at Luton last week, the ex-QPR man appeared back to his best here from the outset. Under Darren Moore and Jimmy Shan, Phillips appeared to hug the touchline, but Bilic seems to have given him the licence to roam infield more often. 7
Filip Krovinovic – the Croatian playmaker has had a bright start to his EFL career and that continued here; Krovinovic showed a deft touch in tight areas as well as the vision to play cute through balls. If West Brom get a bit more pace and width in other areas, the 23-year-old could do even more damage than he did here. 9
Grady Diangana – the West Ham loanee was rewarded for his excellent impact as a half-time substitute on Saturday with a first league start here – and Diangana certainly justified his manager’s faith. He showed enterprising trickery here in tight areas, even if he was not always able to execute the final ball, blazing narrowly over the near-post just after the second half’s midway point. It seemed surprising that Diangana was taken off shortly after that miss, because he had been looking very lively at that stage, but Bilic was keen to manage his game-time after a pre-season of just 45 minutes. 8

Charlie Austin – had the previous Poole Town poacher’s close-range second half effort been a yard either side of Rafael’s feet, he would be heralded as the match-winning hero; but that would have detracted from an otherwise poor display. Granted, it is not easy to face three centre-backs yet there was something amiss with Austin’s movement and body language; he rarely took the initiative to anticipate a through ball before it happened – and the odd mini-huff after a teammate lost possession did not scream a centre-forward determined to lead the press. Should be preserved as an impact substitute for now. 4

Matheus Pereira (on 69) – linked up well with Krovinovic at times but will have been annoyed to have spurned an opportunity to bag the winner by blazing over from inside the box late on. Looks like someone who will cut inside and combine, rather than take on his man. 7
Kenneth Zohore (on 75) – the athletic centre-forward worked hard, pressurized the defence and tried to bully his way forward. The Dane improved the intensity of Albion’s pressing late on and his lively movement, willingness to find space even in tight areas, meant the hosts got more out of Sawyers in the closing stages. 9
Kyle Edwards (on 82) – was brought on to provide an attacking spark for Albion and looked bright in the closing stages; bright enough to win the post-match praise of his manager. 7

Reading

Rafael Cabral – the goalkeeper built on his impressive debut on Sunday with another commanding display here. It’s not as if the 29-year-old made any wonderful saves – he denied Austin with his feet in the second half – but there was an assurance about the Brazilian that seemed to transmit confidence to the rest of the defensive unit. 7

Matt Miazga – given how well Miazga had done in his loan spell from Chelsea in the second half of last season, Royals fans were understandably delighted to see him rejoin on a permanent deal and here we saw just why. He defended his penalty box well with some commanding headers. 8
Michael Morrison – the centre-back, such an influential figure over five years at Birmingham, as looking increasingly like an astute signing for Reading. His positioning when the team was playing out from the back did not imply a man especially at ease with that aspect of Jose Gomes’ philosophy, but he was very vocal in defensive set piece scenarios – and he seems to bring a different, more calming, kind of leadership to the man to his left… 7
Liam Moore – the long-serving defender became the undisputed captain this summer and looks every inch the leader in this Reading side; he put his body on the line when making one or two crucial blocks and wore his heart on his sleeve. If there were to be one criticism of Moore’s performance, it would be that he did not have too much success playing out from the back, but that was partly because his options were at times limited with Richards so high up. 7

Pele – the midfielder had a mixed spell at Nottingham Forest in the second half of last season but, since news of his a season-long loan from Monaco, he appears to be beginning to find a home at Reading; the 27-year-old did well to repel Albion attacks when, in the first half, he was not always supported correctly out of possession. Nit-picking, Pele could perhaps push higher up when Reading are playing out from the back as, with four players in the defensive third, Albion found it easier to box the team in and deny them progressive passing options. 6

Andy Yiadom – the former Barnet man played as an especially attacking wing-back, staying for much of the contest high up the pitch, where he can do damage. That had it’s pluses and minuses in the first half, when he combined nicely with Swift at times but was also guilty of leaving Diangana free to run at Miazga. More disciplined after the interval and quelled Gibbs’ threat well. 6
John Swift – the attacking midfielder linked up well with Yiadom up until the first half’s midway point – he struck over from outside the box and saw a free-kick parried – but then waned in influence. Swift is a very gifted player but needs willing runners ahead of him to provide the necessary options in possession to utilize his creative talent; the circumstances of this contest, in the second half especially, meant the former Chelsea graduate rarely found himself in suitable scenarios. 4
Ovie Ejaria – the midfielder had difficulty displacing the likes of Lewis Baker and Andy Rinomhota when he joined on loan for the second half of last season, but has looked even better since re-joining the Royals. As well as showing his usual quick feet in tight areas, Ejaria very early recognized the need to drop deeper and accommodate for Richards being so high up the pitch, which highlights his willingness to sacrifice himself for the team – either reports of attitude issues at previous clubs are unfounded therefore, or Gomes has worked his magic. Out of the blue, Ejaria drove forward and rifled a shot into the top left hand corner – although sadly he fouled Krovinovic for the penalty from which Albion levelled. 8
Omar Richards – in pre-season, it was difficult to foresee Richards forcing his way into this Reading side but he has persisted admirably and the injury to Tyler Blackett, combined with Gomes’ switch to 3-1-4-2 seems to have worked in his favour. The academy graduate contributed pressed well at times and combined neatly, getting a narrowly off-target shot away in the first half too – and delivered a good performance relative to his level of ability. 6

George Puscas – having looked a real threat in the previous match, Puscas struggled in isolation; there was a deftness to his game that was not conducive to playing well when too far apart from the midfield. Withdrawn with a quarter-of-an-hour to play. 4
Lucas Boyé – the forward showed decent movement at times and picked up pockets of space between the lines, even if the quality of his final ball was hit-and-miss. Withdrawn midway through the second half, Boye could fare better in a game in which Reading have more possession – much like Puscas. 5

Andy Rinomhota (on 76) – the energetic midfielder was brought on to stifle West Brom’s play and deny them space in the final third, something he did reasonably effectively. Rinomhota was one of Reading’s stand-out players last season, so the fact he has been restricted to substitute appearances in the last two games highlights strength in depth. 6
Lucas João (on 66) – the Portuguese front-man is clearly a real talent – but what appeared very different here to his performances at Sheffield Wednesday is his work ethic and willingness to use his athleticism to the maximum. Jose Gomes was keen to play down this perceived change of attitude and insisted that he knew the character of the player he was bringing in, but in possibly protecting Joao, he was doing himself out of credit for how he has evidently helped changed the mentality of his compatriot. 7
Charlie Adam (on 84) – brought on for Swift to shore up the midfield, but did not make quite as positive an impression as his fellow substitutes. 5