West Bromwich Albion and Hull City played out a six goal thriller at the Hawthorns this afternoon, with the home side coming up trumps in a 4-2 victory.
Story of the match
Slaven Bilic made one change to his starting XI from the Baggies' midweek win against Sheffield Wednesday, with ex-Tiger Kamil Grosicki coming in for Grady Diangana to make his first start against his former club. Grant McCann made four changes to the side that beat Middlesbrough - their first win in fourteen attempts - with Kevin Stewart, Jon Toral, George Honeyman and Martin Samuelson coming in for their first starts since the season resumed.
After both teams took a knee at kick off, West Brom started the brighter of the two with a number of early corners.
They took the lead with their first shot at goal - Martin Samuelson gave away a needless free kick near the halfway line, and the resulting set piece saw Charlie Austin score from inside the area. Tigers manager Grant McCann will have looked for his defence to do much better as the forward had too much time to pick his spot.
Hull looked to get Jon Toral on the ball to create chances, and their first came from the Spaniard. Mallik Wilks got the shot away but it was deflected away for a corner, and again drove forward minutes later with an effort from range.
The new permanent signing was looking for his second goal in two games, and the resulting corner saw Honeyman's delivery causing uncertainty in the West Brom box. There was a definite shout for a handball, but the referee remained unmoved.
Quality was lacking from both sides from then on, until a quick succession of corners saw City draw level. On 23 minutes, Honeyman again took the corner and the ball fell to Stewart. The midfielder smashed the ball from the edge of the area and the ball went into the net after a deflection off Austin for his third goal of the season.
Toral again created chances not long after, finding Samuelson who then put Josh Magennis through. Good defending from the Baggies snuffed the chance out, and soon the Home side nearly went ahead again. Jordy De Vijs was the hero in defence with the block which took Pereira's shot wide.
Not long after, Hull had a chance after good work from Wilks, and although he was bundled over, he got back up quickly a created the chance for Magennis.
However, the Northern Irishman couldn't get a shot away and from the resulting counterattack, Grosicki saw his shot saved by Long. From the resulting corner, Ahemd Hegazi powered home the header to restore West Brom's lead.
West Brom were nearly two goals to the good after Grosicki slid in Pereira, but De Wijs saved the day with a superb challenge.
Hull were aggrieved as they felt there was a handball by the Baggies earlier on before the counter attack, but again referee Oliver Langford saw nothing doing. Rekeem Harper should really have made sure of a two goal lead at half time after Grosicki's cut back, but he skied it over the bar. Hull City could have equalled things up against the run of play, but Wilks shot wide rather than square the ball to Martin Samuelson.
The second half saw Keane Lewis Potter enter the fray for Samuelson, and Hull were quickly out of the blocks, and this paid dividends for McCann's side. Leo Da Silva lifted the ball into the air, and Wilks grabbed his second goal in two games and his fifth of the season.
Their lead was short-lived, however. Grosicki got on the end of a Pereira pass and put the ball past George Long. The celebration was not forthcoming, but the Polish international will have been delighted to score his first goal for the Baggies.
The Baggies may have looked good going forward, but they were vulnerable at the back too. Wilks should really have doubled his tally and restored parity, but blazed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Hull had another shout for a handball, but it was in the aftermath of the incident that Hegazi was lucky to not get a second yellow card after a clash with Toral. Hull will feel aggrieved firstly not to get the free kick for a handball, but also that Langford chose to give a drop ball rather than give the away side the free kick. Toral nearly caught Sam Johnstone out soon after from distance, but the Baggies' keeper was equal to it.
Leo Da Silva Lopes and Toral created a superb opening and Sam Johnson did well to save the shot. Toral will look back at the chance and be frustrated not to have done better, however.
West Brom used all five of their substitutes with twenty minutes to go, as Eaves and Batty came on for the visitors. One of these substitutes for the home side - Diangana - put the Baggies 4-2 up, shooting from the edge of the area and seeing his effort go in off the post.
After the intense action from the first half of the second period, the game fizzled out somewhat with no real chances for either side after Diangana's goal. In the first minute of added time, Ahmed Hagazi saw a second yellow card for a late lunge on Wilks. The Hull forward perhaps should have scored a third for his side but missed his header from the resulting Honeyman freekick.
Takeaways from the match
Set pieces were a feature of both side's strengths and weaknesses. Hull's marking from both corners and free kicks were poor, especially in the first half, and West Brom took full advantage. Hull pulled level from a corner for 1-1, with Grosicki particularly slow to react to free men in the box. Hull did have chances to add to their tally and on another day the scoreline may have been different.
The Tigers were under the cosh at the end of the first half, but did really well to claw their way back into the game at the start of the second. McCann will be disappointed to have conceded so quickly after drawing level, however. Ultimately, the quality of Bilic's side shone through - particularly in midfield, where the Tigers really struggled to contain Pereira and Grosicki throughout the game.
Matheus Pereira was outstanding for the home side. He created the first three goals single handledly; the first with a free kick for Austin to score; the second with a corner for Hegazi to head home, and the third a marvellous ball through for Grosicki to slot home. Kamil Grosicki started slowly but looked more dangerous as the game went on, and got his reward with his first goal in West Brom colours.
For the visitors, Toral looked dangerous on the ball, carving out openings and could have scored himself on another day. Honeyman's set pieces were excellent all day, and will provide some positives for the Tigers in Herbie Kane's absence. Wilks scored one, but could and perhaps should have added to his tally with chances squandered by the Hull winger.
Up next for both
Both teams play again on Wednesday night, with the Baggies hosting Derby County at the Hawthorns. They will look to solidify their position at the top end of the division and look forward to Premier League football next season.
Hull are away again - this time to Bristol City, who have just relieved Lee Johnson of his duties after the 0-1 defeat to Cardiff City. Despite losing today, they will be buoyed by the fact that rivals Middlesbrough also lost today against QPR.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; O'Shea, Hegazy, Bartley, Gibbs (Townsend 35'); Sawyers (Livermore 62'), Harper (Diangana 71'); Pereira, Krovinovic (Brunt 71'), Grosicki; Austin (Robson-Kanu 62').
Subs (Not used): Bond, Furlong, Ajayi, Robinson.
Hull City: Long; Pennington, De Wijs, Burke, Lopes; Stewart (Batty 71'), Honeyman; Samuelson (Lewis-Potter 45'), Toral (Scott 90'), Wilks; Magennis (Eaves 65').
Subs: Ingram, Tafazolli, MacDonald, McLoughlin, Jones.