West Bromwich Albion’s return to the Premier League started with a demoralising 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City.
The first half was largely a neat and tidy affair without too many moments of magic in the final thirds, with Harvey Barnes missing the two best chances for the Foxes.
After the break, though, top-flight quality appeared to show more and more, with Leicester taking complete control.
Timothy Castagne headed the opener on his debut, with Jamie Vardy later netting a late brace of penalties.
Here are five things we learned from the game at the Hawthorns.
Baggies back…but not with a bang
It was nice and neat from the promoted side early on, mixing tough tackling with a few good moments of build-up play down the flanks, but very little attacking threat.
Just a single shot on target all game long hinted at where the big issues might lie this season, while defensively they also fell away in the second half.
Perhaps tiredness played a part, or just the mentally draining realisation that they will have to work far harder this term than last.
But West Brom fell further from the standard required as the game went on and the manner of conceding the second penalty in particular showed there’s much work to do.
Vardy on the spot
Last season’s Golden Boot winner watched Mo Salah hit an opening day hat-trick for Liverpool on Saturday and wasted little time staking his own early claim to be in the running again.
Like Salah, he notched two penalties on the day, but it was the movement and positions he took up which suggest he’ll again be a massive threat this term, even at age 33.
Playing on the shoulder, very central and with plenty of through-balls heading his way, Vardy will be key to Leicester’s hopes of improving on last season’s league placing.
Timothy Castagne probably wasn’t signed to be a goalscoring outlet, but the Belgian full-back did exactly that on his debut.
A good performance defensively was added to by his willingness to get into attacking positions, on and off the ball, as his wing-back traits came to the fore.
New team-mates and compatriots Dennis Praet and Youri Tielemans were vital in midfield too, though, adding total control for Leicester the longer the game went on.
The latter was a little disappointing across the second half of last season, even before lockdown, so it’s a good sign that he played as prominent a role as he did.
Figures of note
A couple of stand-out performers on both sides deserve praise, even if they don’t get the headlines.
Matheus Pereira was predictably good for West Brom, a conduit for their attacking intent – such as it was – and clearly a player who has the aggression and touch in his game to trouble top-flight defenders.
Similarly, midfielder Romain Sawyers impressed with his tenacity, ball-winning ability and short-range passing, though was overrun somewhat after the break.
And for Leicester, Harvey Barnes had a good all-round performance, though he definitely should have scored at least once. Find more end product in his game and he could be set for a fantastic season.
After last season’s late failure to reach the Champions League spots, Leicester’s ambitions for this year are tough to predict.
They have a Europa League campaign to contend with – that cost Wolves several points early on last season, for sure – and the fight for the top four will be even more hotly contested this year than last.
For Brendan Rodgers, a top-six finish would probably represent a stunning season, though he clearly feels they need additions to even manage that.
Work lies ahead for both clubs, then.
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