Express & Star

Analysis: West Brom lose their cool amid the heat of play-off battle

Albion defeats have been a rare thing of late – and this one was painful.

Matt Phillips strikes the ball through a crowd of Sunderland players (Getty/Adam Fradgley)

None would have felt the outcome like striker Brandon Thomas-Asante, though. The Baggies frontman’s red card, moments before Sunderland’s Pierre Ekwah scored the game’s only goal, undoubtedly changed the trajectory of the contest.

It has not happened often in Carlos Corberan’s 18 months at the helm, but Albion lost their cool on Saturday. Calmness and composure veered into fraught chaos.

If you are struggling to remember the last time Albion found themselves down to 10 men, don’t worry, your memory isn’t failing you, it just doesn’t happen often.

Indeed, this was the first time under the Spaniard, in his 79th match in charge. That’s no coincidence, the head coach values discipline and the need to keep every player on the field so highly. The Baggies’ last red card was Kyle Bartley, at Millwall last season, the game before Corberan’s appointment. It was almost poetic that this dismissal would be so costly.

Albion, somewhat understandably given the lack of other natural strikers available to plug the Thomas-Asante-shaped hole, struggled to respond to the man disadvantage. They couldn’t press, and when the ball was worked forward in the second half there was no focal point. They created next to nothing.

The hosts, in confident spirit and roared on by a reignited Hawthorns din, played some of their best football in some time amid a 10-game unbeaten run in the opening half hour against the mid-table visitors.