14 December 2019 22:36
Charlie Austin has scored in each of his past five appearances for West Bromwich Albion West Bromwich Albion substitute Charlie Austin came off the bench to stun Birmingham City with two goals in eight minutes to win the West Midlands derby. Leeds' spectacular collapse at home to Cardiff, drawing 3-3 having led 3-0 at Elland Road, meant victory in Saturday's early kick-off was enough for the Baggies to forge a two-point lead at the top of the Championship. Albion looked to be heading for a first defeat in 12 games after headed goals from Lukas Jutkiewicz and Harlee Dean at the start of each half, either side of the visitors' first equaliser from Grady Diangana. But Austin superbly levelled again in the 73rd minute, just three minutes after coming on, when he flicked up Jake Livermore's short pass before firing a right-footed half-volley from 20 yards past home goalkeeper Connal Trueman. Eight minutes later, Austin won it for Albion when he peeled away at the far post to meet Darnell Furlong's right-wing cross with a textbook header.
Austin's quickfire double took his personal goal tally to six in his past five appearances after a faltering start to his Albion career. Meanwhile, it is now just one win in eight games for Pep Clotet's Blues, who have not won at home now in four matches. Clotet made three changes to his starting line-up from Wednesday's home loss to QPR, bringing in Geraldo Bajrami for his full Championship debut, along with Jutkiewicz and midfielder David Davis. Those alterations brought instant rewards when Blues went in front after three minutes. Two Albion defenders went out to close down Maxime Colin wide on the right, but neither challenged, and the Blues right-back threaded his cross between them for the recalled Jutkiewicz to outjump and Nathan Ferguson head home. Grady Diangana, who equalised early on for West Bromwich Albion, went off injured before half-time at St Andrew's Albion were level within seven minutes after Blues failed to clear the second of two Matheus Pereira corners in quick succession, Matt Phillips drilled across the face of goal and Diangana, on loan from West Ham, instinctively stuck out a foot to guide the ball into the roof of the net. The loss of Diangana with what looked like a hamstring injury disrupted Albion and hardworking Blues might have been back in front two minutes before the break when Jude Bellingham picked out roving left-back Kristian Pedersen's run into the box, but goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was alert enough to deny him. Blues made an even faster start to the second half at St Andrew's, netting within two minutes of the resumption. Dean got above Conor Townsend to meet Bellingham's left-wing corner and, although the pace of his header from 12 yards out should not have been enough to trouble Johnstone, his view was blinded by the mistimed jump in front of him by Ferguson. The way City were playing, their lead was certainly justified. But they also led in both last season's two fixtures with Albion and did not win, twice leading at The Hawthorns in March only to lose 3-2. And again, the Baggies had a sting in the tail thanks to Austin's late double which secured an eighth away win of the season for Slaven Bilic's side. Austin's first goal 'pure class', says Bilic Birmingham City head coach Pep Clotet: "It was a fantastic derby. Losing it is hard, but there are so many positives that we take from the game. "We had 16 shots and six on target. They had three and scored three goals. Austin came on for them and had that cutting edge. "But I saw a Birmingham side who played for the shirt and bounced back from Wednesday. We may not have got the points, but we have made huge steps forward." West Bromwich Albion head coach Slaven Bilic told BBC WM: "Charlie Austin's first goal was pure class. His second goal was class, too. His movement, the way he got rid of the defender. It's great to have that kind of player. "It was a proper derby, lots of effort, lots of tackles, and we had a bit more quality. But we conceded from two set-pieces. We can't be happy with that. "In derbies, it can be hard to stay calm, but we did that and it comes from the belief and confidence we have got from recent games."