Albion’s teenage striking sensation Evan Ferguson joined some illustrious names including Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler by becoming only the fourth 18-year-old to score a Premier League hat-trick as Albion made light work of Newcastle at the Amex.
Ferguson put us in front on 28 minutes with an instinctive close-range finish after Nick Pope spilled Billy Gilmour’s shot before completing his treble with two goals in four second-half minutes, a perfectly placed right-foot shot and a left-footed effort that went in via a deflection.
The Irishman also became only the second non-English player with ten Premier League goal involvements aged 18 or under. Again he is in exalted company with Cesc Fabregas.
An excellent Albion performance wasn’t all about Ferguson. Albion’s defensive display will have pleased Roberto De Zerbi with Jan Paul van Hecke and Joel Veltman, both brought into the team, playing their part. Ansu Fati and Carlos Baleba, introduced to the crowd before kick-off, might wonder how they are going to get into the team.
It was actually Newcastle, with their aggressive press, who settled first and Alexander Isak should have done better with a shot from 12 yards which he drilled wide after Sandro Tomali capitalised on Pervis Estupinan’s error to create the chance.
Albion soon began to dominate though. Solly March cut inside and fired wide; Joao Pedro glanced his header from Pascal Gross’s cross off target and Ferguson tested Pope after a great pass by Gilmour. Bart Verbruggen then showed great reflexes to change direction and keep out Lewis Dunk’s inadvertent block which was heading inside the near post.
It was breathless stuff, and when Albion went in front on 27 minutes they took advantage of some calamitous defending. Estupinan won the ball back high up and fed Kaoru Mitoma. His cross-shot was parried by Pope but Tomali’s clearance fell to Gilmour 25 yards out. Pope spilled the Scot’s rasping drive and Ferguson showed his predatory instincts to smash home the loose ball.
Joelinton shot just narrowly wide as Newcastle came close to an instant response but Albion ought to have scored again when Ferguson and Mitoma linked up to tee up Pedro but his failed to test Pope.
Albion began the second half on the front foot and Joao Pedro was prominent again on 54 minutes, dispossessing Kieran Trippier in the box. The Brazilian couldn’t work space for a shot and his back-heeled attempt to find Ferguson was cleared.
Newcastle were struggling to make headway and made a triple change just before the hour, with Callum Wilson going up front and Isak switching to the left, but it was Albion’s centre forward who was soon doing all the celebrating.
Ferguson’s second on 66 minutes came when Gilmour won the ball in space and found the Irishman with even more room. He ran at a retreating defence and placed his shot from 20 yards with unerring accuracy, bending it round Pope and inside the right-hand post.
Four minutes later Ferguson had his hat-trick. Again, he intelligently found a pocket of space, this time inside the box, and Pope was wrong-footed when his shot, this time with the left foot, deflected off Schaar and into the net.
Job done, although Wilson did get a consolation in stoppage time after latching onto a long ball over the top and finishing clinically. Nothing, though, was going to spoil Ferguson – and Albion’s – evening.
Albion: Verbruggen, Veltman, Dunk, van Hecke, Estupinan, Gross (Adingra 88), Gilmour (Dahoud 77), March (Lallana 81) Joao Pedro (Lamptey 77), Mitoma, Ferguson (Milner 81)
Subs not used: Steele, Julio, Webster, Buonanotte.
Referee: Stuart Attwell