West Bromwich Albion snatched a 1-1 draw late on against Reading at the Hawthorns, as a Kenneth Zohore penalty cancelled out Ovie Ejaria’s opener to leave both teams with a share of the spoils.
A bit of brilliance – an Ejaria exocet – was almost enough to earn Reading three fantastic points on the road, but the Baggies sub drilled in from 12 yards after Ejaria was judged to have committed a foul in the area.
The midfielder’s first goal since returning to the Royals on loan came 20 minutes from time and oozed match-winning quality. But the Baggies snatched their leveller late on as the Royals had to settle for a single point from another positive display.
There was just a single switch to the starting XI after the weekend’s win against Cardiff City, as Lucas Boyé replaced Lucas João. Likewise, just a single swap on the bench as Yakou Méïté’s foot injury kept him out, allowing Danny Loader to come in on the bench.
Just two minutes into the game and the home side and their support were baying for a penalty. Omar Richards upended Darnell Furlong as the Baggies man entered the area, but the referee didn’t feel there was any infringement.
Indeed it was all the home side in the opening exchanges, and defender Michael Morrison twice made brave blocks to deny the opener. Reading’s first chance came on the counter as Boyé rode a challenge and released John Swift – the midfielder played an exchange with Andy Yiadom on the right, before firing over the bar.
West Brom stopper Sam Johnstone was forced into his first save of the night by Swift soon after – Yiadom won a free-kick on the edge of the area as he joined in with the attack, and Swift’s dipping strike was fisted away from the top corner. Ovie Ejaria was next to threaten, but he pulled his effort past the far post.
Following the initial threats from the home side, it was the Royals were the ones working the goalkeeper – Richards was bombing on regularly from the left wing-back position and, after a dip of the shoulder, forced Johnstone into a save via a deflection by a defending player.
Striker George Pușcaș was trying earnestly to add to his three Royals goals since joining – working hard on the shoulders of the defensive line, threaded balls from Swift and Ejaria were each a smidgen out of reach of the Romanian marksman.
The momentum swung back in the Baggies’ favour as the first half of a lively encounter progressed. Forward duo Boyé and Pușcaș were often back defending corners effectively, and captain Liam Moore did well to quash the threat of Matt Phillips as he cut in from the right and unleashed a powerful effort – the skipper blocked in trademark fashion.
Half-time: West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Reading
Reading began the second period with more positive intent – Boyé again was industrious in attack, and Pușcaș drilled just wide of the near post from a narrow angle as he tried to break the deadlock.
For all of West Brom’s positive play in the first half, they hadn’t managed to truly test Rafael between the sticks. But ten minutes into the second period, he was alert and alive to deny Charlie Austin from close-range – Phillips had bustled and bundled his way down the right flank and picked out the forward on the edge of the six-yard box. The Brazilian kept out with his feet, then smothered the ball as it broke loose.
The home crowd were again incensed when they thought Filip Krovinovic was fouled in the box, as he latched onto a clever reverse from Grady Diangana. But the referee showed little interest in the shout; Yiadom, on a yellow, had eased him off the ball in a clean shoulder-to-shoulder challenge.
Then it was Diangana himself who went close at the midpoint of the second period, but he was wasteful with his effort. A quick counter saw the West Ham loanee sprinting one-on-one at Matt Miazga, but he rifled well clear of the bar as he shifted onto his left boot on the edge of the area.
The breakthrough finally came, 20 minutes from time – in spectacular fashion. João added a new kind of threat from the bench and held the ball up well, before laying into the path of Ejaria. The Royals midfielder stepped around a challenge and saw things opening up – and with power and precision, popped his effort into the top corner. Ecstasy for the travelling supporters gathered behind the goal.
With the clock ticking away, the Baggies began to pile on the pressure in search of a leveller. And minutes after Kenneth Zohore came on for the hosts, it was another incredible block by Moore which turned a close-range effort over the bar.
Zohore’s fresh legs were giving the Royals defence new things to think about – and a diagonal right-to-left run was picked out smartly. A snapshot from the West Brom forward was venomous; Rafael’s hands were safe.
There was to be late drama. Three minutes from the 90, Ejaria attempted to track the run of Krovinovic into the area, but was judged to have clipped the Croatian with an outstretched leg. Referee Peter Bankes awarded the spot-kick. Zohore stepped up, sent Rafael the wrong way and equalised with a powerful strike from 12 yards.
Just a single point to show for a brave effort - warmly applauded by the travelling support at the final whistle.
Full-time: West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Reading
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Gibbs, Livermore (c) (Edwards 82), Phillips, Sawyers, Diangana (Pereira 69), Krovinovic, Austin (Zohore 75).
Unused subs: Bond, Brunt, Townsend, O'Shea.
Goal: Zohore (88 pen).
Yellow: Gibbs, Sawyers.
Reading: Rafael, Yiadom, Moore (c), Miazga, Morrison, Richards, Pelé, Ejaria, Swift (Adam 84), Pușcaș (Rinomhota 76), Boyé (João 66).
Unused subs: Virgínia, Loader, McIntyre, Barrett.
Goal: Ejaria (71).
Referee: Mr P Bankes
Attendance: 21,803 (893 away)