West Bromwich Albion 4 Bristol City 1: Bednar fires Albion to the summit
Thursday 27 December 2007
True to his lugubrious demeanour, Tony Mowbray is keeping any excitement he might be feeling about his side's prospects well concealed even after West Bromwich Albion treated a Hawthorns full house to a vibrant display of attacking football, returning to the top of the Championship, putting four goals past a promotion rival for the second time in 11 days.
He left it to Bristol City manager Gary Johnson to lead the applause after the West Country side on level points at kick-off had been taken apart as emphatically as Charlton Athletic were in Albion's last home match.
"For a 30-minute spell in the second half they were super and sometimes you just have to give credit to the opposition," Johnson said. "They showed us why they are a Premiership side in waiting."
A low-key Mowbray said it was "the right result" on the basis of his team's 24 attempts on goal, although perhaps he was still digesting Saturday's defeat at Stoke. Albion's slick, attacking play lacked only an end product in the first half but that shortcoming was remedied by the blitz of goals that followed Roman Bednar's opener two minutes into the second half.
The Czech striker's seventh goal in as many matches was followed by a spectacular 25-yard shot from Robert Koren and two in four minutes by leading scorer Kevin Phillips.
Bednar again displayed the finishing quality that may turn his year-long loan from Hearts into a permanent move. His back-to-goal play was of a high order too.
The 24-year-old beat City goalkeeper Adriano Basso with a deft near-post flick to convert Carl Hoefken's short cross from the right.
Once behind, City tended to lose shape and concentration, although Lee Trundle drew a good save from Dean Kiely at 0-1. Koren doubled Albion's lead before Phillips, making his first start in more than seven weeks after a knee ligament injury, took advantage of Jamie McCombe's dithering to slot home the third goal with Basso stranded out of position.
The loss of captain Louis Carey through a weekend injury had required a defensive reshuffle for City and Johnson conceded it may have been a factor.
Phillips raised his season's tally to 13 after James Morrison finished an incisive break along the right by cutting the ball back to his team-mate, who showed no lack of sharpness following his lay-off. City substitute Darren Byfield denied Kiely a clean sheet five minutes from the end when his volley from a headed clearance bounced over the goalkeeper's head.
Goals: Bednar (48) 1-0; Koren (67) 2-0; Phillips (71) 3-0; Phillips (75) 4-0; Byfield (85) 4-1.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kiely; Hoefkens, Pele, Cesar, Robinson; Gera, Greening, Koren, Morrison (Beattie, 80); Bednar (Miller, 70), Phillips (Albrechtsen, 85). Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Barnett, Beattie, Albrechtsen.
Bristol City (4-4-2): Basso; Orr, Fontaine, McCombe, McAllister; Sproule (Skuse, 79), Elliott, Johnson, McIndoe (Noble, 79); Trundle, Showunmi (Byfield, 52). Substitutes not used: Vasco, Weale (gk).
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Bristol City: McIndoe, Fontaine.
Man of the match: Bednar.
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