This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.
West Bromwich Albion returned to the summit of the Championship table on Monday evening as they defeated Stoke City 2-0 up in Staffordshire.
Slaven Bilic’s men eased to a comfortable three points thanks to Matty Phillips’ sixth of the season and substitute Hal Robson-Kanu’s second-half penalty.
The introduction of the goalscorer wasn’t the only positive change the Croatian made during the game, either.
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Just a minute before Robson-Kanu stepped onto the pitch, Bilic made the bold call of bringing key man Matheus Pereira off for Filip Krovinovic.
The Brazilian has contributed directly to eight goals this campaign, three scored by himself and five he has assisted, so it is clear to see that he is an integral part of Albion’s attacking prowess.
His replacement, on the other hand, has been somewhat underwhelming since his arrival in the summer, recording just one assist back in August, but he’s barely been given an opportunity because of the form of Pereira and Romaine Sawyers.
Krovinovic showed why his Croatian counterpart is right to still keep some faith in him with an excellent showing from the bench.
The 24-year-old’s pass won the Baggies a penalty as his deft through ball set Diangana clear before he was scythed down inside the opposition’s box.
As a result, Robson-Kanu duly stepped up to dispatch his third goal in four games to secure all three points.
Per SofaScore, Krovinovic also recorded 92% passing accuracy from 29 touches of the ball, won both of his two ground duels, and earned two free-kicks.
The home side had been banging on the door a few times in the second half as they actually recorded more attempts at goal than the Baggies with five, two of which were blocked.
So Krovinovic’s presence helped settle things down, and ultimately, he was the man that created the game-clinching chance to finish things off.
Bilic certainly has some strength in depth.