Match Reports

More Mitoma magic as Albion leave it late

Brought to you by...

Kaoru scores for third successive game in 1-0 win over AFC Bournemouth that lifts Albion into sixth place.

By Bruce Talbot • 04 February 2023

By Bennett Dean
Kaoru Mitoma leads the celebrations after his late goal floored Bournemouth.

Kaoru Mitoma headed a dramatic 88th-minute winner as Albion finally broke Bournemouth’s stubborn resistance to move back into the top six.

It looked like being a frustrating Amex afternoon when substitute Jeremy Sarmiento picked out Mitoma with a cross from the left and the Japanese international scored for the third successive game and seventh time this season with a header into the top corner.

Roberto De Zerbi’s side had their chances before the goal, particularly in the first half when Deniz Undav went closest with a shot which hit the post.

The visitors offered much less space in the second half and defended diligently while looking to hit Albion on the counter-attack. De Zerbi made two double changes from the bench but it looked like being one of those days until more Mitoma magic sent the Amex into raptures.

By Paul Hazlewood
Billy Gilmour breaks forward.

De Zerbi had made four changes to the team that had knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup with Rob Sanchez, Joel Veltman, Billy Gilmour and Deniz Undav coming in. Injury ruled out Evan Ferguson while Jason Steele and Adam Webster dropped to the bench. Alexis Mac Allister served a one-match ban.

The pace was frenetic from kick-off and both sides could – or rather should – have scored in the opening 15 minutes.

Bournemouth keeper Neto had already had one alarming moment when he came to the edge of his box to dispossess Undav and on 14 minutes his pass out went straight to the German. Undav found space but his first shot was blocked by Chris Mepham, the follow-up by Neto before Undav rattled the post with his third attempt to score.

Bournemouth responded with a nice move down the left. Jaidon Anthony cut the ball back to Jefferson Lerma 16 yards out but with the Bournemouth fans behind the goal expecting the net to bulge he fired inches wide of the left-hand post.

By Paul Hazlewood
Deniz Undav is denied by Chris Mepham during the first half.

Bournemouth had identified Albion’s main threats and often double-marked Mitoma, but the hosts had another opportunity on the half-hour when Undav cleverly laid the ball off to Gilmour on the edge of the box but two defenders blocked the Scot’s shot.

Mitoma finally found some space and after a brilliant piece of skill teed up Gross but Mepham got across to thump the ball clear. Bournemouth broke through Anthony but Joel Veltman produced a terrific challenge on the edge of the six-yard box as he was about to pull the trigger.

March then teased a great cross in from the left and although Danny Welbeck made a firm connection, his header was straight at Neto and Albion had squandered another good opportunity. But the hosts ended the half firmly on top and March’s volley was deflected over before Welbeck found space but couldn’t get quite enough contact on Undav’s low cross to direct it into the net.

By Paul Hazlewood
Solly March attacks the Bournemouth defence.

Philip Billing stung Sanchez’s palms with a piledriver from 25 yards in stoppage time and the only surprise at the break was that it was still goalless.

Welbeck tried to do something about that eight minutes into the second half, winning the ball on the touchline and advancing into the box but he went for power with his shot as he leant back and it flew over the bar. Moments later Gilmour’s drive from the edge of the box hit the side netting.

De Zerbi made a double change, bringing on Moises Caicedo for Gilmour and Sarmiento for Welbeck with Caicedo getting a rousing reception from the Amex faithful. Sarimento was quick to make an impact, shuffling past two defenders to make room for a shot which was straight at Neto.

Bournemouth had carried little threat in the second half but Pervis Estupinan got across to make a brilliant block after Antoine Semenyo bore down on Sanchez’s goal, having given Veltman the slip on halfway.

By Paul Hazlewood
Tariq Lamptey measures his cross into the box.

But compared to the first half it had become a fractured affair and De Zerbi made another change to try and spice things up, bringing on Julio Enciso and debutant Facundo Buonanotte with 15 minutes to go.

Mitoma had been quiet by his standards but with three minutes to go he brought a brilliant save out of Neto with an instinctive shot with the outside of his boot after he cut in from the left. But the wide man was not to be denied. Sarmiento found space on the left and Mitoma rose unmarked to head into the top corner. Neto got a hand to the ball but couldn't keep it out.

De Zerbi ran onto the pitch to lead the celebrations and a few minutes later the points were Albion’s. It wasn’t a fantastic performance by recent standards but when you’ve got matchwinners like Mitoma in your side there’s always hope.

Albion: Sanchez, Lamptey (Buonanotte 75), Veltman, Dunk, Estupinan, Gilmour (Caicedo 57), Gross, March (Webster 89), Mitoma, Undav (Enciso 75), Welbeck (Sarmiento 57).

Subs: Steele, van Hecke, Offiah, Moran.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 31,600