January 5, 2020

Semi Ajayi own goal signals end to West Bromwich Albion honeymoon

Semi Ajayi, West Brom

Christmas has not proven an especially wonderful time of year this season for West Bromwich Albion.

The Baggies remain in good stead for promotion to the Premier League, but one win in six has seen them surrender a lead at the top of the EFL Championship, and they now trail Leeds United on goal difference at the summit of the table.

Their meeting with Marcelo Bielsa’s side on New Year’s Day saw the spoils shared; the Baggies were effectively nullified by Leeds, and were pegged back after substitute Patrick Bamford’s header was deflected past Sam Johnstone early in the second half.

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It was a cruel gut-punch in more ways than one; not only did it prevent The Albion from taking a lead into 2020, it also marked a personal nadir for one of their more impressive performers so far this term.

Nigeria international Semi Ajayi suffered the ignominy of seeing his name next to the letters ‘OG’, and has been at the heart of the lack of fortitude in defence that now threatens to undermine a previously strong position.

That is not to suggest, however, that he is solely to blame.

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Indeed, since his transfer from Rotherham United last summer, the 26-year-old has proven a revelation for Slaven Bilic’s side: quickly earning the trust of the Croatian manager and forming an understanding with Kyle Bartley, he has kept Egypt international Ahmed Hegazy (when fit) out of the side, and has even pitched in with goals at the other end.

His fourth of the season, a flicked finish off a knockdown from a set-piece, had put the Baggies ahead at the Hawthorns against their nearest challengers, before the unfortunate own goal. He has elevated the side’s menace from set-pieces (no other side has scored more from dead-ball situations), and that has further served to cement his popularity amongst the West Bromwich faithful.

So far this season, Ajayi has played every single minute in all competitions; not bad for a bargain signing from the relegated Millers.


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