A wise man once said, what doesn’t hurt you can only make you stronger. And that is the attitude we should take to Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Man United. Although the loss was disappointing, it is not these fixtures that will define the season, it is picking up points against those clubs in and around us that is important, although getting points against the “big” clubs is always nice.
Roy Hodgson will no doubt have been encouraged by many areas of the game, both from a team and individual standpoint, which merited a draw in his and many other’s opinion. For the first 30 minutes, Albion had to withstand heavy pressure from United and the new-look frontline of Somen Tchoyi and Shane Long were forced to feed on scraps and the midfield forced to battle for every ball. And no Albion fan can argue that United deserved their lead when the outstanding Wayne Rooney fired a shot between the legs of Gabriel Tamas and past the unsighted Ben Foster, although there was doubt over whether Ashley Young was in an onside position at the beginning of the move.
The players and fans stayed upbeat after going behind and soon began to crank the pressure up on the United back four who up until then were relatively untroubled. Paul Scharner went through after a neat one-two with record signing Long, only for De Gea to deny the big Austrian his first Hawthorns goal. It was from this that Albion’s goal came, United breaking away and Albion just about clearing their lines, towards Somen Tchoyi who lost out in a challenge to Rio Ferdinand only for the outstanding Youssuff Mulumbu to win the ball back and this time Tchoyi held the ball up well, laying off to Brunt who in turn passed onto Shane Long just inside the United box. Long was confronted by Chris Smalling but a couple of steps over later Long got an inch of room and from the left hand side of the box drove the ball towards the bottom right hand corner which David De Gea managed to dive over the top of. The relatively muted celebration on Long’s behalf showed how shocked he was to see the ball nestling in the bottom corner, but neither he nor the Hawthorns really cared.
This is one of the areas that would have pleased Hodgson the most, with The Baggies once again showing a fighting spirit that was so evident throughout the whole of last season. And it could have been even better for West Brom before half time as De Gea just about kept out a cross come shot from Somen Tchoyi after a burst down the left-hand side. The work of Tchoyi and Long will have pleased Hodgson particularly with doubts over the future of last year’s top scorer Peter Odemwingie.
The 2nd half was dominated in terms of possession by United without them creating a clear chance on goal. West Brom’s defence held firm, although Steven Reid was having a tough time of it against Ashley Young. In fact the whole team contributed to the defensive effort, with Tchoyi and Long harassing from the front whilst Scharner and Mulumbu broke up much of the play before it got too far. On a whole this was a huge improvement on Albion’s defensive set-up, but in the end the resistance was broken. And this would have been something that angered Hodgson. Ashley Young received the ball wide on the left hand side with Chris Brunt paying close attention. However Brunt was sold too easily by Young who feigned a cross with his right foot leaving Brunt standing in mid-air as he drove to the byline and crossed the ball across the box. And whatever Young says, he cannot claim that goal. Firstly the ball took a deflection of Gabriel Tamas and then onto Reid and past Foster, a wicked turn of events. And as Young celebrated, the camera’s showed Brunt who knew he had made an error. This is the cruelty of the Premier League, especially against the top sides.
But we should not linger on this defeat, it was encouraging if not hugely disappointing to concede so late on in the game. Like I’ve said, it is not these games that will define our season and the main evidence for that is that Man United were able to replace a £30 million centre-half in Rio Ferdinand with a £16 million centre-half Phil Jones. We cannot compete with these resources, yet so nearly came away with a deserved point. Oh well, it’s only Chelsea next...
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