Wow! How do you start to write a match report on a once in a lifetime game of football? Yesterday really did have it all – and in abundance.
Talk in the days before the game was all about tickets. Would you sell yours? How much would it cost for you to consider giving up your seat? It seems that many more Albion fans than expected were blinded by pound notes. No amount of money would’ve made up for missing yesterday. It was a truly wonderful 90 occasion.
Yet it all started so horribly for Albion. Steve Clarke’s masterplan to defeat Sir Alex Ferguson fell apart inside the first ten minutes. The ground cheered as Tom Cleverly’s long ball was seemingly destined for the touchline. Jonas Olsson had certainly given up the chase. However, Javier Hernandez had other ideas. The Mexican sprinted as Olsson jogged and just about kept the ball in. Olsson maintained his cumbersome approach as the United striker had time to control the ball and cross for the onrushing Shinji Kagawa to head past Foster. That was 6 minutes in. It got worse three minutes later when Valencia’s cross was turned in by the Swede.
United were dominant and looked as if they would score every time they came forward. Albion’s defensive midfield pair of Mulumbu and Yacob looked clueless at who to pick up and how to mark the visitor’s fluid midfield. A third goal came in the 28th minute. United’s midfielders again found space in front of our back four. Cleverly rolled the ball into the path of Alexander Buttner who fired into the far corner. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon.
But just before half time Albion got a lifeline. Jones and Dorrans worked the ball well down the right before the Scot fired the ball across goal. James Morrison got in front of Phil Jones to turn the ball home from six yards.
After the break
Steve Clarke sent out Romelu Lukaku to warm up at half time. It was obvious that something had to change if Albion were to get back into the game. Any of Albion’s midfielder’s could’ve been subbed. However, it was Liam Ridgewell that got the boot. Chris Brunt moved back into defence. It was a strange move by Clarke after United’s first two goals had come down our left.
Yet the switch had an instant effect. Lukaku picked up a loose ball 25 yards from goal. With Jonny Evans in front of him he used the defender to hide the ‘keeper’s view and curled the ball off the far post and into the net.
Antonio Valencia had terrorised Albion all afternoon down United’s right and he created the visitor’s fourth three minutes after Lukaku’s goal. The winger fired another low cross into the area which Robin Van Persie fired into the roof of the net. A fifth came ten minutes later when Giggs crossed for Hernandez to tap in at close range after Olsson had missed the ball. It wasn’t one of Olsson’s best performances in an Albion shirt.
The Baggies were improved after the break and had at least had a go, but the game now seemed over. But that’s the beauty of football. The game isn’t over until the referee’s final whistle.
Despite the three goal deficit Albion didn’t give up. Dorrans whipped over a fantastic cross that Olsson somehow fired over when only two yards out. It summed up his performances since the turn of the year. The miss was as bad as Kanu’s a few years back – if not worst.
In one final throw of the dice Steve Clarke threw on Marc-Antonie Fortune and Markus Rosenberg. Again the switch had an immediate effect. Rosenberg fed Lukaku with a brilliant through ball. The Belgium powerhouse strode into the area and fired under Lindegaard to make it 3-5.
A fourth goal came a minute later when Billy Jones made a trademark burst into the area and pulled the ball back for Youssouf Mulumbu to fire into the far corner. Suddenly the comeback REALLY was on. Albion fans believed that the impossible was actually possible!
Then came the moment. Dorrans fired a cross into the far corner. Mulumbu played the ball across goal and Lukaku, challenging with Ferdinand, managed to bundle the ball home for Albion’s fifth of the afternoon. The Hawthorns went wild. I can only remember a goal being celebrated like that when Bob Taylor scored Albion’s second against Crystal Palace over a decade ago to secure promotion. Jumpers were thrown in the air. Stranger huged. I ended up on the row behind me somehow! What a goal. What a game. WHAT A FEELING! Albion had done it.
I’m weeks away from my 30th birthday but I don’t think I could’ve taken an Albion winner. Rosenberg almost capped an amazing comeback when he fired over late on. But the game was over. What an amazing way to end a fantastic season for the Baggies.
When I know I’m writing the Fan’s View feature I think to myself what I’m going to write as the game goes on. After 30 minutes it was a completely different report. Albion were abject, lacking of ideas and effort. But we were playing the champions of England. United came out with intent and were determined to give Fergie a send off to remember. He got it alright!
After the break, Albion were a different side. Lukaku brought Albion to life and United’s defence was petrified of his pace and power. He was the difference between a hammering and the most amazing comeback the Premier League has ever witnessed. United never give up three goal leads. Yesterday Albion forced them to do it twice.
Before the game all the talk was about Fergie’s final match in charge. Yet at the final whistle all thoughts about the retiring Scot had gone. This was about Albion. It would’ve been easy for our lads to give up at 3-0 or 2-5 down. Yet they didn’t. Forget the poor defending, forget Olsson’s performance, his miss or Morrison’s reaction to the crowd. Remember that feeling when the fifth goal went in. That’s why we pay our money and travel all over the country to support the Baggies.
What a brilliant comeback. I’ll remember this game for the rest of my days.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.
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