Neal Maupay scored another sensational late goal as never-say-die Albion drew 1-1 with Southampton.
Once again, as they had at West Ham on Wednesday, Graham Potter’s men showed tremendous courage and strength of character. Already without six players, they lost Leo Trossard who was stretchered off with what looked a serious arm injury late in the second half.
It meant for the second game running they had to finish the game with ten men but nine minutes into the ten added on Maupay swivelled to volley home his sixth goal of the season after Southampton failed to clear a free kick. It might not have been quite as spectacular as his goal against the Hammers but it meant just as much to his teammates and, of course, 3000 Albion fans at St Mary’s.
It was a much different Albion side to that which had drawn at West Ham with five changes. Injury ruled out Adam Webster, Adam Lallana, Jeremy Sarmiento and Dunk (knee) while Jakub Moder dropped to the bench. Shane Duffy took over as captain and there were also recalls for Enock Mwepu, Pascal Gross, Dan Burn and Tariq Lamptey. Aaron Connolly was named among the substitutes.
Sanchez made three saves with his legs in the first six minutes as the hosts made a quick start. He denied Broja and then Che Adams from the follow-up before thwarting Broja again after he had turned neatly in the box.
Albion responded and Mwepu went close in the seventh minute when he latched onto Leo Trossard’s ball in from the left and turned to strike goalwards, but the ball hit a defender.
The chances continued to come at both ends. Duffy made two vital interventions, blocking Valentino Livramento’s shot and then getting up to prevent Nathan Tella from converting the loose ball.
Livramento then fired over from a great position 12 yards out before McCarthy was twice called into action. In the 17th minute he pushed the ball to safety after Mwepu had met Neal Maupay’s cross with a drive from inside the D. Eight minutes later he made another good stop, this time to deny Trossard from a half-volley after good work by Lamptey.
A goal was coming, it was just a case of at which end but when the deadlock was broken in the 28th minute it was a poor one from Albion’s perspective. Sanchez’s clearance was headed back towards his goal by James Ward Prowse and helped on by Nathan Redmond. Duffy was expecting Sanchez to come and claim it but that split-second hesitation was all Broja needed to nip in, sidestep Duffy and calmly beat Sanchez with the outside of his right foot.
On the balance of play it was a deserved advantage for Southampton but Albion were very much in the game and just before the break after a good move Veltman warmed McCarthy’s hands with a right-foot shot from the edge of the box. Duffy, meanwhile, was booked for bringing down Broja and his fifth caution means a suspension against Spurs next Sunday.
Broja should have been celebrating again four minutes after the break. Saints broke down the right through Redmond and Livramento, who outpaced Burn to tee up Broja eight yards out but he dragged his shot wide.
Albion had done well thus far to restrict Ward Prowse’s opportunities from set-pieces, but the Southampton captain swung a free kick from just outside the box onto the roof of Sanchez’s net as his side looked for the second goal that might settle the outcome.
Aaron Connolly replaced Gross and Albion changed to 4-4-2 with the Irishman alongside Maupay, who wasn’t far away with a shot on the turn which went a yard wide as Albion threatened for the first time in the second half.
Albion made another attacking change when March replaced Lamptey but with both sides playing their third game in a week it was inevitable that tiredness would be a factor in the closing stages and the game became increasingly stretched. Joel Veltman was on the receiving end of a blow to the nose by Nathan Tella, and he was replaced a few moments later by Jakub Moder.
Albion hadn’t really created a clear-cut chance in the second half Saints weren’t carrying the same threat either and with 15 minutes to go it seemed to be a case of whether Albion could level or Southampton would hold on. The equaliser should have come in the 77th minute when March and Connolly combined to present Maupay with a shooting chance seven yards out but McCarthy made an instinctive save with his right foot.
Trossard’s injury meant ten minutes of stoppage time and Albion kept plugging away. Duffy almost got a decisive touch when Moder whipped in a free kick from the left and it looked as if their chance of rescuing a point had gone.
But in the ninth minute of added time Moder’s free-kick from just outside the D struck the defensive wall. March helped it back into the danger area and Maupay, played onside by a defender, turned to volley past McCarthy and send the blue and white hordes barmy. What a finish and what a show of character by Albion.
Albion: Sanchez, Lamptey (March 64), Veltman (Moder 76), Duffy, Burn, Cucurella, Gross (Connolly 55), Mwepu, Bissouma, Trossard, Maupay.
Subs not used: Scherpen, Steele, Mac Allister, Locadia, Roberts, Richards.
Referee: Anthony Taylor