Express & Star

Carlos Corberan's call for West Brom calm as first red card stings in Sunderland defeat

Disappointed boss Carlos Corberan felt Albion were delivered a lesson in remaining calm in the heat of battle as a rare red card proved costly in defeat to Sunderland.


Striker Brandon Thomas-Asante was dismissed for two yellow cards shortly before half-time, but not before visiting midfielder Pierre Ekwah netted what became the winner in first-half stoppage time. The red card was the first of Corberan's 18-month reign, featuring 79 games, and the head coach admitted the experience was "painful".

Albion were unable to rally and hit back after the break without a presence leading the line and could not create clear openings as a 10-game unbeaten run came to an end. The buffer to play-off chasing rivals was cut, but Albion still hold a seven-point advantage with three games left, albeit with games in hand elsewhere.

An emotionally-charged afternoon at The Hawthorns brought an atmosphere to boot as the home faithful responded to a bright start from their side – with Sunderland defender Dan Ballard the recipient of loud jeers every time he touched the ball following his challenge which injured Josh Maja at the Stadium of Light in December, which Corberan described after Saturday's game as "terrible".

But the Albion boss stressed all of his players – and not just Thomas-Asante – must be able to control excitement amid a high desire to secure the required points to secure their play-off position.

"The second yellow card had a massive impact," Corberan admitted. "You can have desire, but when you have a yellow card, you need to increase the calm.

"We then conceded from the situation which we must avoid. We knew we would have to take risks, with a player less, and you know with those risks you can concede, but to concede from a set piece after losing a is painful.

"If the referee understood it to be a yellow card, it has been our mistake to achieve two yellow cards. It's a lesson for Brandon and it's a lesson for us. We haven't had the experience to play with a player less since I arrived. I know for some teams how much of a disadvantage it can be."

Thomas-Asante's two challenges were both late and came in as many minutes. The second was on Ballard and Corberan suggested afterwards the situation involving Ballard and Maja in December could have been "in the subconscious" of his players in a contest of six cautions.

"In football you have two things – the brain and the heart," Corberan added of the incident. "If these two things aren't in the highest level...I understand the excitement. It's an amazing day, you are playing at home, you have the desire to beat Sunderland because of how much it can help you.

"For me it was unfair that in the first game, they injured Maja. It was a terrible action. It was unbelievable. The player who scored that day injured a player and the referee didn't send him off or give him a yellow card. It was ridiculous - not just because it was against us, I am talking about football. If somebody today breaks their limits with two actions, they're two yellow cards. When you have a yellow card, you must control yourself.

"If something makes an unbelievably dangerous action, and Maja has been out of the game for four months...I don't know if these things are in the subconscious of the players, but I can tell you that we should've managed that situation better."

Albion lost midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah to an early kick from Jobe Bellingham, in what appeared to be the Baggies man's knee, an injury which he succumbed to at half-time. Defender Kyle Bartley was also withdrawn, but Corberan confirmed that was a fitness-related decision, rather than an injury.

Sunderland interim boss Mike Dodds, who was also in charge when Sunderland won the reverse clash in December, admitted afterwards he was surprised by the level of the boos to Ballard when his defender was targeted from the start of the Championship clash.

Corberan added of his side's display: "I'm disappointed with the result and disappointed with how some things were going during the game. In general, when it was 11 v 11, we were a little bit better than them because we didn't concede many chances. We had control, but we didn't enjoy enough to have control. When you have a desire to achieve something, you have to increase your calmness and intelligence.

"Instead of making Sunderland suffer, we were sharing the ball more than I would like to. These are things that are normal and you can correct them, but before the rest time it was the moment – when you have a yellow card, you need to increase the calm.

"In two minutes we have lost one player and conceded a goal from a corner."