West Brom picked up a pivotal first three points of the season on Saturday night as they won the battle of the Premier League’s bottom two at the Hawthorns.
The Baggies narrowly edged the end-to-end encounter with Sheffield United thanks to a first-half strike from Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher, who fired home from range through a crowded penalty area in the 13th minute.
In reality, the visitors could’ve been two goals to the good before the midfielder bagged his first goal for Albion with both John Fleck and George Baldock going close.
Slaven Bilic should maybe count his lucky stars as the Blades attempted five more shots throughout the 90 minutes and enjoyed the majority of the possession.
The Croatian deployed a three-at-the-back system with veteran Branislav Ivanovic holding forte through the middle but it was an off-night for the three-time Premier League winner.
A better team would have certainly punished his troublesome presence.
The 36-year-old won just one of his seven duels (14%) and failed to record a single tackle, interception or block. He was also dribbled past three times, had only 19 touches all game and was dealt the Baggies’ lowest rating of 6.1, as per SofaScore.
BirminghamLive’s Joseph Chapman emphasised his disappointing display in his post-match ratings, he said: “Had a nightmare at the beginning when McBurnie matched him in the air and then was too quick for him, drawing a card from ref Dean. As expected, Burke had him in knots in a foot race.”
Had the rock-bottom Blades had any real attacking threat, then on another day, Albion may have lost this one by a few due to the performance of their defence and in particular, Ivanovic.
It very nearly cost them that maiden victory.
As one of the most experienced players in this Baggies squad, sitting among the high-earners on £38k-per-week, you’d expect better but perhaps at 36, the pace and speed of the English top-flight is getting away from him.
West Brom still hold the joint-worst defensive record in the Premier League, so a new centre-back should be on the agenda this January.