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Match Reports

Leicester 1 Albion 1 (7-6 on penalties)

19 July 2017

ALBION missed out on a place in Saturday’s Premier League Asia Trophy final but gained plenty of benefits from their Hong Kong Midlands derby against Leicester City.

The semi-final finished 1-1 with Albion subsequently consigned to a third-place play-off clash against Crystal Palace after losing a penalty shoot-out 7-6 at the Hong Kong stadium.

But a stunning first goal for the Club from Jay Rodriguez, a hugely impressive opening appearance by new defensive recruit Ahmed Hegazi and a string of exciting contributions from the Baggies youth brigade softened the blow for Head Coach Tony Pulis.

The match, played in punishing conditions of near 30C heat and 82 per cent humidity, must rank as one of Albion's best pre-season work-outs of the Premier League era with all but four of the 22-strong tour squad gaining valuable game-time.

Albion and Leicester have shared a string of razor-edge contests in recent years and this was another to add to the list and lit up by a sensational start to his Baggies career for Rodriguez.

The game was only into the 10th minute when he collected Craig Dawson's pass inside and after one touch to set himself up hammered an angled and rising drive from 25 yards beyond Ben Hamer.

At the back, Hegazi's performance was all the more eye-catching following his trip across the time zones in the last four days which saw the Egypt international fly from Cairo to Birmingham and then on to Hong Kong following his signing.

Given a start alongside new captain Jonny Evans, who with Ben Foster and Dawson featured for the entire 90 minutes, the 26-year-old looked every inch the experienced international he is and might even have got across to cut-out Riyad Mahrez's 23rd-minute equaliser had he not been cleverly blocked off by Shinji Okazaki.

Both teams began ringing the changes thereafter, Pulis bringing Nacer Chadli, James McClean and a quartet of youngsters – Sam Field, Kane Wilson, Jonathan Leko and Rekeem Harper – into the fray to good effect.

The Hong Kong fans took a particular shine to Leko as he tested Leicester with some exciting runs down the right while another new face to this level, 17-year-old Harper also impressed.

Both teams got into goalscoring areas without finding the killer touch which, under the rules of the competition, led to penalties after 90 minutes.

They were played out under the new ABBA system, which saw Albion start and then Leicester take the next two kicks in the style of tennis tie-breaks, and featured three decisive moments.

Foster got a hand to Danny Drinkwater's spot-kick only for the ball to squirm under his body and trickle over the line which meant that Hamer's save from Field at 6-6 gave Marc Albrighton the opening to score the winning penalty.

In the second semi-final that followed Liverpool beat Palace 2-0 and will now meet the Foxes in the final after Albion take on the Eagles.


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