After one of the most cynical, unadventurous and depressing performances I’ve seen for a long long time West Brom got what they deserved, sweet FA.
Roy Hodgson drew on his time at Inter Milan to recall the days of Catennacio as he left some of his better attacking players on the bench and strung five hoofers across the back. Late and cynical challenges, time wasting from the beginning, no attempt at possession or attacking play, it was a concept of anti-football that Stoke City would be jealous of. Roy Hodgson is the new George Graham. No West Brom fan at the game can surely have been proud of the way their side played? Thank God for Defoe’s instinctive and skilful shot on the spin and thank the bearded One also that we held out/limped through the late barrage.
With Parker not starting and Sandro and Livermore needing to be helped off we ended up with the paper thin midfield that left us so exposed at the start of the season. West Brom were unable to take full advantage, even during the seemingly never ending five minutes of second half injury time; in fact they instead found time for the most cynical challenge on Bale of the evening, a swipe from behind from Cox that Mark Halsey saw as yellow rather than red, presumably because decapitation is the only offence that deserves a sending off in his world. Four Albion players were booked for lunges at Bale. Yes, four.
From the kick off we struggled hard to create space and opportunities as the match quickly resembled a schoolboy game of attack and defence with the latter hoofing the ball to the far end of the playground and then waiting for an attacker to go and fetch it so they could spank it away again. We piled on the corners; ten in the first period but were dangerous from few, if any, of them.
Our pressure resulted in any number of efforts on goal, only VdV made Foster break sweat however. After the break it was more of the same with Bale staying wide in an effort to provide some consistent width and it was he who fed Defoe with his back to goal on the penalty spot after fifty odd minutes following a nice piece of control and technique from VdV. As the ball bounced high in front of the strangely blonde rinsed Defoe nothing seemed on but in two quick touches he had squirted a shot inside Foster’s left hand post. The ground erupted with relief as much as anything and an exultant Defoe ran with his arms raised back towards his teammates rather than towards the crowd. The importance of the goal was clear and an undignified bundle in the centre circle ensued.
The timing was crucial as soon after going ahead things began to unravel. Hodgson brought on his attackers whilst our defenders and midfielders took turns to pull and cut things. For two or three long minutes at one point we were down to nine men whilst Kranjcar got ready to come on for Livermore and Kaboul changed into a number 49 shirt, his own having been covered in scarlet after a clash of heads with his own player. Chaos ensued and we never really recovered as the ability to hold the ball and pass seemed to disappear down the tunnel with the wounded. Kranjcar, who’s clearly had a good Christmas, and Modric, never really decided who was the holding midfielder of the two and there was space everywhere. Luckily the West Brom players when going forward, now let off the leash, continued to be as shitey at the end as they were at the beginning and despite being under the cosh we held out. Justice, was served, it would’ve been a travesty if anything else had occurred.
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