Saturday’s game was a first for me. The location was the same, predictably the result was the same and so too was Liam Ridgewell’s ineptitude as a Premier League defender.
Let me explain. Earlier in the week, I received an email off a freelance producer creating a show for NBC Sports in America about Albion’s game against the Champions.
We exchanged a few emails and he explained that he’d like to film almost a video diary of Albion’s game against United. He asked if I knew another Baggies fan who’d be interested in taking part. Young Boinger219 came to my mind straight away.
After meeting early on Saturday morning we went to meet the freelance outside The Hawthorns train station before showing him the delightful interior of the Wagon and Horses as he explained to us how to use the cameras. The idea was that I’d try and film the game whilst Boinger turned the camera on himself to get reaction on the game’s talking points.
Pepe Mel made four changes to the side which drew with Fulham with Claudio Yacob, Steven Reid, Zoltan Gera and Victor Anichebe recalled. Albion captain lost the coin toss and the Baggies were forced to attack the Birmingham Road End in the first half.
Albion started brightly. Victor Anichebe collected a loose ball on the half way line before bursting through United’s defence. But the big striker was unable to get a shot away after United defenders finally caught up.
United’s first effort on goal came from a corner. Fellani out-jumped McAuley and his header was diverted goalwards by Chris Brunt. Luckily for Albion, Youssouf Mulumbu was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball off the line.
After De Gea had saved from a header from Amalfitano, Ben Foster did well to keep out Rafael’s header. The defender was left unmarked at the far post and the England stopper pushed his point-blank header on to the bar and away.
Minutes later, United were ahead. Ridgewell failed to close down Rafael, the defender cut inside and was fouled on the edge of the area by Brunt. From the resulting free kick, Ridgewell allowed Phil Jones a free header. Foster could do nothing this time.
Albion almost drew level from their own set piece. Olsson headed Brunt’s corner back across goal but Yacob nodded over from close range.
With the half drawing to a close, Foster was lucky to escape a red card. The keeper rushed out to clear a long ball but misjudged the bounce and the ball hit his arm outside the area. Referee Jon Moss waved play on. He’d make a more controversial decision in the second half.
After the break
The Baggies had done okay in the first half – although they failed to make any real clear opportunities. Yet it was Albion who created the first chance after the break. Anichebe and Gera played a clever one-two but the Hungarian international’s shot was straight at De Gea.
Minutes after Van Persie had been fouled for a terrible tackle from behind on Amalfitano, the striker should’ve then received a second yellow card for a lunge on Steven Reid. The defender chipped the ball over the forward before he felled the defender. It was a clear booking yet Moss somehow let the Dutchman remain on the field. The decision swung the game in United’s favour.
Albion almost drew level when Anichebe’s cross-shot was cleared off the line by Mata before Ridgewell did well to block Fellani’s volley as the game suddenly came to life.
From a United free kick, the robust Wayne Rooney fell on Albion skipper Chris Brunt. The Baggies captain looked in real pain and hobbled off. While Albion were down to ten men, United scored their second. Ridgewell was left exposed down the left, Rafael whipped over a cross for Wayne Rooney to nod home at close range.
The goal knocked the life out of Albion and the heads of several players seemed to drop. The intensity of Albion’s attacking play disappeared and United added a third when Welbeck slid home after good interplay by the visitors.
Albion huffed and puffed but Pepe Mel’s winless run continued for another week.
Despite United’s indifferent season the visitors still have some world-class players in their ranks. Playing against United is difficult enough without having to play against the referee as well. Van Persie made three challenges which were worthy of a yellow card, yet only received one booking.
Who knows whether Albion would’ve been able to overturn a goal’s advantage against ten men, but as it was the Baggies were second best for most of the second half and United ran out comfortable winners.
The defeat edged Albion closer to the relegation zone – only goal difference now separates us and Cardiff. The Baggies travel to Swansea next week knowing that another defeat will probably see them slide into the relegation zone and Pepe Mel the sack.
The pressure is now seriously growing on the Spaniard. Sure he hasn’t had the easiest of starts at The Hawthorns. But there doesn’t seem to have been an improvement since his arrival. If anything, we’ve gone backwards. The players don’t seem to respect him or his methods. It’s a worrying cocktail which will only end in relegation.
As for the footage Boinger and I collected from the game, it’ll be edited and shown on NBC Sports on a programme on Monday in the States!
COME ON YOU BAGGIES
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