Match Reports

Joao's double seals FA Cup progress for Albion

Brought to you by...

Brazilian striker makes it 15 goals for the season with Lewis Dunk and Pervis Estupinan also on target in 4-2 win.

By Bruce Talbot • 06 January 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk celebrates in front of 3400 Albion fans after putting his side in front.

Joao Pedro has 15 goals for the season after his second-half double sunk spirited Stoke and sealed Albion’s place in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup.

The Championship side led through Jan Paul van Hecke’s own goal until first-half stoppage time when Pervis Estupinan reprised his stunning effort against Spurs with another unstoppable left-foot thunderbolt.

Lewis Dunk headed in his second of the season but the skipper’s harsh handball enabled Stoke to draw level through Lewis Baker’s penalty.

By Paul Hazlewood
Joao Pedro celebrates after putting Albion in front with a great header.

Up stepped Joao. He headed in – and Gross claimed his second assist – before converting van Hecke’s cross to make it 4-2 with ten minutes left and Albion had won at a Championship club in the third round for the third successive season.

Roberto De Zerbi made four changes from the side that drew at West Ham with Bart Verbruggen, Leweis Dunk, Jakub Moder and Evan Ferguson coming in.

Moder was making his first start since March 2022 and lined up on the left-hand side of midfield. He was involved in Albion’s first attack of note when his low cross was cut out by the Stoke defence with Evan Ferguson waiting to pounce. Joao then found space after cutting in from the left and his right-foot effort was deflected for a corner.

The visitors had settled confidently but it was Stoke who took the lead on 16 minutes when van Hecke, booked minutes earlier for handball in the centre circle, turned a low cross from Bae Junho into his own net.

Stoke had their tails up. Wesley’s angled effort from the edge of the box was a yard wide and Verbruggen had to get behind a long-range strike by captain Wouter Berger before Wesley should have done better with a free header on 37 minutes from Ki-Jana Hoever’s cross, but Verbruggen got down to his right to save.

Stoke were pressing furiously to deny Albion space but a brilliant cross-field pass by Dunk set up a great opportunity. Jack Hinshelwood broke down the right and picked out Facundo Buonanotte eight yards out but the Argentinian’s shot on the turn shaved the outside of the right-hand post.

There was a shift in momentum. Dunk got a firm header on Pascal Gross’s free kick but Daniel Iversen stretched to push it to safety before deep into six added minutes Albion were rewarded. As had been the case against Spurs, no defender closed down Estupinan 20 yards out and his left-foot strike flew inside the left-hand post.

Stoke began the second half brightly but it was Albion who went in front on 52 minutes with a well-worked goal. Gross received the ball back from Buonanotte at a corner and chipped a great ball to the back post which Dunk met with a firm header from a couple of yards out, before celebrating in front of a noisy away end.

Love-ly stuff: Pervis Estupinan celebrates his equaliser.

Albion pressed for a third and Moder couldn’t quite bring Ferguson’s pass under control on the edge of the six-yard box but, against the run of play, the next goal came at the other end on 64 minutes. Verbruggen made a terrific one-handed save to keep out Burger’s drive but when the corner was swung in Luke McNally’s header inadvertently hit Dunk’s hand for a penalty which Baker drove emphatically into the bottom right corner.

Albion came again and were back in front six minutes later. Gross teased Daniel Johnson on the right and Joao outjumped two defenders to head his cross inside the left-hand post – a superb finish by a player in form with a celebration to match from De Zerbi who raced onto the pitch arms aloft.

Stoke had put in a terrific shift but spaces were beginning to appear all over the pitch and Albion made the tie safe with ten minutes to go. van Hecke popped up in the inside right channel and provided the assist with a low ball in which Joao diverted past Iversen unmarked six yards out.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jakub Moder gets in a cross on his return to the starting line-up.

Danny Welbeck was denied by Iversen in the closing stages and Albion 3400 fans were singing about another trip to Wembley as they serenaded the players at the final whistle.

Albion: Verbruggen, Hinshelwood, van Hecke, Dunk (Lallana 82), Estupinan, Gross, Gilmour (Hinchy 90+3), Buonanotte (Welbeck 57), Moder (Webster 57), Joao (Baleba 82), Ferguson (Peupion 90+3).

Subs not used: Steele, Milner, Kavanagh.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Attendance: 13651 (3431 Albion fans)