Bristol City opened the New Year with a cracker of a match as they defeated Millwall 3-2 at Ashton Gate to open 2022 with a win.
Andi Weimann scored a hat-trick as the Robins came from behind after Tom Bradshaw and Benik Afobe had cancelled out the Austrian’s opener. The 30-year-old netted twice in the second-half to give his side victory.
Nigel Pearson’s side move up to 14th as a result of their first home win over the Lions in a decade.
Tale of the match
There was a chance for Antoine Semenyo to increase their advantage as Tomas Kalas fed him a delightful pass but the striker’s low placed shot was straight at the goalkeeper in an attempt lacking any venom.
As a result, the door was open for an equaliser and that is what Millwall, admittedly against the run of play. Murray Wallace’s inch-perfect cross was headed in by Bradshaw who rose above Towler to head down against a statuesque Max O’Leary.
Moments later the complexion of the half would change as the Lions took the lead. Afobe ran through and was slided on by Towler for a penalty. The striker calmly slotted his spot-kick home to turn the game around.
Millwall’s dominance made for a flat performance from City who failed to issue a response for the remainder of the first-half. Sheyi Ojo instead went close to putting the visitors further in front.
Chris Martin and Han-Noah Massengo were introduced at half-time for youngsters Ayman Benarous and Ryley Towler which meant a change in shape. Zak Vyner moved to centre-back which meant Alex Scott filled in for him, whilst Semenyo was moved out wide to accommodate Martin.
The changes brought City back to life as Weimann forced a save out of Białkowski after Alex Scott found him after causing problems for the Millwall full-back.
Appeals for a penalty of their own came from the home side but referee Simon Hooper wasn’t interested in Chris Martin’s claim that Jake Cooper had handled the ball in their tussle.
With just over a quarter of the game left, City levelled proceedings and it was their reliable forward again. Massengo played the most delicious pass to Weimann and the attacker scored with a first-time shot that touched past the keeper.
All the good work to get back in the match was almost undone as a lapse in concentration meant a messy attack to deal with but ultimately Bradshaw’s narrow-angled attempt went wide.
City survived and took the lead for the second time in the match and it was their top scorer again on target. Semenyo’s pass across goal wasn’t cleared and after Bialowski’s initial save from Martin, Weimann was on hand to force through on the rebound.
There was still a job for the much shuffled defence to be done and they had a scare as Bradshaw headed onto the side netting. Bradshaw’s chance would be the last attempt of a fight-back as City saw out four minutes of stoppage time to cling on for a win.
Andi Weimann: The player of the half-season for City was on target again as he moved into double figures in the league for just the second time in his career.
Took his first goal well by being instinctive enough to pick up a poor pass and place it over the goalkeeper. For his second goal, he showed great instinct to score with his first touch. He was then in the right place in the right time for his hat-trick.
He played a part off the ball by pressing high at Millwall’s centre-backs which forced them into some errors.
No matter where he plays whether it’s as a winger or behind the striker, Weimann is City’s most important player as he’s the one who makes them tick.
Benik Afobe: The past few games at Ashton Gate there have been players who have excessively celebrated a goal. As Afobe scored, there was no real celebration from him as a sign of respect for a club he previously played for.
He may have played less than half a season here but he was a player in which the fans grew too quickly. As a result the fans applauded him for putting his hands up when he scored.
For his play meanwhile, he made a number of good runs and had the beating of Towler in the first-half. He anticipated passes well and got into a number of good positions and smartly earned a penalty.
His penalty stance is somewhat debatable given the risk of a stutter penalty but he showed composure from 12-yards.
Han-Noah Massengo: The introduction of the young Frenchman changed how City played. He was going from box-to-box but it was in the opposition half in which he was most influential. From the flank he found Weimann with a high-quality pass for the equaliser. He then played a part in the third goal at least by cutting through the Millwall defence for Semenyo to play the dangerous ball across.
Much has been said on whether Massengo should start or not but given it’s the FA Cup next week, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t play against Fulham unless Pearson has bigger plans for him in the league.
Bartosz Białkowski: An experienced goalkeeper like himself should know better than to play the ball into danger, even though Alex Pearce did put him in a spot of bother.
His poor clearance was picked off by Weimann who lifted the ball over him
Made a few routine saves to help his side out but wasn’t very popular amongst the home fans or Chris Martin. The Polish goalkeeper a few times would take the proverbial when it came to holding the ball for more than six seconds.
Ryley Towler: This was a difficult afternoon for the returning defender who had enjoyed quite a respectful loan at Grimsby Town. There is quite a difference in the standard of football between the Championship and the National League however.
Both of Millwall’s first-half goals came from exposing the weakness in the young centre-back. Bradshaw’s experience saw him position himself better than Towler to head home. Afobe then had the beating of Towler and he made the decision to slide on the striker which gave the referee no option but to award a penalty.
He was hooked off at half-time by Pearson and this’ll be a learning curve for him.
Bristol City (4-1-4-1): Max O’Leary 6, Zak Vyner 6, Tomas Kalas 6, Ryley Towler 5 (Han-Noah Massengo, 46;7), Cameron Pring 7, Matty James 6 (C), Ayman Benarous 6, (Chris Martin, 46;6), Alex Scott 6, Callum O’Dowda 6, Andi Weimann 9, Antoine Semenyo 6 (Nahki Wells, 92)
Millwall (3-4-1-2): Bartosz Białkowski 5, Danny McNamara 6, Murray Wallace 7, Shaun Hutchinson 6, Jake Cooper 6, Tom Brashaw 7, Sheyi Ojo 6 (George Evans, 67), Alex Pearce 5 (Matt Smith, 87) George Saville 6, Benik Aofbe 7, Billy Mitchell 6, (Scott Malone, 87).
Man of the Match
Andi Weiman. Hat-trick hero.
Attention now turns to the FA Cup for both sides as they try and put a cup run together. City are at home as they host league rivals Fulham. Millwall are also at home, hosting London rivals Crystal Palace.