Lodi's deflected 70th-minute strike earns Italians narrow win
ALBION’S busy week of fixtures ended on a losing note thanks to Francesco Lodi’s deflected 70th-minute strike at AFC Telford United.
The Baggies, playing their third pre-season match in just six days, were unable to produce the same fluency which swept them to victories over Derby and Atromitos and the Italian outfit deserved their narrow win.
The closest that Albion, who had won their previous three friendlies, came to snatching an equaliser was six minutes from time when first-team debutant Wes Atkinson was denied by a fine save from sub keeper Antonio Donnarumma.
Steve Clarke rested Ben Foster, James Morrison, Saido Berahino and Steven Reid and drafted in development squad players Adil Nabi, Atkinson and Aaron Birch for the trip to Shropshire.
Academy graduates Luke Daniels and Kemar Roofe both earned rare starts as Clarke rang five changes from Monday’s victory over Greek side Atromitos.
Skipper-for-the-night Jonas Olsson, Nicolas Anelka and Graham Dorrans also came in, with Boaz Myhill, Billy Jones, Chris Brunt, Shane Long and Berahino making way.
Most of the New Bucks Head pitch was covered in shade when the game kicked off but temperatures remained high and uncomfortable for the players on duty.
After right-back Gabriel Tamas was forced into a frantic early clearance inside the Albion six-yard box from a Genoa corner, the Baggies almost snatched an eighth-minute lead. Markus Rosenberg whipped in a terrific cross from the left-hand edge of the box which eluded Roofe’s outstretched leg by a matter of inches at the back post.
It remained ‘even steven’ between the Baggies and Italy’s oldest football club as the half reached its midpoint, with plenty of effort on show but few goalscoring chances.
It was Genoa – backed by a small-but-vocal band of die-hard supporters – who almost broke the deadlock on 33. Andrea Bertolacci ghosted onto an Alberto Santana centre and flicked the ball just wide of the far post.
The game soon settled back into a war of attrition until the final minute of the half, when Daniels pushed over a 25-yard rocket from Juraj Kucka after patient build-up play by the side which finished fourth-bottom of Serie A last term.
Clarke made five changes at half-time, bringing on Jones, Long, Brunt, Craig Dawson and Liam Ridgewell for Tamas, Gareth McAuley, Goran Popov, Rosenberg and Youssouf Mulumbu.
Albion had a let off on 49 when Roofe, who had looked lively on the right-wing, gifted possession to Kucka 20 yards out. The Genoa midfielder took a touch before curling just wide of Daniels’ left-hand post.
Dorrans underlined his talent for scoring from distance at Derby on Saturday and his stinging 50th-minute drive from 20 yards proved too hot for Mattia Perin to hold. However, Genoa cleared the rebound.
Less than 60 seconds later, the Scotland international had another go, much to centre-half Thomas Manfredini’s annoyance – as the shot caught him square in the face!
Suddenly, the goalmouth action was coming thick and fast and Alberto Gilardino went close when he ghosted in behind the Baggies defence before firing just over from an acute angle.
At the other end, Roofe tried his luck from 20 yards but his left-footed drive was easily saved by Perin.
In the 57th minute, Albion failed to clear a Genoa corner and Santana saw a half-volley inside the box fly just wide.
Genoa had stepped up the tempo since the break and the Baggies rearguard was enduring a thorough workout.
There was a big moment for Academy midfielder Aaron Birch in the 66th minute when he was granted his first-team debut, coming on for Dorrans. Adil Nabi also replaced Anelka.
However, just four minutes later, both subs found themselves on the losing side. Albion again had trouble clearing their lines from a Genoa corner and Lodi’s drive from just inside the box clipped Long before flying past the wrong-footed Daniels and into the net.
Atkinson was also granted his senior debut in the 76th minute and almost snatched a late leveller with a 20-yard grass-cutter which sub keeper Donnarumma pushed away at full-stretch.
ALBION (4-3-3): L Daniels; Tamas (Jones HT), McAuley (Dawson HT), Olsson, Popov (Ridgewell HT); Yacob, Mulumbu (Brunt HT), Dorrans (Birch 66); Roofe (Atkinson 76), Anelka (A Nabi 66), Rosenberg (Long HT). Sub not used: Myhill (gk).
GENOA (4-2-3-1): Perin (Donnarumma 84); Sampirisi, Portanova, Manfredini (Granqvist 79), Antonelli; Lodi (Strasser 72), Cofie; Bertolacci (Velocci 88), Kucka (Biondini 66), Santana (Ventre 80); Gilardino. Subs: Zima, De Maio, Rafati, Simic, Jara, Blaze.
GOALS: GENOA – Lodi (70).
BOOKINGS: GENOA – Antonelli (foul 64).
REFEREE: R Madley (West Yorkshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Claudio Yacob.