Barnsley 2 West Bromwich Albion 2
LITTLE DID Barnsley's supporters think, on adopting the anthem "It's just like watching Brazil", that it would also apply to the post-convulsions Brazil of the World Cup final.
For not only did their side display the same unpredictability that the South Americans showed against France, the opening fixture illustrated that Barnsley, too, could struggle to effectively replace their own talisman.
Neil Redfearn's departure to Charlton did not create the same international shock waves as Ronaldo's difficulties, but the headache of the new Barnsley manager, John Hendrie, will linger.
In Robbie van der Laan, Barnsley have replicated Redfearn's offensive thrust and Kevin Richardson effectively imitates his defensive work ethic. The combination of the two players, however, still failed to recreate Redfearn's individual sparkle.
The result was that Barnsley were most threatening at set pieces, in stark contrast to their fluent approach of last season which consistently managed to unlock the secured defences of the Premiership. With striker Ashley Ward on the sidelines through injury, there was little focus to the attack and it was no coincidence that both goals were caused by a defender's head.
West Bromwich, while under the cosh for long periods of the game, displayed the air of a side that had seen it all before. Happy to accept the gifts lavished on them by the Barnsley defence, Denis Smith's side also showed enough evidence that competent organisation could be turned into dangerous potency with a touch more self-belief.
Smith was certainly urging a less hectic approach. "At times we went a little bit too long in the second half when there was room to go through Richard Sneekes in midfield," he reflected. The tortuous arrival of the Italians Enzo Maresca and Mario Bortolazzi should provide even greater emphasis on quality time on the ball.
Both signings, however, are proving difficult to complete. "Bortolazzi has the knee of a 33-year-old footballer and we will be looking at that and discussing it with his agent and everybody else who turns up. Enzo has signed but we can't get clearance from Italy," Smith said.
Hendrie had two great chances to mark his first game in charge with goals after Sneekes' spectacular volley eased early Albion nerves. Their second was the goal of a thrilling game, Jimmy Quinn finished a strong Kevin Kilbane run with an emphatic strike. Arjan de Zeeuw equalised twice with clean headers, the first a glancing effort, the second late in the match, both from Darren Barnard crosses.
Goals: Sneekes (13) 0-1; De Zeeuw (22) 1-1; Quinn (45) 1-2; De Zeeuw (87) 2-2.
Barnsley: (4-4-2): Watson; Eaden, De Zeeuw, Moses, Jones; Van der Laan, Richardson, Liddell, Barnard; Hendrie (M Bullock 67), Hristov (Fjortoft, 35). Substitute not used: T Bullock
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller: Mardon, Carbon, Murphy, Van Blerk; Quinn, Flynn, Sneekes, Kilbane; Evans, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Quailey, Angel, Burgess.
Bookings: Barnsley Jones, Barnard. West Bromwich Albion Van Blerk.
Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).
Man of the match: Van der Laan.Reuse content