A Matheus Pereira brace from the spot sealed Sam Allardyce’s first three points as West Brom boss with a huge 3-2 victory over fierce rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux this afternoon.
The first meeting between the two Midlands sides in nine years saw the Baggies run out on top having come from behind in the second half to pick up only their second win of the season.
Albion’s Brazilian playmaker drew the plaudits of BT Sport commentator Glenn Hoddle, who handed Pereira the Man of the Match award whilst central defender Semi Ajayi was another contender as his equaliser sparked the comeback.
But arguably, neither were as influential as the returning Kyle Bartley, who looked a rock at the back in his first Premier League start under Big Sam.
Indeed, the home side did find the net twice, both as a result of set-piece scrambles but in reality, Fabio Silva’s strike was an exquisite finish you’d expect from someone far more experienced and Willy Boly couldn’t be stopped so close to the goal.
Only Pereira (8.0) graded better than Bartley (7.5) as per SofaScore ratings, and you’d have to wonder if that would be the case had the Baggies kept a rare clean sheet.
Aside from the two spot-kicks, the 24-year-old was weak and lightweight against a vulnerable Wolves backline, as seen by him winning just five of 15 battles (33%).
Pereira also lost possession ten times, the worst of any attacking Albion player and was dribbled past two times, meaning he failed to stop the Old Gold from breaking in a counter-attack.
Likewise, with Ajayi, he too lost possession ten times and was wasteful with the ball, making only 67% of his 24 passing attempts – the worst of any starter on either team, per SofaScore.
Bartley, on the other hand, was immense defensively – he made a game-high eight clearances, some five more than Boly for Wolves, and also had double the number of blocks (four) than any other player on the pitch too, thus showing just how committed he was in trying to hold onto the victory.
The 29-year-old colossus also completely nullified the threat from the likes of Silva, Pedro Neto and Adama Traore, whom all on their day can strike fear into any defence, as he won 80% of his duels both on the ground and in the air.
Joseph Chapman at BirminghamLive also agreed with this point of view in his post-match ratings, handing Bartley a 9/10, which was better than Pereira. He wrote:
“Was excellent in open play when defending crosses from the box. Won a number of challenges and headers and set up Ajayi’s equaliser. Was throwing himself in the way of shots right until the end. Colossal effort.”
Bartley could well have a big part to play in the Baggies’ survival bid as seen by this monstrous display across the Black Country border,