Match Reports

Ten-man Albion fell Forest

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Joao Pedro scores twice after Evan Ferguson's opener as Albion win 3-2 despite losing skipper Lewis Dunk to a red card.

By Bruce Talbot • 25 November 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Pointing the way: Joao Pedro celebrates with our other goalscorer Evan Ferguson after making it 3-1.

Ten-man Albion held on to claim their first Premier League win in seven games on an exhilarating afternoon at the City Ground.

Anthony Elanga had given Forest a third-minute lead but by the break Evan Ferguson had scored his sixth goal of the season - and become only the second teenager (the other was Wayne Rooney) to net 11 Premier League goals in a calendar year – before Joao Pedro headed Albion ahead in stoppage time. When Joao got his eighth of the season with a penalty just before the hour Albion were in control.

But Forest were thrown a lifeline when referee Anthony Taylor awarded them a penalty after looking at the pitch-side monitor. Morgan Gibbs-White made it 3-2 and Lewis Dunk's protests earned him two yellow cards in the space of 60 seconds.

It left ten-man Albion 14 minutes plus ten minutes of stoppage time to hold out and thanks to a gutsy defensive display, epitomised by the magnificent Jan Paul van Hecke, they did just that and could celebrate a first league win since Bournemouth in September. 

The only concern for Roberto De Zerbi is a growing list of injuries. Ansu Fati and Tariq Lamptey went off in the first half which means Albion now have 12 players either injured or suspended.

No matter, as De Zerbi demonstrated so passionately at the final whistle it was time to just enjoy the moment. When the final whistle blew he sprinted across the pitch to celebrate wildly in front of 2800 travelling fans - a finale as memorable as much of what had gone on across 106 breathless minutes. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Target man: Evan Ferguson's precise finish finds the bottom corner to level for Albion.

Five Albion changes from the side that drew 1-1 against Sheffield United saw the return of Bart Verbruggen, van Hecke, Joel Veltman, Evan Ferguson and Lamptey, who was making his first appearance for six weeks.

Verbruggen’s first job was to pick the ball out of the net. Ansu Fati was dispossessed by Moussa Niakhate, and he sent Morgan Gibbs-White scampering down the right. His cross eluded Chris Wood but an unmarked Elanga stooped to head firmly past Verbruggen at the far post.

Unperturbed, Albion settled into their rhythm and began to get on top. They went closest after a great team move ended with Pascal Gross teeing up Gilmour just inside the box for a right-foot curler which the keeper saved comfortably enough to his right.

By Paul Hazlewood
Evan Ferguson celebrates his sixth goal of the season after making it 1-1 at the City Ground.

Albion were forced into a 20th-minute change when Fati came off with a knock but the equaliser they deserved came five minutes later. Gross’s pass found Ferguson in enough space to take a touch before curling a perfectly-placed right-foot shot into the far corner. Another composed finish by a player at just 19 who seems to specialise in them.

Forest threatened for the first time since scoring when Gibbs-White showed great control to create space but Verbruggen spread his big frame to block the shot.

Lamptey’s first start since Marseille away ended on 34 minutes when he took a knock and Jack Hinshelwood came in at left back but Albion made light of the disruption to go in front in first-half stoppage time. Gross swung over a right-wing cross and Joao Pedro, arriving late after coming inside from the opposite wing, rose above Ola Aina to power a superb header into the bottom corner.

By Paul Hazlewood
Heaven sent: Joao Pedro looks to the skies after making it 2-1.

Lewis Dunk dipped one of his speciality free-kicks just over before another set piece enabled Albion to stretch their lead after 58 minutes. The skipper headed Gross’s ball across the face of goal and in trying to reach it Joao Pedro was hauled back by Wood. Inevitably there was a lengthy delay but Joao was ice cool as he sent Vlachodimos the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Forest – and their fans - stirred. Dunk threw himself in front of Gibbs-White’s drive as the home side found some momentum before the game boiled over. Referee Taylor waved away protests that Callum Hudson-Odoi had been tugged back by Hinshelwood as he tried to reach a cross. Taylor was then told to check the pitchside monitor by the VAR and awarded a penalty and to make matters worse Dunk was shown a yellow and then a red card for his protests. Eventually, Gibbs-White drilled the penalty into the bottom corner and it was 3-2.

By Paul Hazlewood
Joao Pedro and Evan Ferguson run towards the Albion fans after Joao's successful penalty.

Amid the mayhem Jakub Moder came on for his first appearance since April 2022 and Albion’s makeshift defence was now Gross-Veltman-van Hecke-Hinshelwood.

Forest could have been left short-handed themselves when Harry Toffolo, already booked, tussled with Joao near the corner flag. When Gross swung over the corner van Hecke met it firmly with his head but it was straight at Vlachodomis.

Hudson-Odoi thought he’d equalised in the eighth of them only for Verbruggen to instinctively parry his effort to safety. Moments later came the final whistle and De Zerbi demonstrated that his speed over 50 yards is almost as spectacular as his ability to inspire his players.

Albion: Verbruggen, Veltman, Dunk, van Hecke, Lamptey (Hinshelwood 34), Gross, Gilmour (Moder 76), Adingra, Fati (Joao Pedro 20), Lallana (Buonanotte 45), Ferguson (Baleba 76).

Subs not used: Steele, Baker-Boaitey, Jackson, Duffus.

Attendance: 29,404 (2880 Albion)

Referee: Anthony Taylor