I must begin by saying I am writing this having not seen highlights, and at a later time than usual to try and calm myself down and give a more balanced view on proceedings.
Pre-game excitement and nervous tension arose throughout the day – which spread across the whole away end and even further to home fans, showing how equally matched the two sides actually are.
The teams came in and the positives for the Baggies was the exclusion of Agbonlahor in a front line that would look much more menacing with him included. Adding to that, should he have faced our backline of Reid, Olsson, Lugano and Ridgewell, I get the over-riding feeling that he would’ve had a field day against a slow, ageing, Championship look defence.
Mulumbu arrived back into the XI to partner Yacob with a Morrison, Anelka, Brunt midfield trio and Anichebe holding his spot following a fine second half display against Everton. So everything past the defensive third looked nice for Pepe Mel in his first away game.
The game kicked off and the Albion took the lead. A fine goal to mark a big game as Brunt showed the quality his left foot can bare as he found his radar into the bottom corner from distance with Brad Guzan, literally, flapping at air.
Then just minutes later we, for the second time this season, took a two goal lead against our neighbours. Morrison picked up the ball in the area and attempted a cross. Delph then diverted the cross past an already moving Guzan and the away end went delirious. “Allez, Allez, Allez, oh, West Brom FC from the Black Country” was belted out by the following as Foster and Olsson looked across to those they had made extremely happy.
However, all good things come to an end and with West Brom, we all know that good feeling is often short lived. Wiemann proved that once more as Guzan smashed the ball up to the strikers and Lugano flicked the ball on with his head and bounced through to Weimann who subsequently lobbed the ball over Foster and in. Bugger, momentum was going their way.
At that point Northy said they were going to level and probably lead the game, I couldn’t argue with him. All the early signs were there. Every time they got the ball up front they found a gap or space in behind Albion as Mel was adamant on playing a high line with defenders that either lack positional sense, pace or both.
When Bacuna levelled it was hardly a shock. We were down to 10 men because Anelka had limped off injured and Amalfitano was yet to enter the fray. However, that is NO excuse for the goal. We had three men around the ball and as it hit Brunt and broke to Lowton we all feared the worst, then he crossed it to Bacuna to slice off his own foot onto his body (not sure which part) and in. Claims of offside were sparse and the ref walked away giving the goal.
Delph then gave Villa the lead turning our poor defence in to, frankly, a bunch of amateurs. He rifled a shot off the underside of the bar flying past Foster’s hand. It became clear then we were watching a game of two horrendous defences and one slightly better attack. Oh how we missed the influence of Gareth McAuley in the back four and Billy Jones at right back.
A spell then occurred of little happening. But Christian Benteke had an opportunity to really worry Albion and look like they could hit double figures past us. However, a big Ben Foster denied Benteke with his feet.
Morrison saw a chance go well wide and little happened until Mulumbu found himself on the end of a lovely move and finishing 1v1. He sent WBA in very happy and as the whistle went Albion fans were in fine voice once again singing every player down the tunnel.
The second half was drab in comparison. Chances were few and far between really but when Diego Lugano, a man I can’t like anyway, found himself with the goal at his mercy from a fantastic Brunt delivery. The headlines wrote he managed to divert his diving header wide of the post.
Then with 20 gone in the second half, the Lug – Benteke battle went a step further, and I must highlight how I feel Lugano had already gotten away with a lot on the Belgium before ‘Battenberg’ pointed to the spot for Diego clambering on the striker. I could see the offence from my vantage point, and I am told it looks a lot worse on TV.
Benteke stepped up and sent Fozzie the wrong way.
So time to change it. Personally I felt the defence should’ve been changed at half time but with Anelka caput I think Mel had his judgement clouded and when he brought Berahino and Vydra on it was all too late, in essence it was Clarke-esque.
Late chances came about but a succession of corners couldn’t see Albion find the net despite chucking Foster, Olsson and Lugano into the box.
Awful, shocking, disgraceful. Just three words I can think of to sum up the performance of Diego Lugano. I am only to highlight the fact that he should have seen red for quite simply wresting Benteke to the ground, on the halfway line, off the ball. I haven’t seen many more appalling ‘defensive’ displays than that in an Albion shirt (But I am a youngster).
Amalfitano possibly could’ve had a penalty and in the aftermath the Vile defender put his hands to our French wingers face, in rebellion he certainly put his hands in the defenders gut.
No excuses though. Two goals ahead and you manage to not only throw it away but throw it away in a matter of minutes. If Mel is to continue with a high pressing game and a high line to boot he MUST get new defenders and give McAuley and Jones a starting berth.
I don’t feel that Villa were worthy of the 3 points and a 3-3 would’ve not only been a classic but a fair reflection on both sides’ ability: simply horrid at the back but some good movement going forward. I can see signs of Mel’s work, some off the ball movements and how he utilises wide players and even making central players move into wider areas to create space.
I know we lack a goal threat and we don’t have an Odemwingie or a Lukaku type, however, I do believe the one thing we have in this Albion side is creation and with that comes goals, what we don’t have is what Hodgson created, a solid defence, a basis where you can believe you won’t concede and always get a point.
We’ll move on, it hurts, it might help, but as CBB said on the way back, we shall still turn up Sunday (in anticipation of a drubbing) and then again at Palace. Hopefully eyes will be opened now about certain individuals and what they bring/don’t bring to our party. Keep the faith!
Have your say on Albion's defeat here at Baggies Banter.